Restoring Backup Data After Hard Drive Crash

Category: Hard-Drives

Your hard drive crashed, but there's no need to panic. You have a backup copy of your data; good for you! Now the only question is, how do you restore your data? Read on for tips on restoring your files from a backup...

How to Restore Your Files From a Backup

The reason we make backups is so that our important files can be recovered in the event of data loss or a hard drive crash. But the procedure for doing that of course depends on how you made the backup copy. You'll need to use the same program that created the backup copy to restore it to your hard drive. If you used the Backup/Restore utility built into Windows Vista and Windows 7, here is the general procedure for restoring backed-up data:

Open Backup and Restore by clicking Start, then Control Panel, then System and Maintenance , and finally Backup and Restore

Click Restore My Files. You'll have the option to restore just your own files or the files of all users on the system. You may need an administrator's password to restore all users' files.
restore from backup

You can browse the files and folders in a backup copy, or search for a particular file or class of files by filename mask (e. g., *.jpg will find all JPG images in the backup copy). If you choose to "browse folders" you won't be able to see individual files within folders.

You can narrow a search to the files of a specific user by including the path to that user's personal files in the search, e. g., C:\Users\Bill\*.JPG.

You can restore files that were backed up from another computer, too, if that computer was also backed up using Windows Vista or 7. Backup and Restore copies selected files and folders, one by one, to a folder named for the user whose files were backed up. So after the restore, you may need to move files from C:\Users\Joe to wherever you need them on the target computer.

Restoring from a Backup Image

A System Image Backup, on the other hand, is a bit-by-bit duplicate of the exact state of your hard drive at the time the image backup was made. When a system image backup is restored it overwrites all existing data on the hard drive. You can't choose individual files or folders to restore.

To restore from your backup image to a fresh new hard drive, boot up from the Windows install disc, click on "Repair your computer" then select the "Complete PC Restore" option and follow the instructions for restoring your data. If you don't have a Windows install disc, see my article on how to create a Recovery Disc for Vista or Windows 7. The Recovery disc is a stripped-down version of Windows that will allow you to start up your computer and access the disk restore feature.

I've always found the tools that Microsoft provides for backup and restore a bit clunky. So I use Acronis True Image, a commercial tool that has served me well for several years. Acronis has a simple interface that lets you view the folders and files in your backup image, and select which ones you want to restore. And unlike the Microsoft backup & restore tool, YOU get to choose where the files are restored to. When you install Acronis, it will prompt you to create a recovery disc, which allows you to boot up your computer, and restore your data from a system image stored on your backup media. Don't skip that step! Whatever your choice for backup, make sure you have a bootable recovery disc that can be used to restore your system image.

Hoperfully, restoring files from a backup copy is something you don't do very often. So it's worth taking the time to review the file-restoration procedure for whatever backup/restore application you use. That way you won't be stuck clueless when you need to restore files after a hard disk crash.

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Most recent comments on "Restoring Backup Data After Hard Drive Crash"

Posted by:

Robert Reese
13 Dec 2010

Windows backup utility will not open on my computer. Running Windows XP SP3 with all updates. Backup has always run till last month or so. Have been on the net searching for an answer and have tried a lot of suggestions to no avail. Would appreciate any help you could give me.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Maybe a system restore would get you back to good.

Posted by:

14 Dec 2010

Great article. It's important to practice a Restore before you really need it so you have confidence your recovery media and procedures actually work.

Posted by:

15 Dec 2010

This is an amazing article! Thanks for the tips on how to restore a hard disk... the next time my hard drive crashes, I'll be ready! :)

Posted by:

22 Feb 2011

ThanKs alot for ye help. is useful and hope you dont remove them cause i need it to repair my pc whenever it crashed or any kind of failure occurs. thanks in advance...

Posted by:

Tyson Paul
12 Jul 2015

But computer has blue screen hang up, can not access, how it can use the RESTORE function?
Please give us any idea.
Thanks Tyson

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