You Had A Computer Crash Or A Virus, Now Your Question Is, "What Can I Save?"
Data recovery could possibly be the best words you will ever hear. If your computer never crashes and you never delete anything on accident, then those words will never apply. However, every computer user at one point or another will face the dreaded feeling of losing one file, or hundreds of files. Information can be lost through human accidents, natural disasters or viruses. Today's computer viruses can be deadly for your computer. The chances of getting back what the virus has ruined is about the same as any other deletion cause. That likelihood can be high, depending on how much time and money you are willing to spend.
Once a file or files have been deleted; assess how valuable those files are to you. How much time did it take to create? How much money did you use creating it, or how much money was it making you? Do the resources still exist to recreate the file? Once you have answered these questions set a limit to how much time and money you will spend trying to recover the file information. Often times once you get started searching for a file it can be difficult to stop. Keep in mind that even if the file is found, it may be corrupt and therefore unusable.
The first step to finding deleted files is to check the Recycle Bin, or Trash for Macintosh users. If your file is listed in the Recycle Bin restoration is simple. If you are not so lucky, try a data recovery software program or a human specialist. When working with a specialist, tell them everything you know about the files lost. Were they text or photo files? What kind of file was it (TIFF, PDF, etc)? What did the file contain? The more information you can provide, the easier it will be for the specialist to locate the file. Keep in mind text files and small files are much easier to recover successfully than photo files or large files.
If your entire hard drive is lost you have fewer and more expensive options. If parts of your hard drive have broken, such as the aperture arm or platters, try running a data recovery software program. If that is not successful you will need to bring the hard drive to a specialist. Using highly trained skills and the known filing structure and formats, a specialist can generally recover your data. If not, he can at least rebuild your hard drive so you are not without a computer. Any recovery specialist will be costly and require payment even if the drive was not recovered.
To avoid these types of situations, back up important files (or your entire hard drive) using disks, USBs, CDs or a server. Even having two of the same file in the same place will help you if you accidentally delete a file. Backing up files will take you much less time and cost much less money than a data recovery solution, so plan ahead and back it up!