Data recovery is the process of salvaging data from damaged, failed, corrupted, or inaccessible secondary storage media when it cannot be accessed normally. Often the data are being salvaged from storage media such as hard disk drives, storage tapes, CDs, DVDs, RAID, and other electronics. Recovery may be required due to physical damage to the storage device or logical damage to the file system that prevents it from being mounted by the host operating system.
The most common "data recovery" issue involves an operating system (OS) failure (typically on a single-disk, single-partition, single-OS system), where the goal is to simply copy all wanted files to another disk. This can be easily accomplished with a Live CD, most of which provide a means to 1) mount the system drive, 2) mount and backup disk or media drives, and 3) move the files from the system to the backup with a file manager or optical disc authoring software. Further, such cases can be mitigated by disk partitioning and consistently moving valuable data files to a different partition from the replaceable OS system files.
The second type involves a disk-level failure such as a compromised file system, disk partition, or a hard disk failure °™in each of which the data cannot be easily read. Depending on the case, solutions involve repairing the file system, partition table or MBR, or hard disk recovery techniques ranging from software-based recovery of corrupted data to hardware replacement on a physically damaged disk. These last two typically indicate the permanent failure of the disk, thus "recovery" means sufficient repair for a one-time recovery of files.
A third type involves the process of retrieving files that have been "deleted" from a storage media, since the files are usually not erased in any way but are merely deleted from the directory listings.
Although there is some confusion as to the term, the term "data recovery" may be used to refer to such cases in the context of forensic purposes or spying.