When an engineer or an architect stores information “locally” on their laptop, and then it crashes, they need to find a way to recover the data. This typically means taking the device to a company that specializes in data recovery that will use complex equipment to attempt to access the laptop’s data. However, this should be considered a “last resort,” as it’s an expensive and time-consuming process. The better approach is to proactively protect and backup the laptop so critical data is not stored on the machine itself.
When Recovery Is the Only Option
Laptops with traditional hard drives were easier to manage and work on when it came to data recovery. By simply removing a couple of screws covering a small access panel on the bottom of the machine, accessing the hard drive and removing it was a simple process. With modern solid-state drives (SSDs), it’s a much more difficult situation. These machines are built to be thin and that design characteristic makes them difficult to open and access. If you’re lucky enough to be able to open it, you may find that the SSD or solid-state memory is often soldered or permanently affixed to the machine so it cannot be easily removed.
So, an architect or developer that wants to pop open and upgrade their machine can’t really do it with an SSD-powered laptop. These machines are faster and more durable, but there’s a tradeoff with inaccessibility. Another complication is the operating system used by many laptops. For example, Microsoft is taking a similar path as Apple by preventing tools and utilities from working on Windows 10S, so using a recovery tool might be blocked by the OS.
If someone has critical data on an SSD or traditional hard drive laptop that is inoperable, then the best option is to send it along to a specialized shop that can open and connect the device. Such a company will have various sockets and connectors that can match up with the proprietary connector used by the laptop. Unfortunately, many laptops don’t have universal SATA ports anymore, and in many cases, the SSD drive is permanently attached to the device or completely inaccessible. These devices can still be accessed by top recovery firms, but the costs for such a service reach into the several thousand.
Developers and other tech workers will often encrypt their data, which does protect it but adds another layer of complication to recovery. Even if a data recovery firm can access the drive and recover the data, they will not be able to go through the encrypted data without the key to verify the data was recovered intact, so the data might be lost permanently.
The best approach to recovering data is to proactively manage storage and follow other best practices so that recovery never has to occur.
Here are several best practices for protecting laptop data.
Sync With the Cloud
Instant protection of data can be achieved by mirroring all content to a cloud provider. Cloud services are exceedingly cheap and the security of the cloud is much improved. For a developer that is working on a project or an architect with hundreds of plans, there’s massive risk in not backing up data to the cloud. Syncing the device for automatic backups is a necessity. Treat the laptop as a machine that enables internet access and lets you use programs, not as a storage medium. Some services such as Western Digital’s MyCloud pair external hard drives with cloud storage for multiple layers of redundant backups.
Launch in Safe Mode
The handy “Safe Mode” is useful for launching a laptop that will boot, but is not functioning properly. If you can open Safe Mode, then simply plug in an external hard drive and try to move over the content you need to save. Unless the laptop is very high end, you’ll likely want to purchase a new one after retrieving the valuable data. Remember to treat the laptop as an access conduit, not a place for permanent storage.
Treat Them With “Kid Gloves”
Laptops are made to be as durable as possible, but they’re still complex machines with a number of moving parts. Both SSD drives and traditional hard drives can malfunction if they’re dropped, so take care whenever transporting the machine. And of course, liquids do not mix with electronics, as such keep drinks and water away from the laptop at all times. Even the most adept recovery firm will struggle to pull data from a waterlogged device.
Use the Right Security Measures
Laptops are frequent targets for theft, which can expose important company or personal data. The first line of defense against theft is to use a login PIN for the device, which will stop most criminals from accessing your data. Another step that will block all but the most dedicated hackers is to use encryption to make your data useless to any unauthorized person. You possess the encryption key, which is essential for viewing the data. Avoid allowing anyone else to use your laptop since they might inadvertently change your security settings or delete data by accident.
Managing laptop data is not terribly difficult when you take the proactive approach of backing up on the cloud and keeping the device safe. Recovery is definitely a “no other options” recourse and can be avoided by following best practices.