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
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
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 "É9" 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
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
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.
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.
Lost & Found (Proprietary)
Originally published: November, 1999