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  1. #1
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    How to recover from an accidental reformat




    LANGALIST PLUS

    How to recover from an accidental reformat


    By Fred Langa

    Deleting a file you need is bad enough, but accidentally deleting your entire hard drive is truly awful. Fortunately, there are many unformat tools that can restore some, most, or even all of the erased data.


    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/langalist-plus/how-to-recover-from-an-accidental-reformat/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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    Red face How to recover from an accidental reformat - Do-it-yourself easy passwords

    In the password part of the article Langa discusses a number of password techniques.

    He also refers to a number of automated password management and auto login utilities. He stated that his preferred utility is RoboForm. I agree - I use it myself. Although it is not freeware it is not particularly expensive. Under RoboForm all of my passwords are unique, random and > 12 digits. Yet I can login to sites very quickly and with minimal user input. I suggest that he describes this utility and its competitors. I find it extremely effective but it can be fiddly to use. Setting it up was laborious - although this was mainly due to the variation in web site login mechanisms.

    One very significant aspect is that it eliminates phishing attacks. This is because it will not recognise a spoofed log in page because the URLs will not match. [Not that i ever access a secure site by selecting a URL on and email. I go straight to RoboForm.]

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    Imaging Tools and Empty Space

    Fred,

    As I'm sure you've now heard many times, a lot of imaging tools do treat empty space as relevant and do not ignore it. Any tool that is forensic in nature will preserve the entire drive as it is bit by bit and provide a hash result for the entire drive as well as checksums for each 'chunk' for error detection. Many of these can be prohibitively expensive for personal use, such as EnCase, but some are much more accessible such as OSFClone and dd. Of course when using forensic tools it is generally the empty space that is by far more interesting than the 'live' files....

    Thanks!
    Charlie

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    What about the password tool built into Firefox? - how does that compare to the other password tools.

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    CharliePlatt (2014-12-04)

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    Quote Originally Posted by RickyP View Post
    What about the password tool built into Firefox? - how does that compare to the other password tools.
    http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/passwordfox.html

    Enough said.
    -- Bob Primak --

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    Unformatting a Partition

    If you already have Acronis Disk Director, you can recover an accidentally Quick Formatted partition using their Recovery Wizard. Usually if you haven't done anything else in the meantime, this will work off the Disk Director Recovery CD. Just remember to set your BIOS to boot first from CD/DVD, then from the internal drive. Many of us who have been using True Image Home also have Disk Director. It's not free, but this is one of the most effective partition recovery tools out there.

    Take-home lesson: Make that Image Backup before anything unfortunate has a chance to happen. And maybe make a copy of the base image onto a second external drive for good measure. I do this, and I have had to use these images more than once.
    -- Bob Primak --

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    Er, have you actually tried this application, Bob? While a lot of Nir's stuff is very useful, when I run this one it does nothing - no passwords, not even user names, though it does list the Web sites for which Firefox has stored them. Didn't try it with Firefox running, but there's no indication that this is a requirement. I do have a master password set up, so perhaps the application only works if you don't do that (hardly the mark of someone very concerned with security, I'd say).

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    Thats right Keelta. I used Roboform for a long time. Bought it. Never to leave it. Then one day tried LastPass just for fun. Got hooked on to the free version. It's so simple to use. And very, very fast. Finally bought it. Very economical. Very secure. It syncs beautifully with Google Nexus 1 (my phone), and now Nexus 7.
    My love affair with Roboform ended. But, I still keep it and for storing up my several hundred safe notes and passwords.
    [twitter][twitter]rssra[/twitter][/twitter]

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    I don't think that wors for the Firefox Password manager when you use a master password:

    http://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/...ange-passwords

    This tool is pretty good. It saves your passwords, and sync's them between all your registered PCs. It is easy to use - I think it is worth Fred commeting on.

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    Imaging Tools and Empty Space

    As Charlie said there are definitely tools that will image an empty drive. Yes the image will show as having been reformatted too - but you can safely attempt to recover the image while keeping the original drive safe. The dd Charlie mentions is a unix command that can be used to copy sectors directly - and is often used to make images. You would need a Linux LiveCD and a second (or portable) hard drive to make the image on.

    Another tool is clonezilla - but be careful as its default settings only clones used sectors - you need to override that to get a true image.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JavaJim View Post
    As Charlie said there are definitely tools that will image an empty drive. Yes the image will show as having been reformatted too - but you can safely attempt to recover the image while keeping the original drive safe. The dd Charlie mentions is a unix command that can be used to copy sectors directly - and is often used to make images. You would need a Linux LiveCD and a second (or portable) hard drive to make the image on. Another tool is clonezilla - but be careful as its default settings only clones used sectors - you need to override that to get a true image.
    Indeed. I submitted a message via the 'contact' mechanism (and perhaps should have here as well) to note that many and possibly most common imaging applications have this facility as an option - e.g., Seagate's Disc Wizard (a limited version of Acronis True Image) offers the 'sector-by-sector' imaging option (if I recall correctly this is the ONLY option when imaging a partition whose internal format it does not understand). Also, partition managers commonly offer sector-by-sector partition copy options (though if the partition manager thinks it understands the internal format of the partition it may copy only the parts it thinks are significant unless you explicitly tell it otherwise): unlike an image the result will be direct creation of a new partition rather than a file which you can then use to create a partition copy to play with safely.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RickyP View Post
    I don't think that wors for the Firefox Password manager when you use a master password:

    http://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/...ange-passwords

    This tool is pretty good. It saves your passwords, and sync's them between all your registered PCs. It is easy to use - I think it is worth Fred commeting on.
    Just want to make sure folks have some idea of the types of risks storing passwords in a browser may entail. The Nir Sofer utilities are relatively mild compared with the tools available to malicious hackers these days. Master Passwords help but may not fully cover the known Firefox vulnerabilities. LastPass has also had some doubts raised about its security from time to time.
    -- Bob Primak --

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