I have a harddisk with two partitions: one for windows and one for data. I've reinstalled windows on the first partition and formatted the data partition with full format (without /Q option) making sure that all my data is backed up. After that I've created the same folder structure (without files inside) on data partition as it was before formatting.

I then realized that all my photos were NOT backed up :((((

I've tried several tools to recover my data without any success:

  • Wordershare Photo Recovery
  • Active File Recovery
  • R-Studio
  • PhotoRec from CGSecurity
  • Recuva

There are max 50Mb of new data on that partition, so data overwriting is minimal.

What is the reason why I'm not able to recover my data with data recovery tools: full format or same folder structure?

And... can I get my photos back or they are lost forever?

  • possible duplicate of Free NTFS partition recovery
    – Sathyajith Bhat
    Aug 26, 2010 at 21:27
  • Full format was used... that's a destructive format, overwriting every sector, I imagine it took quite a while to finish too. I'm afraid there's little that can be done. Had a /Q uick format been used, the data would still be in the sectors, just 'unlinked' in a sense, and quite reasonably recovered with the myriad of tools suggested. Full format wipes the drive, non-recoverable without majorly expensive systems and tools.
    – lornix
    Nov 6, 2010 at 20:17
  • 1
    Windows Long format does write to sector 0 and MFT, but not the rest of the drive, it only reads all sectors, a surface scan....support.microsoft.com/kb/302686
    – Moab
    Feb 10, 2011 at 20:12
  • That may be true in XP, but it is different in Windows 7. 7 zero writes the sectors (when a full format is done). OP didn't provide OS info, I don't believe. If W7 & if full format, I believe the OP is out of luck.
    – therube
    Mar 4, 2011 at 4:44

7 Answers 7


GetDataBack is a spectacular program that works on both FAT and NTFS. But it costs money, 80 dollars to be exact. It's completely worth it in my opinion, but maybe your looking for something free.

However, no matter what you use you CANNOT install it on the same hard drive, even a different partition. Install it on another PHYSICAL hard drive and then try to recover it by copying the files to a separate drive than the one you are recovering.

  • Purchased a copy here for IT use, paid for itself the first time I used.
    – DHayes
    Aug 26, 2010 at 20:11

Before trying any recovery tool that you can find, or that will be suggested on that page, the first thing you have to do is an image of the partition you want to recover (with dd for instance, you'll find it in any serious linux distribution/liveCD). Then, use the recovery tool on the image you have just made, and not on your hard drive directly. It will prevent that you / your tool destroys accidentally your last chance to recover your data.


Testdisk and Photorec may be of help, but they are a little advanced.


When you format a drive fully, it resets the data bits back to 0, but what that really means is that it discharges the polarity of the bit. However, it doesn't do this 'perfectly'. After many write operations, the bit can be in a state between 0 and ~0.4 charged (a simplified explanation of what really occurs) and still be considered deleted (or 0). So, to recover the data, you would need the ability to 'amplify' the charge state of the bits on the drive to recover them - this is only possible because you've applied a (rather) uniform discharge pass by writing 0's in the format process.

The reason that you can do a quick format or delete files in the OS and still recovery them is for two reasons. 1. NTFS keeps a secondary copy of its file list in the physical center point of the drive and these programs can recover the deleted entires and recover the files. 2. When you simply delete a file, only the file table record is updated and the data on the drive still remains (like chapters in a book that are no longer in the table of contents). Recuva, R-studio, GetDataBack all use these techniques to recover data.

I don't know of any software on the market (to the general public) that has the ability to do this. I'm sorry, but I don't think your data is recoverable in its current state.

tl; dr - data is not recoverable unless you have very high-end software/equipment, an electron microscope, or a buddy at the NSA/FBI.


It looks like you have tried all the main recovery software, the main reason you can not get all your data back is that when a file is deleted it is still on the disk but in a partial state until it comes to it's sector being written over by new data, so with all what you have been doing may have overwritten your photos.

You should have ran a livecd of Ubuntu and install Photorec then recover it, this wouldn't have written to your hdd.

Sorry, it may look like you have lost your photos.


Try RecoverMyFiles. I've used it to successfully recover files even after someone reformatted their hard drive and reinstalled Windows. Whereas some recovery tools will recover files but scramble all the filenames, RecoverMyFiles can usually also recover the filenames.

The free version will tell you if your files can be recovered, and the paid version is well worth the $70 to actually recover your data. The company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee if you purchase the software but it fails to recover your data, but I'd suggest contacting their support team ahead of time to confirm whether they claim to be able to recover data from a full format.

If it turns out you can't recover your files, it is probably due to the full format, as mentioned on the GetDataBack blog (competitor to RecoverMyFiles):

We just want to warn people about formatting their drives in Windows Vista and Windows 7. If you uncheck the option for quick format, the operating system does a full destructive format, making data recovery impossible once it is finished.


Download "NTFS undelete" Its free and very effective for NTFS partition recovery of data. Or you may use DiskGetor Data Recovery(use paid version) for free download the paid version my suggestion go to torrent its best option rather then other.

  • Please don't suggest illicit downloads.
    – bwDraco
    Jan 1, 2015 at 16:59

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