Deleting those files forever.

If you followed my posts on un-deleting files, you now know that when you delete a file, you can often recover it.  A reader asked in email

“So can you delete files forever, by formatting?”

No, and let me show you why.  I’ll “Quick format” & “also “Format” a USB stick, and demonstrate that you can still recover files.  Then I’ll show you what I do to wipe a disk clean.

“Quick” & Full Formatting
Quick formatting, or even Full formatting,
Quick FormatFull formatting

it makes no difference, you can still recover files.

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3 un-delete programs I’d actually use.

Not that I’d actually WANT to, but if I had to, it’ll be one of these four three.  And truth is, I would probably use several of these programs if I’ve really need to get the data back.

How I tested.
Well I deleted 19 photos from mistake from a USB stick, and wanted them back.  It started from there.  16 programs later, I had my photos back, and the idea for a couple of blog posts.

Recuva
recurva
Recuva is damn good.  I would have selected it over DiskDigger, except that you need to install it.  Needed to use “deep scan” mode to recover all 19 photos.  I’d use this as my second choice if DiskDigger failed for me.

File Scavenger
File Scavenger 32
File Scavenger has two modes, Quick Mode, and Long Mode.  Quick Mode found 18 photos.  Long Mode found the 19th.  Quick Mode will preserve the original filenames.  Long Mode does not.
You need to install the program to use it.  You can Preview the files File Scavenger has found, before you actually recover them.
You need to purchase the program to actually recover your files.

Active@ Undelete
Active AT Undelete
If I had to really recover files, and the free programs didn’t work, Active@ Undelete would be the program I’d put money down for.  I found the scan to be very comprehensive.

Update 4th August 2010: Can no longer recommend DiskDigger

DiskDigger
DiskDigger
DiskDigger has a clean, easy to understand interface.  You don’t need to install this program onto your hard disk, which means you could run this from a USB stick.
Only downside?  It doesn’t detect what the original filenames were.  Not the only program to do that amongst the bunch I looked at. But heck, I’d still use it, as it’s free/donation ware.

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The “I’ve just deleted some photos ‘Oh Crap!'” moment

So, I deleted 19 photos off my USB stick that I shouldn’t have, it was one of those “oh crap!!!” moments.  As soon as I deleted the files, waahhhhhhhhhhhh.

Seemed like a good opportunity to check out the programs I have listed in 10 free programs to recover deleted files.   I’d be interested if you have any other recommendations.  Here are the results of 3 programs I tried with Windows XP:

Restoration
Crashed on the scan of the USB stick, so I’d mark this as a fail.  Program was last updated in 2004, so no chances of any support there.
Restoration undelete program

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Is the Apple iPad really 5 years better than a HP TC1100

ipadApple to much hype, released announced the iPad computing tablet.

*yawn*

You can’t buy the Apple iPad yet.

And when you can, what will you use it for?  Web surfing on the toilet, reading in bed?  As IT executives would/should say “where’s the use case?”  What are people going to use it for?

tc1100I thought back to the HP TC1100 tablet, which was the best of the Tablet PCs.  It died because of a lack of a need for it.  Oh sure, there were some vertical markets for it.  I know of several hospitals where it was used for bedside care.  But I got to thinking, the Apple iPad was announced 5 years after the TC1100, so it’s got to that much better, right?

Lets look at some selective specs:

  Apple iPad HP TC1100
USB No Yes x 2
Keyboard via keyboard dock via keyboard dock or USB
Audio out Yes Yes
WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11b
Linux capable No Yes
Weight 1.5 pounds 3.1 pounds
Screen size 9.7 inch, 1024×768 10.4 inch, 1024×768
Memory 16GB+ 2GB
Cost $499 (16GB model) $2,299

So is the Apple iPad 5 years better?  No.

Does it matter?  No.

It won’t matter because it’s made by Apple, it’s fairly cheap, and light enough to carry around.  Sure there are going to be flaws.  The biggest one for me would be, being locked into the iTunes “must buy applications from Apple” store monopoly.

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How to extract device drivers from your PC.

Driver Magician Lite Use Driver Magician.

Why?  Well sometimes you’ll get a laptop from a manufacturer, and to remove all the crapware, you’ll want to reformat the laptop.

Reformatting is normally the best option.  Quickest way to get rid of the crapware I know.
Or, if you work in a Corporate IT shop, you are probably going to want to install your own customised Windows operating system install.*

BUT.  Sometimes manufacturers don’t place their laptop drivers on their website, which makes it hard to install your own copy of Windows successfully.  What with not being able to find all those required device drivers.

Driver Magician will backup all those device drivers for you.  And if you’re not a skinflint who uses the Driver Magician Lite version, it’ll even restore them for you.  From the screenshot, you can see I’m a skinflint…

And the driver backup went very well.

On a test Dell e4200 series laptop, I backed up the Intel Ethernet and Wireless Network drivers.  It backed all the required DLLs/INFs/CAB files it needed to.  Then I reformatted the laptop, and installed Windows XP.  Loaded the backed up drivers, and they worked perfectly.

I’m very happy.

Why the Dell e4200?

A standard Windows XP build does not have the required (e4200) Intel Network drivers included.  Meaning you have to install them yourself.  So it made a good test machine.

Thanks to…

Terry McDonald (School Network Manager).  This is where I first saw mention of Driver Magician.

* if you are a large enough Corporate IT shop, you’ll get into discussions with laptop hardware vendors like:

Wisefaq, your customised image fails to load at our laptop manufacturing plant.  It’s your device driver choice.  We use different drivers in our laptop Windows install, and they work …

Driver Magician will allow me to extract those very same drivers, and use them in my customised Windows build.

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Tape backup, reliable? Never ever!

The Dilbert Disaster Recovery Plan  Or how tape backups have failed my customers over the years, and wasted our collective time, because of customer stupidity.

  1. Melted tapes
    The school which stored their entire backup tape set next to their server.
    One office fire later, “No, we can’t restore your melted tapes.”
  2. Old tapes
    The schools which refused to buy replacement tapes, because they were too expensive.
    And wondered why, after a server hard disk failure, we couldn’t restore data off their 4 year old tapes.
  3. Dirty tape drives
    The office locations which never ever cleaned their tape drives.
    The tape drives would gum up, and make the tapes un-readable.
  4. “Not my job”
    It wasn’t a difficult task to change the backup tapes every day, but it was always “someone else” responsible for it.
    Net result: continual backup failure, and lost data.
  5. Slowing down with age.
    Tape drives, being mechanical devices, slow down with age.  So you get Tape Drive A (the old drive) creating tapes that Tape Drive B (the new drive) couldn’t read.

Sony DAT Tape drive and Unisys QIC Tape DriveSo what did we do to encourage the customers to be concerned about their backups?

Melted tapes:
Showed them what a fire-damaged tape looked like.  “Oh!” was the most common comment.

Old tapes:
Try and grab a copy of the “critical” data when we could, via over-the-network backups.

Dirty tape drives:
Cleaned the drive when we visited once a year.  Little else we could do.

“Not my job”:
Nothing we could do about that.  A hardware failure would often change the attitude at the customer site.

Slowing down with age:
We’d only see the effect of this after a hard disk crash, where we try and read the tape, and fail.
Often involved paying a service technician *lots* of money to adjust a drive for us, so it could read the data.

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USB to ISA adapter board

ARS USB2ISA Adapter board Got an old PC which you cannot replace because it’s got a specialised ISA Adapter board in it?

ISA, dear reader, was introduced in 1981, with the original IBM PC.  By 2000, ISA was a dead standard.

I remember one of my customers had a stack of 80386 systems piled in a corner.  “What are those for?”, I queried.
’Those are for the CashTally system.  It won’t work with later hardware.’, was the customer reply.
Yes, the CashTally system used specialised hardware.

So what do you do, if you have ISA adapter cards, which you must keep using?

Well one solution, is to drop over to ARS Technologies and buy yourself a USB2ISA adapter.

Sure, it’s not cheap at $149USD.  But if you had to re-develop a custom system to do what your current ISA adapter is doing, how much would you be looking at?

(The bigger argument is, what the heck are you doing stuck on hardware which requires an ISA adapter?  If that ISA adapter you’re using is that CRITICAL, I wouldn’t be relying on a $149USD adapter to dodge the “I have not updated my application/system because I’m a cheap arse” bullet.)

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“… concerned about the heating of external drives …”

“I’m concerned about the heating of external drives because many of these little enclosures provide no active air flow across the drive.”, opines Steve Gibson.

And in the field of hard disk maintenance, he would have to be the expert.  SpinRite is the result of his knowledge in the field.

freeagent_goMy Seagate FreeAgent Classic drive is an example of this heating issue.

The case was getting far too hot for my comfort, so I drilled holes in it.

But I haven’t done this for my other two external drives, as they run cooler.

“Why do they?”, you ask.

Two likely reasons:

  1. The drives turn themselves off when not being used.  This is known as an Idle Sleep.  All three of my external drives do that.
  2. I suspect the drives have heat detection built-in, and they slow themselves down as they get hotter.
    This would explain why my WD Passport drive slows down during heavy prolonged use.

2. isn’t so bad. But 1., the drive shutting itself down, can play havoc with instant-on applications.  Such as satellite TV recording.  The work-around is to find drives which don’t shutdown, such as the LaCie range of external drives.

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