Can you recover data that has been encrypted?

With all the talk around data security and encryption, an intriguing question has arisen around data recovery. If you have an encrypted drive that fails, does data recovery work? Can you recover files that have been encrypted by a third party program?

The short answer is yes we can. Dave’s Computers in New Jersey does this all the time. Whether you use Windows or Mac, are a home user or small business, encryption is an essential defense against data loss and theft. So what happens if your drive fails or you need data recovery?

Encryption and data recovery

The exact approach depends on what has happened and what caused the data loss in the first place. If the drive is physically damaged or the data has been rendered inaccessible by hardware failure, our options are limited. We may be able to repair the drive enough to copy the data but that will be it.

We have specific tools here at Dave’s that make a bit by bit copy of a hard drive. It’s called cloning and means taking an exact copy of every bit and byte stored on that drive. It’s very slow but is a very useful process for encrypted drives. The tool does not need to know what every bit and byte means, it just needs to copy the right 1s and 0s from the source drive and write them in exactly the same place on the new destination drive.

Using this kind of tool, it doesn’t matter whether you encrypted your drive using BitLocker, PGP, TrueCrypt or one of the many other drive encryption programs out there.

The other advantage is that even though we are copying your data, we cannot see it either!

This kind of tool is one of many options we have when dealing with encrypted drives. If you know your decryption key or took a copy of the certificate, we can often use that in our recovery. We can decrypt the files, copy them to another drive and let you encrypt them again once we’re finished.

Our approach to data recovery depends entire on the situation. We won’t know that until we get our hands on your device and begin our investigation. Once we know what we’re dealing with, we can offer specifics on what we can and what we cannot do.

We encourage everyone to use drive encryption to keep their data safe. We would also like to reassure everyone that even if you suffer data loss on an encrypted drive, there is a good chance we can recover it. Don’t let the risk of data loss prevent you securing that data while you have it!