Through the years I’ve talked about far too many of my shortcomings when it comes to dealing with electronics. Be that as it may, you would think that doing multiple backups of hard drives would ensure that I’d not be boxed into a corner.
But I was. Time for a bit of background.
About two months ago I was working on my Mac Pro at the ridiculous hour of 4 AM — thanks to my miniature dachshund, Tyler, having decided he needed to go outside. As I couldn’t get back to sleep, I thought I’d do some computer maintenance and catchup on some of the odds and ends that I don’t have the time for during “business hours.”
One of those odds and ends was to try and update my first-gen Apple TV with a whole new operating system. The file I had ready only needed to be activated so it could transfer the needed files to a flash drive. Sounds easy, right? So I popped in a 8 gigabyte flash drive in one of the two front USB sockets on the Mac Pro and double-clicked the update program. Then I went over to the kitchen to get something to munch on since I figured this might take a while.
Returning to the Mac, I saw a drop down menu connected to the program. It was asking me “where” to write the files. So obviously I chose the flash drive from the menu. Or so I thought. My hand slipped as I released the menu and my external 1 terabyte hard drive got selected. No problem, just reselect the right drive, right? That would have been the order of the day if the program hadn’t already automatically run once the menu had disappeared. I quickly hit STOP, but it was too late. My hard drive was toast — or to be more precise, everything on it had been wiped as it had been reformatted.
Now what about all those backups? Well as it turns out, I keep stuff on the drive that isn’t “backup-worthy.” English-subbed animation files, for example. All gone now.
I decided to leave the drive alone and consider my options over a really big cup of coffee. Years ago I had had to use a data repair service to “pull” content off a drive that had failed but that wasn’t going to be happening here – it cost a near-fortune back then and the contents were needed for my business. What I needed now was a professional grade, actually what I needed was a military grade data restore program; one that had the smarts to work where other programs couldn’t. And didn’t cost mega-bucks either.
Since I regularly use Drive Genius from ProSoft Engineering to keep my internal hard drives manageable, I thought the company’s Data Rescue 3 might be the answer. I had the earlier version II, but the problem was twofold when using it: first it sometimes didn’t do a single thing, and secondly, should there be a power failure, all of the data being processed for the restoration would be lost. You couldn’t stop the program once it started either — who wants to leave a computer on for days, weeks or even months at end?
Data Rescue 3 looked to correct all this. At a retail of $99, it was certainly affordable. But the fact that it could “suspend” an operation and return to it later meant that you could save the procedure at a given time and then shut the computer down or put it to sleep — this also takes care of a pesky power loss since you could return to the last time it was saved, rather than having to start over.
Okay, so that sounds all well and good. I run the program and select the”Deep Scan” option. I designate one of my internal drives that has over 2 terabytes of free space as the “work disc” for saving the efforts Data Rescue II will be doing. Obviously I told the program that the external drive is the one to work on too.
Starting up the program, I get a small horizontal window onscreen that provides two types of data: one being the amount of files that are being looked at — running into the millions –yikes, hundreds of millions? The text update also is showing me how many of the files that have been “caught are being processed over time so that they can be viewed again. The one concession to speed I could do was to turn off the animation — like I care.
So now the waiting game begins. Not days or weeks, but for nearly 3 months the program is running, with a minimal amount of suspension. The Mac Pro is fast enough to keep on chugging at normal speed while Data Rescue 3 is doing its thing, but to play it safe I stop the process when doing graphic work. So taking a bit of time off for good behavior, we can safely say the program was running for over 2 months and a week or 10 days before I got the big OK from it.
Now I could go through a window filled with restored files and decide which to take and which to let go (cache files I need like a hole in the head). I have to designate another drive for the restored files to be copied to — bringing in a second external 2 terabyte drive seemed the best solution. Hopefully when I’m all done, I will be able to format the problematic drive and then return all of the files to it.
So I do all this and wait a couple of hours for the files to be transferred over. I do some random checking — hey, it’s like working for the TSA — and can see all of the files are workable and not corrupted. But I also see that the files no longer have their unique names — now they’re listed as xxxx.Quicktime, xxxx.WVV, xxxx.MP4, etc. None of this affects transferring the files back to their original drive, but it will mean a lot of time spent later reviewing and renaming.
Bottom line: Data Rescue 3 performs like one of those data rescue centers, only in the comfort of your home. Maybe it can’t restore everything from a corrupted, formatted hard drive, but I don’t know that for a fact. I DO know that it came to my rescue when I needed it. That’s what a specialized Mac program with “Rescue” in its name is supposed to do, right?
- Data restoration can be suspended and continued at a later time
- Can choose between Simple/Advanced menus
- Restored files can lose their original names
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.