Unfortunately, disasters happen, no matter how well you care for your computer.
The good news is that when you get those dreaded error messages, there’s still a chance that to recover partitions that are missing.
Let’s take a look at what might have happened, whether you can recover the partition, look at a step-by-step guide of a recovery utility that can make finding and restoring your missing partition easy, and discuss how to prevent future problems with your system.
Common causes of lost/deleted partitions
If you get an error message that a partition is missing, naturally the first question you’ll have is “what happened?”. There are a few factors that could cause lost or deleted partitions, including:
- Accidental deletion: Even experts have issues managing their hard drive on occasion, so it’s not uncommon to delete a partition that you need by mistake or to accidently clean an entire volume when you wanted to clean a specific partition.
- Data corruption: Sometimes the partition table can be damaged by a virus or faulty disk operations, which can lead to a lost partition.
- Power outages: A sudden power surge or power failure can affect the drive’s operations in a way that can make a partition inaccessible.
- Bad sectors: Bad sectors on the disk may prevent your partition from being recognized by the operating system.
The good news is that if you act quickly after discovering it is missing, you may be able to recover a deleted partition.
Why timing matters
Typically when a partition is deleted, the system removes its assignment for that location on the hard drive, allowing that section of memory to be overwritten as needed. But as long as that section of the disk remains untouched, you still have the opportunity to restore the partition using a recovery utility.
The more you use your computer, the more likely that section of the hard drive will be overwritten with new data. So your ability to recover lost partitions increases the sooner you try the recovery, and the less you access the hard drive.
How to recover a lost partition
Using a recovery tool that you boot from either a USB or an external disk (i.e. DVD, CD or Blu-ray) will keep you from accidently overwriting the section of the hard drive where your partition data is stored. An easy-to-use recovery tool is the Acronis Recovery Expert wizard that is included in the bootable version of Acronis Disk Director 12.
(Need instructions on how to use bootable media? We have an easy to follow guide here.)
Once you’ve started the bootable version of Acronis Disk Director, go to Tools and select Acronis Recovery Expert from the menu. The wizard will launch and it will allow you to detect deleted partitions and guide you through the recovery process.
You can recover your partition either automatically or manually.
Recovering in automatic mode
The automatic mode is quick and easy, finding and recovering all the deleted partitions on a basic disk.
1. In the Recovery mode window, choose Automatic.
2. You’ll then go to the Searching for deleted volumes window. The tool scans all the basic disks for deleted volumes. The first step will check for unallocated space. If unallocated space is found, it then starts searching for traces of deleted volumes.
Once a deleted volume is found, it will be displayed in the volume list while the tool continues searching the remaining disks. The Next button becomes enabled once the scan is complete.
If the search shows no results, you’ll be asked to either close the application or search using the Complete method, which scans hard disks sector-by-sector. It is more thorough, but much slower. If there are no volumes found with the complete method, you will be asked to close the tool.
3. The volumes that are found appear in the Recovered Volumes window. Once the you’ve placed the required volumes in the hard disk structure, click Next.
4. Click Proceed to start recovering the volumes.
Recovering in manual mode
Want to maintain more control over the recovery? The manual recovery mode lets you specify the search method, disks to search, and volumes to recover.
1. In the Recovery mode window, choose Manual.
2. In the Unallocated Space Selection window, select unallocated space where the deleted volumes used to be located. If you are not sure about the location of the deleted volumes, select all the unallocated spaces on all the basic disks.
3. In the Searching Method window, you’ve got two choices for how the search is done:
Fast mode checks the beginning of each side of every cylinder of the selected disks. This approach is recommended because it takes less time and in most cases find all deleted volumes.
Complete mode, as described above, checks every sector on the selected disks to be more thorough but is much more slow as a result.
4. In the Searching for deleted volumes window, you’ll scans all the selected disk for deleted volumes. Deleted volumes will be displayed in the list as the search continues. As in the automatic mode, if no volumes are found, you will be asked to close the utility.
Unlike the automatic recovery mode, however, you do not have to wait until the whole search is finished to select a deleted volume for immediate recovery. Simply selecting a volume will change its status to Undeleted, which enables the Next button.
5. Once on the Recovered Volumes window, check to make certain that all the selected volumes are properly placed in the hard disk structure, and then click Next.
6. Click Proceed to start recovering the volumes.
Can’t I simply use a recovery partition?
On most systems, the manufacturer creates dedicates a section of the hard drive as a recovery partition, which contains an image of your system as it was when it was shipped from the factory. The intent is that if your system needs to be reset, you can use the recovery partition to do it.
It’s important to realize that the default recovery partition installed by the manufacturer will restore your system to its original factory settings. That means any apps, files, or customization of settings you’ve added since taking the computer out of the box will be lost. Therefore native recovery partitions really should only be used as an absolute last resort.
Making future recoveries easier
If you want a way to recover your system in a way that won’t delete your newer content, the best option would be to regularly generate a full image backup of your system that you store on an external hard drive. A full image backup is the fastest way to restore your system since it captures all of your data, including partitions, your operating system, preferences, apps, documents, photos, and files.
Unlike the recovery partition, a full image backup means you won’t need to waste time reloading programs, updating to the current versions, and recreating all of your files. And storing it on an external hard drive means migrate your system to new hardware if the original hard drive fails, denying you access to the recovery partition stored on it.