Can I recover files after XP install?

My neighbor had a pc crash and asked if I could look at it and recover his pictures, etc.  The problem is he already had someone else look at it and this person started an XP install.  So all I see when booting up with a boot disk is the OS files since it has been formated.  So at this point, is there anything I can do to recover his files without him having to spend lots of money?
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scrathcyboyConnect With a Mentor Commented:
go to and download getdataback -- it will show you what you can recover.  And if you want to recover the files, only then do you pay small license fee, this it the dest recovery program.
Sorry dude, once completely formatted for new install, your pretty much looking at sending it away to a proffesional data recovery company.  Data can be recovered if its only been formatted and written over once or twice but it won't be cheap.  There may be some commercial software available but I wouldn't want to be responsible for recommending one and it didn't do the job.  Hopefully someone else in the forum has another option, but it aint looking good.
lloydr1lAuthor Commented:
That's pretty much what I explained to him, but I wanted to throw this out here before dropping.
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File can be recovered from a format.  Take a look at the software on this page:
alextoftConnect With a Mentor Commented:
You could give  and a try. The demo versions will allow you to browse the deleted filesystems of deleted partitions and fairly quickly give you any idea if the files are recoverable. If they are it could be a comparatively inexpensive option to get back his treasured photos.
Matt LynchSystem AdministratorCommented:
PCInstpector Data Recovery is a great piece of software.  I use it all the time at my office.  It will search out logical drives and then you can search for files manually or like I do, search by extension type.  *.jpg *.gif or whatever.  Oh yeah and its totally free.

Good Luck.
lloydr1lAuthor Commented:
I will look at any programs suggested that have a demo if possible.  Appreciate those suggestions.  A couple of things I should mention that might bear on this. One, I mentioned the other person started an XP install, but it was not successful.  Therefore I can't just boot into XP now and install one of these programs.  Nor would I want to chance doing another install to obtain that functionality as if would lessen any chance.  Come to think of it, installing these programs might overwrite something.  

So where does that leave me?  Is there a boot disk (UBCD4Win?) that has a demo or any other free program?  Ideas?
Ya, formatting does not actually delete the files off your HD, just marks them as available to overwrite.  We here have been able to recover some data off formatted drives in the past, but depending on where they where on the drive, would determine if they where recoverable.

Matt LynchConnect With a Mentor System AdministratorCommented:
If you want to use PCInspector install it on another (working) PC.  Then mount the hard drive in question as a slave (or Cable Select) onto that (working) PC.  When you run PC inspector on that PC it will still find the slave hard drive, allow you to choose to scan it, and scan it cluster by cluster.  After the scan is complete you will be able to search the drive for files or look through the cluster for files you want.

It may be beneficial that the previous attempt to install XP did not take.  The less files that were writen to the drive the more data that can be recovered.  And you are right in not wanting to install anything else on that drive.
I do not have a solution to the current problem, but I have a suggestion to prevent this happening in the future. I have high anxiety about having my xp pro fail. It is much harder to repair it than win 98 in my opinion.
Thus I did the following:


Fearing that one day I would have a crash I did the following:

Purchased a HD larger than the C drive
Purchased for 30 dollars Acronis True Image.

Downloaded a boot manager

Installed the new HD as a slave, being careful while changing the location of the jumper and doing it over a white cloth.

Installed the boot manager which is a shareware program without a time limit

Made a boot disk, in case the boot manager fails. Best part if it does fail, it automatically opens the C drive at which point you can reinstall it. To me a boot disk is not needed.

Install Acronis

Make a HD COPY once a month to the slave drive

Make a folder called, for example, "Database'
Put all data folders underneath it
After copying the database for the first time to the slave drive, which is done daily.
Do the following:
Erase the database folder on the slave drive.
Copy and Paste the 'database' folder to the slave drive.

Now if you have a failure of the C drive, upon booting choose the slave drive. It will boot. Now you have not lost anything, less the programs that you installed during the month.

Now what I do is to use the slave drive until I have a chance to reverse the physical positions of the HDS and change the jumpers. I am sure there is a way to do a reinstall from the slave drive to the C drive, but I am comfortable with the above.

In response to your problem about getting back into windows, try bartpe.  Its a version of windows that boots from cd and runs in ram.  So you can effectively use windows without having installed on the hard drive giving you access to it without touching it.  There are a number of programs that can be pre loaded into bartpe as plugins.  For instance - you can preload your cd with antivirus and antispam software for recovering troublesome PCs of infestation.  I'm sure there are some data recovery plugins for it as well.  I havent tried it for data recovery but have a look it just might have something useful.
lloydr1lAuthor Commented:
I recovered his files.  Even after someone had attempted to reinstall the OS, the program I used "Getdataback" found all the files in question.  All the pictures and documents in "My Documents" were recovered, and I even was able to get his email info for him.  I would highly recommend this program for anyone in this situation.  Good interface and excellent results.

I awarded scrathcyboy the bulk of the points for recommending the program.  But I also gave alextoft and 559624 points for pointing out two important things in this whole process.  Do use a program that offers a demo, just to see if anything is going to be found.  And do set the drive up in another system, otherwise you risk further losing files.

Thanks guys.
Yes it saves a lot of peoples necks.
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