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Dear Diva: My Cat Formatted My Hard Drive

Dear Diva,

You were referred to me by a friend, and I have a problem I hope you can help me with.

I have an external backup drive attached to my computer.  The other day, my cat walked across my keyboard while I was out of the room, and when I came back, the message on the screen said my backup drive was finished formatting.

I opened Explore to discover that the external backup drive was indeed empty.  I had a lot of very important files on that drive.  Is there any way they can be recovered?

I live in Southern California, and I am hoping my issue can be resolved remotely.

Jan Southern California

I received this plea from a prospect a few weeks ago, and yes this actually did happen.  At first I thought there was no way a cat could walk across a keyboard and press the right combination of buttons to actually format an attached external drive.  This was a challenge I could not walk away from.

Back in the day, data from a formatted hard drive was not easily recovered.  However, software has become much more sophisticated, and recovery from a formatted drive is simple and very inexpensive to do.

My goal was to be able to recover the data on the formatted drive without having to purchase any software.  I put on my research hat and chose a piece of software that got some very good reviews, and it was free!  What could be better?

The software I chose was Pandora Recovery.  I installed the software on my laptop first, formatted a USB thumb drive and was able to use Pandora Recovery to get all the files back.

With Jan in SoCal, and me in Vancouver, WA we were able to do a remote session into her computer and install Pandora Recovery.  I ran the software and chose the backup drive as the device to recover from.  It took over 10 hours to run, (and we had to run it twice as the computer booted itself overnight due to a Microsoft update).  Pandora Recovery had found over 80,000 files that it could recover from the backup drive.  Once we had the list of files, it was a simple proposition to highlight all of them and run the recovery process.

We recovered the files to the computers C:\ drive instead of the backup drive.  If you try and recover to the backup drive, you risk the loss of the files you want to recover.  You never want to recover the files back to the drive you are recovering from.  However, once we had them all recovered, it was a simple drag and drop to move the recovered folder back to the external backup drive.

The actual file recovery process took just a few hours to run, and Jan was back in business!

The only downside we ran into was that Pandora Recovery was not able to see all the attributes of files, so many of the files had lost the original name.  Kind of a pain, but much better than actually losing the file and not being able to recover it.

All in all, I spent about an hour of actual time connected to Jan’s computer during this project, so the cost to Jan was an hour of labor to recover over 80,000 files.

Now if we can just keep the cat from walking on the keyboard again!

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