Encryption – The Big Challenge in Data Recovery

data on a computer hard drive

Everyone wants to protect their sensitive data from unauthorised access. For this reason, encryption tools have become very popular. However, it is essential to note that not everything needs that level of security. Encryption can make data recovery hard in case of data loss, or if the hard drive crashes.

What Happens When You Encrypt Your Files?

Encryption is the process that transforms and disguises data to ensure that only those with the right code can read it. Theoretically, it sounds like a good idea. However, when you encrypt your data, the encryption process alters the data, rather than hiding it. This means that when you need to recover data from an encrypted USB or hard drive, you can quickly recover the data, but it is not readable without a passcode. There lies the challenge if you do not have or remember the password!

Self-Encrypting Devices

Many SSD and hard drives are SED (Self-Encrypting Devices), which means they have a controller chip to encrypt and decrypt all data in the device automatically. But the problem is that SEDs have no decryption method. If therefore, the drive is physically damaged, you lose the data!

But Why Bother With Encryption?

The truth is that not every computer user needs data encryption. Before you encrypt any data, ask yourself, does this data need to be secure? For instance, if you are a college student and only have books and movies on your PC, you do not need encryption.  

If you are handling sensitive data, such as sending medical and financial records, you need encryption. The same holds if you have important files on your computer, for instance, you’re developing new software or sensitive personal information.

Some businesses also have strict regulations for handling information such as customer details, payroll information, etc. Therefore for such companies,  encryption is not only necessary, but a requirement to comply with regulations.

The problem with encryption is that modern drives come with self-encrypting features as part of their hardware. This means all data going into the drive is encrypted before storage. When a user wants to read stored data, the drive decrypts the data before sending it to the user.  

Since these Self-Encrypting Devices encrypt transparently, and self-encryption is not an advertised feature when buying a computer, most people who have such drives in their PC do not know it. Users will only find out their laptop has SED when it is too late – when the drive has failed and the data is locked.

Knowing you have SED and setting up a password will increase your chances of recovering data. Otherwise, encryption was happening all along without your knowledge, which means data is unrecoverable, according to data recovery experts datarecovery.london. It is therefore important to find out if your computer comes with SED before purchasing.


If your computer comes with SED, backup your data regularly, and create a key file and store it securely (outside the PC). In addition, it is vital to record usernames and passwords in a secure location. Most importantly, always use encryption software, instead of SED where possible.