Product Reviews

Disk Commander Saves Wiped-Out Data

This tool can save you from the panic attack that can ensue when you say, "Oops … I deleted it again …"

"Oops" is the last word you want to utter when you're in the server room or overhear when you're walking by a user's desk. Sometimes the "oops" occurs when a hard drive goes belly-up. However, the "oops" most commonly uttered is due to human error, which leads to the majority of downtime.

On the server side, one of the more common scenarios is the removal of an unneeded partition, only to realize you deleted the wrong one. On the workstation side, users routinely throw things into the recycle bin and empty it -- only to realize, weeks later, they really needed the file entitled "Corporate Initiatives 2002.doc."

Should you panic? Should you start your search for that backup tape?

Before doing either one of those things, consider breaking out Disk Commander from Winternals Software.

Disk Commander has three modes to help recover wiped-out data. One method loads right on top of a working Windows system. However, with this mode, there's the risk of writing over the space of the deleted file, hindering recoverability. The Windows mode is most useful if you strictly want to recover data files. The Windows mode isn't capable of supporting volume repair.

Disk Commander
Disk Commander offers three methods to recover from disaster.

The program also includes a single-floppy DOS mode to quickly recover a deleted volume. Also, this mode can recover data files, but the restored files must be sent to an available (and undamaged) FAT partition. This method doesn't support long file names.

Finally, Disk Commander offers a multiple-floppy (or bootable CD-ROM) mode that loads like a Windows NT or Windows 2000 bootable CD-ROM. This mode is ideal when the volumes and files that need recovery are on RAID devices, but the volumes aren't natively viewable in DOS without special drivers. This mode can load the special drivers then proceed to recover files with their long file names intact.

The good news is that you get to choose which mode you need to use when you need it. You're not "locked in" to a specific version when you buy the software, so you needn't worry about only getting "one shot" at creating the type of recovery software you desire.

The software was able to recover deleted volumes and files as advertised. It was easily able to recover files and volumes when the volume was simply deleted and no additional writes to the hard drive had been performed. The product had a bit of trouble recovering files and volumes once additional data was written to the hard drive or additional partitions were created on top of the old ones; but there's nothing that a recovery utility can do to prevent Windows from re-using sectors that contain deleted data.

With this in mind, how should this product fit into your backup and recovery strategy? It's not a replacement for good backup hygiene, but it could save the day if a critical file was consistently skipped during the backup process, was accidentally excluded, or was just plain unrecoverable. Also, since desktop systems are rarely backed up, this product could be the second-to-last resort in recovering users' deleted files. The last resort in these cases is biting the very expensive bullet by sending the user's hard drive to a hardware data recovery center such as Ontrack (

About the Author

Jeremy Moskowitz, a Group Policy MVP, is the Chief Propeller-Head for Moskowitz, Inc. and He is one of less than a dozen Microsoft MVPs in Group Policy. Since becoming one of the world's first MCSEs, he has performed Active Directory and Group Policy planning and implementations for some of the nation’s largest organizations. His latest books are Group Policy Fundamentals, Security, and Troubleshooting and Creating the Secure Managed Desktop: Group Policy, SoftGrid, and Microsoft Deployment and Management Tools.


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