Restoring data from disks, tapes, CDs and digital photo memory cards that have been damaged by accidents, natural disasters, power surges and malfunctioning electronics. Laptop hard disks are especially vulnerable if users are constantly on the move. See disaster recovery and disc repair.The Recommended ApproachThe best data recovery technique is to have data already backed up on another storage device either on the same computer, a network server or the Internet. Data recovery becomes a simple copy procedure after the failed peripheral is replaced. At worst, applications may have to be re-installed if only user data was backed up, but unless the applications are vintage programs that are no longer available, the data are far more valuable than the software.Several Techniques for Damaged MediaIf there is no backup and data must be recovered, there are organizations that specialize in retrieving data from damaged computers. They may be able to move the drive to a working computer, or they may have to open the drive and replace parts such as read/write heads, actuator arms and chips. Sometimes, the platters are removed and placed into another drive.Getting More DifficultNewer disk drives are tested at the time of manufacture, and parameters unique to that drive are stored in the drive's firmware. As the drive is used, data about bad sectors is added. If the drive is badly damaged in the areas that contain this drive information, replacing parts may not be enough to recover the data. Such drives require in-depth analysis for recovery. In 2004, ActionFront Data Recovery Labs introduced SignalTrace, a device that learns the characteristics of any disk drive in order to program a controller to operate it.