What are RAW Files in Data Recovery?

RAW files are the technological equivalent of your most unorganized colleague’s mess of a desk. Without a proper system of organization, it’s almost impossible to find what you need. It’s the same for RAW files and drives. Without a system to keep track of where everything is, you can find yourself lost in a sea of bad sectors and data loss.

So what are RAW files in data recovery, and what can you do to prevent this common problem from locking up your computer’s file system? We’ve got all those answers and more: read on!

What are RAW Files in Data Recovery? A Drive Without a System

Before we dive into the tech-heavy details, let’s take a quick step back to understand what RAW files are. First, think of your computer’s storage as a filing cabinet. When you go to store a file, you have to establish where it’s going to go. You find the appropriate folder and place it there, making it easy to locate later on.

In a perfect world, everyone will follow the rules of filing, which probably includes naming protocol, organization processes and categories/subcategories.

With your computer, it’s quite similar. The system used to store and retrieve data is called a file system. Without disk management and a file system, your computer would be like a pile of manilla folders six feet high. Finding a particular file would be a mess.

There are a few different types of file systems, all of which perform similar tasks.

They include:

  • NTFS file system
  • FAT file system
  • exFAT file system
  • AFPS file system

How your computer manages its files and storage will depend on drive type, operating system and age of the hard drive.

When a file system is RAW, it means that the organizing structure does not exist anymore. It’s as if someone took each piece of paper from each file in that gargantuan stack we mentioned earlier and dumped everything onto the floor. Just as finding a specific piece of paper in this haystack of folders is close to impossible, finding information from RAW files is as difficult for your computer.

While data loss is the first thing that comes to mind, it’s not quite time to start sweating yet. Data recovery specialists can save lost data from a RAW drive. Before we embark on the journey toward RAW disk recovery, let’s discover what can cause drive data to go RAW in the first place.

What Causes a Hard Drive to Go RAW?

Okay, so what causes a hard drive to go RAW? It’s obvious that this is a bad thing.

Here are the main issues that can leave you stranded and searching for your lost files:

  • Bad sectors — Bad sectors break the laws of your file system. These nefarious blocks of bad data don’t lead a life of crime, but they can cause your drive to go RAW.
  • Partition table corruption — Disk partitioning is an essential part of storage organization. If a problem occurs in how a system organizes partitions, it can easily lead to RAW data and drives.
  • File system damage — Since file system issues lead to RAW drives, any problems with the file system itself can transform drive data from usable to RAW.
  • Virus and malware attacks — Virus attacks and malware erode file system structure and lead to RAW drives. Only 5% of companies have adequate file protection, so this is actually a huge problem with an even bigger price tag.
  • Operating system reinstallation — When updating your software, you might run into an issue where the new file system is FAT, but the old one is NTFS. If this is the case, the computer could read the disk as RAW.

Whole Disk or Partition

At this point, you may have gathered that RAW drives and files are quite the headache. Fortunately, you might be lucky enough only to have a RAW partition and not the whole drive.

We touched on partitioning a bit, but let’s clear some things up. A partition is the first container. Think of it as the master folder that the file system uses as the foundation for organization. Within a drive, you can have multiple partitions, all with different file systems. Although, most often, they are the same.

When it comes to RAW files and drives, your overall drive and individual partitions can become RAW. If it happens to be your hard drive, you won’t be able to access any data. If you are dealing with a RAW partition, it could mean you can still navigate your other partitions without any issues.

Can You Recover RAW Files Without Data Loss?

Now we get to the million-dollar question: can you recover RAW files with data recovery?

A quick answer is yes, but not without some tech-savvy know-how and possible professional assistance. The biggest factor in whether a RAW drive is recoverable is how you react. That’s right. The main reason drives go unrecoverable is users’ actions when they discover their files are inaccessible.

It’s an easy mistake to make. Look, missing drive data can be a real thorn in your side. Need that PowerPoint presentation for a meeting and the drive is RAW? Frantically hunting for your memoir manuscript that seems lost on your storage device? Before you start searching for any possible solution, here are some things to consider:

  • Don’t format the drive — Disk formatting is a sure-fire way to destroy any data that data recovery could save.
  • Don’t write new data on the RAW drive — Writing new data on a RAW drive is guaranteed to be unsuccessful. It can be a quick way to destroy your lost data permanently.
  • Don’t use random RAW drive recovery software — While plenty of reputable software is available, some options are downright scams. The wrong choice could do significantly more harm than good.

The moral of the story? Stop what you are doing and get help from data recovery specialists. If you don’t know a disk drive from a high five, it’s best not to touch anything or attempt any fixes that could lead to even more damage.

RAW File Recovery Methods

Let’s talk about recovery.

Files stored on your hard drive have two parts:

1. Metadata

2. File contents

Metadata is the file system information. Where is the file located? What drive letter? Which folders and subfolders? That kind of precious location data. If this information is corrupt, damaged, or otherwise unavailable, a file goes RAW. The file content still exists, and you can recover most, if not all, of the original files.

Turning all that RAW information into something usable takes a bit of extra help. Assistance comes in the form of software or professional data recovery services. Some options are a little lighter on the wallet, but keep in mind that a mistake could lead to permanent damage.

Check Disk

If you happen to be using a Windows machine, you’re in luck. Check disk (CHKDSK) is a handy utility tool that you can use to recover and rebuild RAW partition data. The utility comes loaded on every Windows operating system version and you can find it by using the command line.

This is a bare bones approach to RAW drive recovery software. If you’ve filled your iPhone’s camera roll with out-of-focus selfies because you can’t master the photo function, this method is probably not for you. You should be somewhat comfortable working with the command line and following technical instructions.

Paid Software

Tons of RAW data recovery software options are all over the web. So many, in fact, that finding reliable software can seem like a challenge in and of itself. Always do your research when finding the best choice of software, and be wary of too-good-to-be-true claims and prices.

Professional Data Recovery

If you don’t want to hassle with understanding the command line or navigating technical data recovery software, your best bet will be enlisting the help of professional recovery services.

Whether you’re trying to save pictures off an SD card or spreadsheets off a hard drive, using a professional service gives you a higher chance of recovery. While most pros still use recovery software you might have access to, it’s the experience and knowledge that helps them succeed.

Recovery specialists scan the RAW files or drives and extract the file information and match it to new metadata from a file system. Professionals can easily recover your data without formatting the RAW information or making other common mistakes.

Finding Professional and Affordable Data Recovery Services

You can save RAW files, but you’ll need to act fast. If you’re hunting for quality data recovery services, the professionals at Gadget Genie can provide fast and affordable recovery services. Our team of techies understands the volatility and sensitive nature of data recovery and can get you back to your files in no time.

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