Here’s a tip for all you youngsters out there – deleting a drive’s partition table is a baaaaaadddd idea, if the drive still contains data that you want. Now this is something that I’ve suspected for a while, but last night I proved myself correct.
Of course, I’d never delete a valuable drive’s parition table for the sake of proving a theory – that’s crazy talk! Instead, last night I was trying to format a spare 50GB partition that I’d set aside on my external hard-drive specifically for HFS+. So I had the drive hooked up to the Mac, and I went to the “Disk Utility” program, selected the empty partition, and clicked “Erase”. Disk Utility warned me that the data from that partition would be erased – no worries, it was empty to begin with – so I clicked OK.
Imagine how pleasently surprised I was when Disk Utility told me that it “couldn’t update the partition table”! Actually I wasn’t worried at that point; it was only when I worked out that, “couldn’t update the partition table” really meant, “couldn’t update the partition table, so I deleted it instead” that the feeling of impending doom set in. Without access to the partitions, we had lost all of our digital photos (12+ GB), videos, music (45+ GB), and the install files for a bunch of different applications. *gasp*
Wise man say: backup!
Thankfully, with the assistance of a few programs – TestDisk and PC Inspector (which are both free, surprisingly) – I managed to not only recover the main partitions, but almost all of the data as well. The only real loss looks to be a few install files which I have backups for anyway.
So the real lesson in all of this, was that it was frighteningly easy to resurrect partitions and files that by all counts should have been dead (once I got past my initial shock, that is). So keep that in mind next time you think you’ve erased a sensitive document; with the right tools and a little know how, it wouldn’t be hard to get it back! To really get rid of something, you need to use a tool like Secure Erase (or if you have a Mac, you can just turn on the File Vault and use the built-in Secure Erase).