I started programming almost thirty years ago. I cut my teeth on the ATARI 400 and stayed in that venue for almost two years. After awhile though, I came to realize that although the ATARI and its design were simple and powerful, if I were to make my way in the programming world it would be with a PC. With the ATARI there were wonderful reference books like ‘Mapping the ATARI’, which was a very thorough look at the interrupt architecture and how it could be used in programming. ‘ATARI Roots’ was another superb book, and finally ‘De Re ATARI’ a staple for the ATARI programming guru. When I made the switch from ATARI to the PC world I hoped that there was a book like the ones offered for the ATARI. There was.
Thirty years ago the Internet was a fledgling set of 2400 baud modems and the communications monster Compuserve. Compuserve had ‘Mega Wars’ and a small library of source code that could help a programmer. However if an indie developer wanted to use the full power of a PC it was the book store and the myriad of technical masterpieces that would enable me to turn a PC into a computing dynamo. One of the first books I purchased and still have to this day was ‘The Programmer’s PC Sourcebook’. This book had every BIOS interrupt and all the different flavors of the interrupt. It had thorough descriptions of the DOS interrupt architecture and how it could be accessed and in many cases used to adapt the operating system to your own design. The book is a marvel and there were many a time that I would just sit and thumb through its pages reading it like a good fiction. Times were simpler then, you had to understand the hardware, the underpinnings of the operating system, and the ins and outs of how it all worked together, but it was much cleaner back then. When you programmed on the wires there was an almost reverent symbiosis between the coder and the platform. It’s hard to describe but I miss those days. I suppose I am a purist at heart.
Anyway, I digress. This book, ‘The Programmer’s PC Sourcebook’, other than being one of the best technical reference manuals in print was one other thing. It was HUGE! I don’t mean it had a lot of pages, which it did, but the size of the book is like 18″ x 14″. It wouldn’t fit on a normal book shelf; I had to leave it on my desk all the time! It was also a paperback that I used daily for years. All of that being said what does that lead to? Eventually, the book started to fall apart. Pages would fall out, and soon it was just a stack of pages on my desk. After awhile I lost the index to the entire book and that made using it almost impossible. If I had to look up something I would have to thumb through the entire book and try to find the information. After awhile I started my own index which I kept on the side for the most used sets of information. If I had only made a copy of the index on some copying machine I could have used the book more, but I didn’t and mores the pity.
After my sad book story, I suppose you are now scratching your head wondering, how does this have anything to do with data recovery from NTFS. Well, you can stop scratching your head because here is the explanation.
A file system, any file system, is broken up into two categories, the index, and the data. A file system is no different than a database. A file system is no different than a reference book and its index. You have the data, and you have an index. In the NTFS file system you have the data which is stored in clusters, and you have an index called the Master File Table (MFT). With this being the case, what if there was a way to save the index (MFT) in case something happened to it? ‘What could possibly happen to my index (MFT)? You could accidentally format your hard drive; people do it all the time. A full restore could be done from either your restore cd or from the restore partition on your DELL, or HP, or whoever else has a restore facility and wipe out your entire file system. Bad sectors could develop in your index (MFT) and the file system can become corrupt. A virus can destroy an entire index (MFT) in the blink of an eye. There are other ways but I am sure you get the picture. With all of these chances of your index (MFT) being destroyed isn’t it prudent to save your index? I should have made a copy of the index to my favorite technical manual before I lost it. Shouldn’t there be a way to save your NTFS file system index (MFT)? Well there is.
I have developed a piece of software that will take your index (MFT) and save it to our servers in Florida. It is extremely easy to use and allows you to save one (1) volume index onto our servers. In the event that you run into a catastrophic situation and lose your index, you may have a chance of recovering a large portion of your data if you have saved your index to our servers.
A word of caution. This is NOT a backup program; this is a way to backup the index of your NTFS file system. Just like a book, if I backup the index of a book using a copy machine, but the book is destroyed in a fire, the copied index of the book does me no good. However, if I make a copy of the index of my book, and lose the index, I can use the backup index to look up my data. Finally, when you save new data to your file system the MFT is updated and changed to reflect the new data on your drive. In the same manner an index from an older version of a book will not work on a newer version of the book. So, if you save a lot of new data to your hard drive, it would be a good idea to backup your index again. Once again, this is not a backup program, just a way to backup your MFT.
This may not be the total answer, but it is another option in the war to keep our data safe. The more chances you give yourself for recovering your data, the better off you will be. Remember, it is not if it will happen to you, but when…
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