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My sister made a mistake when trying to reformat a hard drive, and buggered up a hard drive with her work on it. She says it happened very quickly which leads me to believe she's actually just changed the header of the drive, but that the disk contents may still be intact.

In disk utility she selected the drive and then selected the partition tab at the top. She then selected a volume scheme of one partition. Then at the bottom of the volume box she chose options and selected a GUID partition table. She then hit apply.

I'm wondering if there's a way for her to get her old partition table back? Probably not, but it seems to me like the data should still be intact on the drive. Will a standard data recovery tool work here?

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First off, if the data is really important, don't do anything with that disk until you've settled on a recovery strategy, ideally after making a bit for bit copy to experiment with.

If all she did was blow away the partition table, you should be able to get the data back. If a quick format happened as well, that will be trickier, but you should still be able to get some data back. Grab a copy of Tech Tool and hope for the best.

Back in the day, I accidentally repartitioned a 20GB disk on Linux. I repartitioned it back exactly the way it was and it was fine. Nearly gave me a heart attack.

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