Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Welcome to S2 Services Data Recovery Freeware List

Welcome. In these pages you will find freeware for your data recovery needs. Good luck, and I hope you are satisfied with the data you are able to recover.

Please note: Honestly the commercial software and services is the route you will sometimes have to take to recover your data. That's not to discount the large number of high quality data recovery freeware generously given away by developers that you can see here. On those occasions that you try the freeware and it doesn't work, the software in these pages will appear not be worth the time and effort you put in and this can be frustrating. I will try to point out at the top of each page, what I see is the likelihood that and difficulty with which freeware can recover your data.

The Google Adsense Ads displayed on the pages should lead you to the standard commercial software and services available for the problem you are having. You can also try the commercial links by clicking on the Navigation Bar by that name on the left. It's also here.
For commercial software always be sure to try the demos first to see if the program works before buying. Also the difference in prices for software that does the same thing, for instance recovering PowerPoint Presentations, can be a large range like in this case $50 - 299. If possible, try several software solutions before buying. For services, be sure there is a no data, no fee guarantee, and a recovered file preview available.

I can also provide help but am limited ethically and financially (and legally in many cases) to using freeware too. I am perfectly within bounds to use most of the existing commercial office suites to recover corrupt office files since I paid for licenses for all of them. If you need help, I charge $22 for the first half hour and $22 for unlimited time after that. You can call me at 1-(301)-576-6307 or E-mail me at socrtwo@s2services.com.
Paul Pruitt

Monday, September 12, 2005

Corrupt Files and Some Simple Things to Try

Microsoft Office files can become corrupted and/or unopenable in a number of different ways. The corruption can occur if the application crashes, if Windows crashes, if the file is infected with a macro virus, if the actual sectors on the disk become unreadable, power outages etc. Click here to view some typical corrupt Office errors. Microsoft Office programs are finicky about file structure so when you try to open the file again, you can get an error and the file won't open even though most or all of your data and formatting are still contained in it. More rarely the file will open but the data will appear garbled. As the version numbers of Office get higher, the ability to recover corrupt files increases.

The best way to start recovery of an MS Office file is to make a copy of the file. The next thing you can try to do on the copy is to open the file in the MS Office program, but to use the "Open and Repair" Option. This is only available in Word and Excel. For Access users there is a database "Compact and Repair" Function through the "Tools" Menu. For Outlook users there exists a less well known Outlook file repair program available on any PC with MS Office installed. The Outlook PST Repair Tool is described below.

To get to the "Open and Repair" Option in Word and Excel, select your file in the Open Dialogue Window and then left clicking on the little down arrow next to the "Open" Button. See the two dark red arrows in the screenshot to the right:

In Excel there are three modes of recovery that follow the Open Repair Choice. They are "Repair" and Two under the "Extract Data" Button: "Convert to Values" and "Recover Formulas". In Word, choosing the "Open and Repair" Choice gives an immediate response with no further choices required.

For Excel there are additional explicit free Excel procedures you can use. You can view and try them here. Some of the ideas are applicable to Word, PowerPoint, and Access files, for instance opening the applications in safe mode before opening the files. I'm working on updating the Excel procedure and creating similar ones for Word, PowerPoint and Access.

Another thing I try to do is to open the MS Office File in another Office suite. I have and used for recovery, Microsoft Works 7, Lotus Smart Suite 9.8 (the most recent version), Corel Word Perfect Suite Professional 10 (2002 version), Star Office 7, Open Office 1.1, 602 Office, Easy Office, Ability Office 2002, Ability Office Version 4 Beta, ThinkFree Office, Gobe Productive Office, EIOffice (a new Chinese entrant to this field!) and Xoom Office. I also use the Abiword and Atlantis word processors for recovery. Open Office, 602 Office, Easy Office (for non business use), Abiword, and a version of Atlantis Word Processor are all freeware, and if you have the time, I would encourage you to download these and try to open your files in them before purchasing any software or recovery services. The reason other office suites and programs work, is because they are often less finicky than MS Office about file structure. All the office suites and programs have filters which allow the import of MS Office files.

Another important method I use is to make a copy of your misbehaving file and then rename it with a .txt extension. I Open the file in Notepad and look for things out of place. If you have no luck or lack the time, please contact me. I charge $22 for the 1st half hour and a flat fee of $22 after that with a maximum fee of $44. I have no file size limitations although files over 500 MB such as Access Databases (see below) need to be shipped over-land to me. As mentioned, it's worth noting that there are free methods for restoring corrupt Access Databases, Outlook (pst) and Outlook Express (dbx and mbx) mail. There is a piece of free Russian software that will sometimes restore corrupted Access databases. There are also freeware for recovering specifically and Access 95 and 97 Databases. On the subject of Outlook, if you store your messages on your computer, and not on a company server, the place where all the computers user's E-mail, contacts, appointments etc. are stored is in one file with a pst extension. Unfortunately if this file gets larger the 2 GBs in size, it will not open and you will lose access to all your Outlook folders. Microsoft put out a free program which will safely prune off a small portion of the file to get it under 2 GB in size. This pruned off piece is permanently lost. There is another free Microsoft program included with MS Office which will restore corrupt Outlook files. That would be pst files that have other problems than the size issue. See here for the explanation. If this does not work, I can try to restore the file. Finally there is free software for restoring corrupt Outlook Express files (dbx and mbx), again look at the freeware page for the link to the software.

If the free methods mentioned above don't work or don't interest you, there are many pieces of commercial software available for quickly recovering files. Please note is my strong suggestion to try the demo versions of all these programs first before buying. For Word files the best program to start with is DOC Regenerator, although it is labor and time intensive. For a good quick solution to Word corruption, I would use WordFix by Cimaware or WordRecovery by Recoveronix. For Excel, I would use Cimaware's ExcelFix or Recoveronix' ExcelRecovery. For PowerPoint the only real effective choice most times is Ontrack's EasyRecovery FileRepair. For Access the best program is AccessRecovery by Recoveronix although the EasyRecovery Suites comes in a close second. For Outlook (pst) try the free ways mentioned above first then the demos for Iolo's Search and Recover, Recoveronix OutlookRecovery, and Ontrack EasyRecovery FileRepair, with the Iola product the cheapest by almost an order of magnitude.
Please note: Honestly the commercial software and services is the route you will sometimes have to take to recover your data. That's not to discount the large number of high quality data recovery freeware generously given away by developers that you can see here. On those occasions that you try the freeware and it doesn't work, the software in these pages will appear not be worth the time and effort you put in and this can be frustrating. I will try to point out at the top of each page, what I see is the likelihood that and difficulty with which freeware can recover your data.

The Google Adsense Ads displayed on the pages should lead you to the standard commercial software and services available for the problem you are having. You can also try the commercial links by clicking on the Navigation Bar by that name on the left. It's also here.
For commercial software always be sure to try the demos first to see if the program works before buying. Also the difference in prices for software that does the same thing, for instance recovering PowerPoint Presentations, can be a large range like in this case $50 - 299. If possible, try several software solutions before buying. For services, be sure there is a no data, no fee guarantee, and a recovered file preview available.

I can also provide help but am limited ethically and financially (and legally in many cases) to using freeware too. I am perfectly within bounds to use most of the existing commercial office suites to recover corrupt office files since I paid for licenses for all of them. If you need help, I charge $22 for the first half hour and $22 for unlimited time after that. You can call me at 1-(301)-576-6307 or E-mail me at socrtwo@s2services.com.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

What Happens When You Delete a File


There are few things worse than realizing that you need a deleted file after you have emptied the Recycle Bin or deleted it with by Shift-Delete. Luckily the files are not actually deleted immediately from your disk. Rather the entry is removed from the directory that Windows keeps for the disk, and the sectors of the disk where the files reside are marked as open for possible reuse. If you act quickly enough, your file can be completely recovered. Sometimes even after several days of normal PC use. A file can especially be restored if you have defragmented your disk just before deletion and not any time after it. The data remains on the disk and can only be truly permanently removed by a “data shredding” program which overwrites the file with random 1's and 0's. The government in fact specifies that sensitive files be “shredded” seven times before it is considered truly erased.

Please note: Honestly the commercial software and services is the route you will sometimes have to take to recover your data (for deleted files this is only occasionally). That's not to discount the large number of high quality data recovery freeware generously given away by developers that you can see here. On those occasions that you try the freeware and it doesn't work, the software in these pages will appear not be worth the time and effort you put in and this can be frustrating. I try to point out at the top of each page, what I see is the likelihood that and difficulty with which freeware can recover your data.
The Google Adsense Ads displayed on the pages should lead you to the standard commercial software and services available for the problem you are having. You can also try the commercial links by clicking on the Navigation Bar by that name on the left. It's also here.
For commercial software always be sure to try the demos first to see if the program works before buying. Also the difference in prices for software that does the same thing, for instance recovering PowerPoint Presentations, can be a large range like in this case $50 - 299. If possible, try several software solutions before buying. For services, be sure there is a no data, no fee guarantee, and a recovered file preview available.
I can also provide help but am limited ethically and financially (and legally in many cases) to using freeware too. I am perfectly within bounds to use most of the existing commercial office suites to recover corrupt office files since I paid for licenses for all of them. If you need help, I charge $22 for the first half hour and $22 for unlimited time after that. You can call me at 1-(301)-576-6307 or E-mail me at socrtwo@s2services.com.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Disk Failure Explained


Imminent or after the fact disk failure is the worst kind of PC experience, especially if your data is not backed up. In these conditions, you may want to turn straight to commercial solutions. This is fine, but if you have time to spare, want to save some money, and don't mind experimenting, there is some good freeware. Understandably, it's not for everyone.

Below explains how hard disk works and how they fail. It's from from the Wikipedia Article on Hard Disks:

"A hard disk uses rigid rotating platters. It stores and retrieves digital data from a planar magnetic surface. Information is written to the disk by transmitting an electromagnetic flux through an antenna or write head that is very close to a magnetic material, which in turn changes its polarization due to the flux. The information can be read back in a reverse manner, as the magnetic fields cause electrical change in the coil or read head that passes over it.


A typical hard disk drive design consists of a central axis or spindle upon which the platters spin at a constant speed. Moving along and between the platters on a common armature are the read-write heads, with one head for each platter face. The armature moves the heads radially across the platters as they spin, allowing each head access to the entirety of the platter.
The associated electronics control the movement of the read-write armature and the rotation of the disk, and perform reads and writes on demand from the disk controller. Modern drive electronics are capable of scheduling reads and writes efficiently across the disk, and of remapping sectors of the disk which have failed.

Also, most major hard drive and motherboard vendors now support S.M.A.R.T. technology, by which impending failures can often be predicted, allowing the user to be alerted in time to prevent data loss.

The (mostly) sealed enclosure protects the drive internals from dust, condensation, and other sources of contamination. The hard disk's read-write heads fly on an air bearing (a cushion of air) only nanometers above the disk surface. The disk surface and the drive's internal environment must therefore be kept immaculately clean, as fingerprints, hair, dust, and even smoke particles have mountain-sized dimensions when compared to the submicroscopic gap that the heads maintain.

Some people believe a disk drive contains a vacuum — this is incorrect, as the system relies on air pressure inside the drive to support the heads at their proper flying height while the disk is in motion. Another common misconception is that a hard drive is totally sealed. A hard disk drive requires a certain range of air pressures in order to operate properly. If the air pressure is too low, the air will not exert enough force on the flying head, the head will not be at the proper height, and there is a risk of head crashes and data loss. (Specially manufactured sealed and pressurized drives are needed for reliable high-altitude operation, above about 10,000 feet. Please note this does not apply to pressurized enclosures, like an airplane cabin.) Some modern drives include flying height sensors to detect if the pressure is too low, and temperature sensors to alert the system to overheating problems.

The inside of a hard disk with the platter removed. To the left is the read-write arm. In the middle the electromagnets of the platter's motor can be seen.

Hard disk drives are not airtight. They have a permeable filter (a breather filter) between the top cover and inside of the drive, to allow the pressure inside and outside the drive to equalize while keeping out dust and dirt. The filter also allows moisture in the air to enter the drive. Very high humidity year-round will cause accelerated wear of the drive's heads (by increasing stiction, or the tendency for the heads to stick to the disk surface, which causes physical damage to the disk and spindle motor). You can see these breather holes on all drives -- they usually have a warning sticker next to them, informing the user not to cover the holes. The air inside the operating drive is constantly moving too, being swept in motion by friction with the spinning disk platters. This air passes through an internal filter to remove any leftover contaminants from manufacture, any particles that may have somehow entered the drive, and any particles generated by head crash.

Due to the extremely close spacing of the heads and disk surface, any contamination of the read-write heads or disk platters can lead to a head crash — a failure of the disk in which the head scrapes across the platter surface, often grinding away the thin magnetic film. For GMR heads in particular, a minor head crash from contamination (that does not remove the magnetic surface of the disk) will still result in the head temporarily overheating, due to friction with the disk surface, and renders the disk unreadable until the head temperature stabilizes. Head crashes can be caused by electronic failure, a sudden power failure, physical shock, wear and tear, or poorly manufactured disks. Normally, when powering down, a hard disk moves its heads to a safe area of the disk, where no data is ever kept (the landing zone). However, especially in old models, sudden power interruptions or a power supply failure can result in the drive shutting down with the heads in the data zone, which increases the risk of data loss. Newer drives are designed such that the rotational inertia in the platters is used to safely park the heads in the case of unexpected power loss. In recent years, IBM pioneered drives with "head unloading" technology, where the heads are lifted off the platters onto "ramps" instead of having them rest on the platters. Other manufacturers have begun using this technology as well.
Spring tension from the head mounting constantly pushes the heads towards the disk. While the disk is spinning, the heads are supported by an air bearing, and experience no physical contact wear. The sliders (the part of the head that is closest to the disk and contains the pickup coil itself) are designed to reliably survive a number of landings and takeoffs from the disk surface, though wear and tear on these microscopic components eventually takes its toll. Most manufacturers design the sliders to survive 50,000 contact cycles before the chance of damage on startup rises above 50%. However, the decay rate is not linear — when a drive is younger and has fewer start/stop cycles, it has a better chance of surviving the next startup than an older, higher-mileage drive (literally, as the head drags along the drive surface until the air bearing is established). For the Maxtor DiamondMax series of drives, for instance, the drive typically has a 0.02% chance of failing after 4,500 cycles, a 0.05% chance after 7,500 cycles, with the chance of failure rising geometrically to 50% after 50,000 cycles, and increasing ever after.

Using rigid platters and sealing the unit allows much tighter tolerances than in a floppy disk. Consequently, hard disks can store much more data than floppy disk, and access and transmit it faster. In 2004, a typical workstation hard disk might store between 80 GB and 400 GB of data, rotate at 5,400 to 10,000 rpm, and have an average transfer rate of over 30 MB/s. The fastest workstation hard drives spin at 15,000 rpm. Notebook hard drives, which are physically smaller than their desktop counterparts, tend to be slower and have less capacity. Most spin at only 4,200 rpm or 5,400 rpm, though the newest top models spin at 7,200 rpm."

Please note: Honestly the commercial software and services is the route you will sometimes have to take to recover your data. That's not to discount the large number of high quality data recovery freeware generously given away by developers that you can see here. On those occasions that you try the freeware and it doesn't work, the software in these pages will appear not be worth the time and effort you put in and this can be frustrating. I try to point out at the top of each page, what I see is the likelihood that and difficulty with which freeware can recover your data.

The Google Adsense Ads displayed on the pages should lead you to the standard commercial software and services available for the problem you are having. You can also try the commercial links by clicking on the Navigation Bar by that name on the left. It's also here.

For commercial software always be sure to try the demos first to see if the program works before buying. Also the difference in prices for software that does the same thing, for instance recovering PowerPoint Presentations, can be a large range like in this case $50 - 299. If possible, try several software solutions before buying. For services, be sure there is a no data, no fee guarantee, and a recovered file preview available.

I can also provide help but am limited ethically and financially (and legally in many cases) to using freeware too. I am perfectly within bounds to use most of the existing commercial office suites to recover corrupt office files since I paid for licenses for all of them. If you need help, I charge $22 for the first half hour and $22 for unlimited time after that. You can call me at 1-(301)-576-6307 or E-mail me at socrtwo@s2services.com.

Friday, September 09, 2005

An Explanation of Password Encryption and Password Cracking - How to Get You Lost Password Back with Freeware


Word and Excel 95 passwords for protecting files from opening or change are easily and immediately removable. See here for a program which will open them for free, please note it is a command line version (the link may be out of date). The GUI version costs $45. Excel 97-2002 read-only passwords, Excel workbook & individual sheets protection are not secure and can be recovered instantly. The free program is here. There is free software for recovering the Excel VBA module passwords instantly but unless you pay $30 you will have to use a Russian language version for Excel 2000 (I couldn't get the program to install on my English language machine). There is a freeware English language Excel 97 command line VBA module password recovery application, see here. Apparently there is no freeware for removing Word 97-2002 read-only change protection passwords. Any of the commercial password cracking software should remove them immediately.


Only passwords for opening Word/Excel 97-2002 files are strongly encrypted. This means they use at least a 40 bit key to encrypt the files. You can use a brute force attack on these files (trying all number, letter and special character combinations) but if the password is over 8 characters long this is impractical. The keys are different from the actual password and these too can be decrypted and the resulting key can be used to open the file instead of the password (I'm looking for a good explanation link to refer to but haven't found one yet). Because of US export regulations Office 97 and 2000 use a 40-bit key. Encrypted files can be decrypted without password knowledge in an average 10 days when searching for a 40 bit key with good software on one reasonably fast computer (1.5 GHz Pentium). With Office 2002 keys you have an option of choosing up to a 128-bit key. Office 2002 still defaults to the 40-bit key, but if a higher-bit key has been specifically chosen, it could take an impractical amount of time (years) without using a supercomputer. The Russian Password Crackers Site is the best guide to start for Office Password Recovery.Access 95-2002 database opening passwords can be broken immediately and can be had in several versions for free, even for business use. See the freeware on this site here. Password protected Outlook files (pst) can also be broken immediately, although there is no freeware available. Some companies offer guaranteed service for either brute force attack or key decryption (in practice just 40 bit keys I think), usually in 3 days or less. But if your but you can do the brute force attack or key searching yourself. The general advice is to try a brute force password attack for one to two days and then switch to a key search if unsuccessful. Again a 40-bit key search can take up to 20 days with the best software even with a Pentium 1.5 Ghz computer.

One note as an update, there is an excellent service called Decryptum which because of the powerful computers they have, can decrypt an uploaded file in 3 minutes rather than up to 20 days. They give you a free preview of the results. They cost $39 with volume discounts.

Excellent Password Cracking Links
  • Russian Password Crackers Site - "This site concerns the practical demonstration of cryptography weakness. (If you don't like the term "password cracker", use "password recovery" instead). All software presented here illustrates four main reasons of cryptosystems untrustworthiness: application of weak algorithms, wrong implementation or application of cryptalgorithms and human factor. The main goal of this site is to explain these reasons and to convince people to use strong cryptography." Only free password crackers and the best of the commercial ones are included. It does miss some of software below.
  • DMOZ.ORG > Computers > Security > Products and Tools > Password Recovery - Password recovery directory from DMOZ the Open Source Directory that Google Yahoo and others use. Huge selection. Basically most companies register here. Mostly not free. See also here.
  • D.O.E. System Works - includes some free cracker programs under the Key Recovery Resources Section.
  • New Order - Awesome security site with cracking software found here: These are almost all commercial software.
Please note: Honestly the commercial software and services is the route you will sometimes have to take to recover your password. That's not to discount the large number of high quality data recovery freeware generously given away by developers that you can see here. On those occasions that you try the freeware and it doesn't work, the software in these pages will appear not be worth the time and effort you put in and this can be frustrating. I try to point out at the top of each page, what I see is the likelihood that and difficulty with which freeware can recover your password.

The Google Adsense Ads displayed on the pages should lead you to the standard commercial software and services available for the problem you are having. You can also try the commercial links by clicking on the Navigation Bar by that name on the left. It's also here.
For commercial software always be sure to try the demos first to see if the program works before buying. Also the difference in prices for software that does the same thing, for instance recovering corrupt PowerPoint Presentations, can be a large range: $50 - 299. If possible, try several software solutions before buying. For services, be sure there is a no data, no fee guarantee, and a recovered file preview available.

I can also provide help but am limited ethically and financially (and legally in many cases) to using freeware too. I am perfectly within bounds to use most of the existing commercial office suites to recover corrupt office files since I paid for licenses for all of them. If you need help, I charge $22 for the first half hour and $22 for unlimited time after that. You can call me at 1-(301)-576-6307 or E-mail me at socrtwo@s2services.com.

Removing a Bios - CMOS Password - Free Article

http://www.dewassoc.com/support/bios/bios_password.htm "Unfortunately, access to computers can, at times, be blocked for all of t...