Recuva looks interesting, probably very decent against accidental deletes etc... but is it any good for real recovery?
As you correctly gathered: No it is not!
No need to write your own imaging software: What you need are the following completely FREE programs to
1.) CLONE the drive first to a drive of equal or bigger size.
a.) To make life MUCH easier for you in the recovery process later: WIPE (I.E. OVERWRITE) THE TARGET DRIVE YOU ARE CLONING TO BIT BY BIT FIRST - A FORMAT IS NOT ENOUGH!
b.) Install the original drive as a secondary HD on the second master IDE channel, leaving the slave channel empty. Install the target drive on another master IDE channel, leaving its slave channel empty also. If you now do not have any IDE channels left, go the DOS route below.
c.) If you plan to clone under Windows (since I assume there are no physical problems, just an accidental delete):Roadkil's RawCopy
OR alternatively from DOS with copyr.dma
OR Clone Maxx
(read the FAQ on the Web).
d.) After you have made the clone, work with the clone only. Take out the original HD and keep your original data safe.
e.) Mount the CLONED drive as a secondary HD on the second master IDE channel, leaving the slave channel empty. Now
2.) Use Testdisk
if you think there may be a full partition that can still be recovered, because youy new install did not overwrite a partition boundary OR (if no partition can be recovered) Photorec from the same author (the name is misleading) to search your CLONED HD for recoverable files to be put together from pieces.
Testdisk and Photorec are HIGHLY recommended for recovering partitions (mainly Testdisk) and putting lost files together (mainly Photorec).
But: NO GUI.
+++Read the instructions carefully! Some functions are well hidden
+++Do NOT rewrite the MBR with Testdisk!
+++For working with the cloned drive use the geometry of the original drive in testdisk (if necessary as a last resort), but better try a thorough scan without entering any parameters.
+++DO NOT use Testdisk (or any other recovery software like it) on a hard drive connected to a USB port, since the USB connection CANNOT correctly communicate the physical characteristics of the drive to the OS and therefore the assumptions these programs make for partition recovery (cylinder boundaries) may be wrong!
(Photorec CAN be used safely on a USD HD.)
If you are looking for a commercial solution, then Restorer 2000 v3
may be a good one in this case, though you may need the PRO version to do the advanced file scanning.
Also Handy Recovery v4
may do the trick. The emphasis on these windows program is more on recovery than on cloning.
A capable commercial DOS alternative would be Diskpatch
which is on sale right now ($29.95 vs. $49.95). It is is an excellent cloning tool but it won't help you much with the recovery in your particular case of a reformated and overwritten partition. I consider it the best cloning tool in the sub-200 Dollar range, only some really professional software (pricewise mostly) can best it.
However, you can try the demo version of iRecover
which is a windows program from the same people. It allows you to recover PHOTO files for FREE and is limited in the demo version to recover ONE DIRECTORY, no matter how many files or how big it is.
Also now ON SALE for $39.95 vs. 79.95 original.
It does not CLONE but you can use it to IMAGE your drive if you want. It recovers non-destructively. It thorougly scans your HD and puts your lost files together again. DO NOT use it on a failing drive with hardware problems, but for your situation it may be the perfect solution. It can also be run from Bart PE if you have no other way of accessing your drive (f.e. a problem with your notebook drive).
They have very good and competent tech support. Their web site and forum also has a wealth of information about sound recovery procedures and is extremely educational.
How about arranging for some BIG discounts on restorer 2000 and handy recovery for our supporting members? It would benfit us all when disaster strikes (irecover and diskpatch are already on sale)!
Hope this helps.