The typical laptop computer might hold tens of thousands of files, photos and other documents. There could be family photo albums as well as business docs stored on the high capacity hard drive. These machines are built with a lot of storage space, but that’s a feature that gets users into trouble. Laptops and desktops are not ideal storage devices for sensitive information, as they’re prone to breakage, corruption, and they can be physically misplaced or stolen.

A user that holds a large amount of data on their laptop will often not be able to access the information. Perhaps they dropped the device on the ground, spilled coffee on the keypad, or the data became corrupted and inaccessible.

Whatever the reason, if the data is vitally important, then the user will want to pursue data recovery. Tech-savvy users could often take apart older laptops and desktops by removing a few screws and taking out the hard drive which they would connect to a universal SATA port and then (hopefully) pull the data.

This DIY method could sometimes work, but it often caused more problems if the hard drive was damaged during removal or the corruption problem could not be overcome. Modern laptops are nearly impossible to access in this manner without specialized tools and expertise. The SSD drives in newer machines are built much thinner, and in many cases the drive is soldered onto the other components within the case. And it’s very difficult if not impossible to find the screws to open the case. Device makers are trying to discourage people from cracking open their products, so they make DIY efforts very difficult.

A laptop user who desperately needs the info pulled from a broken or corrupted machine should choose a recovery company that can operate within a clean room to access and download the needed data. However, this should always be viewed as a “last resort” as recovery takes several days and costs thousands of dollars.

Computer owners with machines that won’t boot or were exposed to liquids should not try to repeatedly power the device on and off. Especially with liquid damage, the best option is to leave it powered off and call in the experts at a recovery service. Users certainly should not use a hair dryer or other technique to remove the water, as this will likely push the liquid deeper into the machine’s components.

Computer users that need data recovery should also avoid utilizing many of the free “data recovery” software products that can be found on the Internet. These tools are very unreliable, and many of them are filled with malware which can quickly steal the user’s personal data.

Some firms such as SanDisk do offer products that can recover data from SD cards and other components, and these can be trusted as they’re from a known provider that takes steps to offer strong security.

Since data recovery is costly, and it is not always successful, it should always be avoided if possible. The best data recovery tips are for users to understand how to proactively manage and protect their data to avoid the need for data recovery altogether. Here’s several best practices:

Treat the Computer Differently

A first step should be to view the laptop or desktop not as a storage medium, but as a conduit to the Internet and a way to operate programs. Consider Google Docs and the ability to access and edit content from any internet-connected source. That’s how you should view the computer, as a vital (but easily replaceable) tool for reaching content.

When the machine is no longer used as local storage, then the loss is not too great in the case of breakage or corruption. A user that has a laptop that won’t boot and is making clicking noises can simply buy a new machine and discard the old one, assuming they don’t use it as storage.

Sync up with the Cloud

Google Docs is just one example of a cloud-based tool that helps people be more productive while eliminating the risks of data loss. The cloud is also extraordinarily useful as a storage platform, with providers such as Amazon and Google offering inexpensive and secure storage for any users’ needs.

It’s simple to setup file duplication to the cloud, so all of your content is effectively “mirrored” to a cloud service. It’s also a good idea to use multiple cloud services to create redundancies, and even go offline with some external hard drives for an additional layer of protection.

Be Smart About Security

In some cases, immediately moving data to the cloud might be feasible. For example, perhaps you’re working at a remote location and need to store the sales contract on the device. Whatever the reason, it’s important to protect the data while it temporarily resides on the machine.

A first line of defense is to mandate a PIN number for opening the computer system. So if the laptop is stolen, it won’t be accessible to the average criminal. You should also install a firewall to prevent intrusions and a well-respected antivirus/malware program. To secure the data itself, you can consider using encryption which renders the content unreadable without having the encryption key.

Data recovery conducted by a professional shop should only be if absolutely necessary due to the time and expense involved. If it’s a necessity, then only work with a qualified company that will use the right tools to grab the data.

Protecting data properly requires a change of mindset, from viewing computers as storage devices to simply internet conduits and software platforms. Syncing to the cloud and using security protocols are two ways to proactively save data and prevent the need for recovery.

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