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I have already had the same problem before. On that occasion, I found a program that could scan my entire hard drive for string pieces so I could recover it. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the program. It had to access the hard drive data directly, normal searches won't get any data from the hard drive before formatting.

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So you're specifically asking for a program that can do this scan for known text file content, and not more generally about data recovery software? Would the latter also answer your question? –  Daniel Beck Dec 24 '11 at 4:52
    
Yes, this is it. And HxD was the solution. –  Dokkat Dec 24 '11 at 6:51

2 Answers 2

Obviously I don’t know what program you used (was it File Scavenger?), but aside from countless data-recovery programs (for example, Recuva), I can suggest using a hex-editor like HxD or a disk-editor like DiskExpl to search the drive. You can open the drive (try opening the logical volume first and resort to physical only if needed; also select read-only) then use Ctrl+F to search for your string(s). Once you’ve found your file, export or copy the sectors to a file and trim/concatenate as needed.

Photorec has an option to search only unused clusters, however it does not have an option to search for specific strings (and it has no feasible way of searching for plain text since there is no unique signature for them).

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This probably solves my problem. But the search will take 10 hours. Can I configure it not to search empty locations? –  Dokkat Dec 24 '11 at 5:09
    
The only program I have seen with that (obviously useful) feature is Photorec. Unfortunately it has no way to search for specific string (because it started as picture-file recovery tool). –  Synetech Dec 24 '11 at 5:16
    
Just found and recovered my file 100% intact with HxD. Can't upvote, but thank you very much. –  Dokkat Dec 24 '11 at 6:50
    
Happy to help. (You get two rep points for accepting an answer; though you’d still need two more to have enough to up-vote questions and answers.) –  Synetech Dec 24 '11 at 15:56

I recommend TestDisk. See their website for more information.

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