Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Software Reviews


Lost & Found
by Chris Taylor

PowerQuest has come out with a new disk utility designed to recover files. If you have ever lost an important file due to accidental deletion, a corrupted File Allocation Table (FAT) or directory, or even physical disk damage, you know the sinking feeling. 

What it is

There have been many disk utilities designed over the years to deal with problems like these. Most, such as Norton Utilities or Nuts and Bolts, are general-purpose utilities that include some file recovery abilities. Lost & Found is single-minded in its determination to recover your files. It is designed to work on FAT16 and FAT32 hard drives as well as FAT formatted floppy disks. 

Lost & Found is distributed on a pair of floppy disks and licensing is based on a single machine. The distribution floppy is stamped with information about your computer when you first run it and you must have the program floppy in the disk drive to start the program. You'll be forgiven if you feel like this harkens back to the bad old days of copy protection. Since changes to your computer may cause the program to think you are using it illegally on a different computer and refuse to run, I recommend that you make copies of the original disks (yes, it is possible) before you run it for the first time. 

What it does

Be prepared to spend some time for even the simplest of recovery tasks. Before you can even think about recovering a file, you must allow Lost & Found to go through an extensive analysis phase on the partition containing the files you are trying to recover. On a Pentium II/266 with a 6.4GB hard disk, it took over 30 minutes to complete the analysis. 

Once analysis is complete, you are presented with a tree-style list of all directories found. Since the list is not sorted alphabetically, there is no search function. The tree listing is always fully expanded and it may take you some time to find what you are interested in recovering. Once you find the directory, you can drill down to the file level. All directories and files are colour coded to indicate the likelihood of recovery and deleted files are noted as such. 

Once you have identified the files and directories you want to recover, you move to the actual recovery phase. Lost & Found will not write recovered files to the same physical disk they are being recovered from, even if you have a separate partition. This has the advantage of ensuring nothing you do during the recovery phase will make things worse. When saving, you can maintain the original directory structure or place all files in single directory. If saving to a floppy, you can create compressed or uncompressed savesets, which allow you to save files larger than a single disk. A separate program, Renew, is supplied to extract files from savesets. 

Put to the test

For my first test, I filled a floppy disk with files and wiped parts of it with a magnet. Lost & Found was able to recover the files. Portions that were unreadable had blocks of "Disk Error(10)" replacing the missing sectors. With executables, this meant they were useless, but text files allowed you to at least recover the undamaged portions. 

Lost & Found can recover files from deleted partitions. I created a 100MB partition, formatted it and copied 20 files to the root and 80 files to a subdirectory. I then deleted the partition using FDISK. Lost & Found had no problem finding and recovering the files. 

Next, I copied a series of files to a floppy, then created a subdirectory on the floppy and copied some more files to that subdirectory. I then started a format of the floppy, stopping at 5% completion: effectively wiping out the root directory and FAT. Lost & Found was unable to recover any of the files stored in the root (which is a problem with floppy disks that is noted in the readme file), but it found the subdirectory and was able to recover all of the files there. 

Lost & Found seems to count on finding directories on disk and (it appears) to a lesser extent on the FAT. It does not permit you to search the disk for contents of files, nor can you browse the disk looking for snippets of files. While browsing the directory list, you can hit Enter on a file to see the contents of the start of the file, but you can't scroll to see more of the file. 

I ran into a few oddities during testing. A series of files were flagged as "reasonable chance of recovery" although there were no disk errors and the files were not deleted. There were a number of instances of directory names having "9" appended to them. I also had hundreds of directory entries with a name of "NONAME" During one of my tests on a floppy disk, I repeatedly had the program hang on me when I tried to restore an entire directory. I was able to recover the files only by drilling down into the directory and tagging the individual files. 

Should you buy it?

I have little doubt that Lost & Found is an effective solution for recovering files from most situations. Fortunately, I have very seldom needed something like Lost & Found. And that's my dilemma - do I recommend that people spend money on a program they probably will never need? I guess you have to decide what your files are worth; how much it would cost to replace them if they were lost; and compare it to the cost of Lost & Found. Keep in mind that Lost & Found should not be considered as a replacement for proper backups. 

The list price of Lost & Found is CAN$99.95. User Group pricing is CAN$45.00. You can order it at www.ugr.com/order on the Web. Enter the user group code UGFLYC99. 

Last word

Late breaking news! According to the February issue of PowerQuest's e-mail newsletter - The Partition Magician, PowerQuest has responded to customer complaints about the registration process that stamps the original disk and prevents its use on another computer. The licensing remains the same - one computer only. They just count on their customers to be honest. I am not sure if I should condemn them for coming up with the stamping process in the first place or commend them for eliminating it, but it is nice to see it gone. If you own a copy of the program that stamps the original disk, by the time you read this you should be able to download a patch from www.powerquest.com to remove the restriction. 


Bottom Line:

Proprietary package from PowerQuest  $99.95
Web site: http://www.powerquest.com


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Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

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