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Actions to be performed when data loss is discovered

Applicability
This checklist is to be completed as soon as possible after discovering a data loss, before attempting data recovery.
Required tools
None.
The procedure
  1. Turn off the system immediately. If you are running Windows, do not bother shutting it down properly. Just turn the main power off as fast as you can. From this point on, do not try to boot the affected system. Get some paper and pen instead.
  2. Write down list of most important stuff that was stored on the crashed filesystem. This should include file names, locations (i.e. directories), and approximate file sizes. Mark out all items for which you know backups to be available and adequate. Then sort all the items by their estimated value (for example, you can use amount of time required to reconstruct those data to measure the value).
  3. Write down all events that preceded the data loss, including but not limited to recent software installations, error messages (if any), and mechanical sounds from the hard disk (if any). Try to maintain the chronological order. Record the exact action(s) immediately preceding the crash.
  4. Record all applicable system configuration information. The following items are required:
    a. CPU and mainboard type and frequencies (including overclocking information).
    b. Operating system(s) installed. Include version information.
    c. Brand, model name, and capacity of a hard drive involved.
    d. Logical partitioning information for that drive, including size and filesystem information for each volume.
  5. When all the above is done, get some break. At least 10 minutes are required. Then, return to list and review it again. Include previously forgotten items, if any. This step is performed to ensure nothing important was oversighted.
Finally, this gives
  • Better understanding of what's lost and how much does it cost to reconstruct. The data might turn out just not worth the repair effort (e.g. if you have it properly backed up).
  • Better understanding of what had happened.
  • Information sheet which can be readily provided when requesting assistance from someone else.

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