Despite apparent reliability of modern computers, users continue losing their crucial information. Even expensive high-quality hardware equipment and utterly reliable software may not grant a 100% failure resistance for your PC or laptop.

Data loss can be defined as an inability to access data at a usual place by usual program means due to errors in software or hardware operation or due to user improper actions.

Data loss causes are generally divided into two categories: physical and logical failure. Physical failure includes trouble with any of computer physical components, whereas logical failure concerns logical computer structure issues.

The pie chart above illustrates the percentage ratio of common data loss causes. Let’s look closer at each of them:

Hardware failures

Hardware failures with 42% of occurrence frequency take the first place among the most widespread data loss failures. Failures of a PC/laptop hardware may include breakdowns of a variety of computer components:

  • Hard Disk Drive (HDD)/ Solid State Drive (SSD);
  • Computer memory (RAM);
  • Motherboard;
  • Processor (CPU);
  • Power supply (PSU).

What can actually result in data loss is breakdown of a disk storage which physically stores the data. This becomes the spot of our interest.

As soon as you detect HDD/SSD failure, under no circumstances take the storage apart, unless you are a data recovery professional.

Human error

Error of a computer user or an operator due to either lack of experience or inattentiveness takes the second place after hardware failures. Human errors become the reason for data loss in 30% cases proving that even Homer nods. Still, knowing the most common user errors might help you be more attentive working with your device.

Accidental deletion of important files

Accidental data deletion may occur due to user’s mistakes during working with files. System procedure for deleting files will offer you several options for file deletion. You may delete a file using the Recycle Bin, which is a two-step method – first, you delete a file with a context menu or pressing Delete from the keyboard, second, you empty the Recycle Bin. Another way to delete a file is pressing Shift + Delete keys – an immediate file deletion avoiding the Recycle Bin. Certainly, the OS gives you warning messages. Who reads warning messages?

Negligent disk or disk partition formatting without data backup

Users must have heard dozens, no – thousands of times, that one must make a backup of all the important files before even the idea to format the drive comes into mind. And here the decisive moment comes as they decide to solve all the problems through reinstallation of the operating system. Installation is in progress. Oops! That was a wrong partition!

Overwriting file information from inside

Any file editor, whether document, video, picture or audio, works with the file contents from inside. Once the Save button is pressed and the file is closed, new contents are written over the former ones. Another problem is failed saving of file contents. Unfortunately for those who need the previous version, this is the case which is incurable by any data recovery software. All you can do is to recreate the file from scratch.

Wrongful user attempts to recover lost information

As you have realized, that your data is somewhat lost, stop, breathe out and think. All slapdash actions may lead to irreversible data loss! Don’t use any system repair tools such as CHKDSK or so. They will try filling in the missing information on the disk, thus you get into the situation of a hazardous data overwriting. CHKDSK can also misunderstand the file system problem and do an inappropriate repair.

Software corruption

With 13% of frequency software malfunctions take the third place in the list of data loss causes. In this world of technology, we all are too much dependent on how the electronics works.

The thought about software corruption brings back a distant September 23, 1983, when a slight software error almost cost life to all humankind. An alarm indicating a U.S. missile attack called on a panel board at a Soviet control center for warning of ballistic missile launches.

Certainly, from the humankind perspective a software bearing danger to an ordinary user computer won’t make a problem, except for the trouble it can bring to the user himself.

What are the main types of software corruption? Data recovery experts of SysDev Laboratories gave a report on the following:

  • Backup software. An error happened during the process of files backup, when file copies couldn’t be created meanwhile the files had already been deleted.
  • File editors. There happened a software failure causing file corruption. Another reason may be failures during file saving in bulk, when some of the files are updated to the latest modifications but the rest is damaged.
  • Antivirus software. An antivirus program may consider normal files to be a virus file and deletes this erroneously.
  • Converters. There occurs an error during alteration of a file format.

Computer viruses

As an ordinary virus intrudes on a live organism, a computer virus intrudes on your computer with the aim to modify the way of its operation with a malicious intent or not. What’s important to know about the computer viruses is that they: first, may damage or delete data on your computer without any of your consent, second, they spread and infect other devices of your own. Although computer viruses become the reason for data loss only in 7% of cases, they may bring along serious trouble.

Computer viruses are small computer programs. However, unlike normal software they are uncontrollable with their actions targeted against you. The factors causing virus attacks include:

  • downloading cracked and pirate software;
  • opening attachments from unfamiliar e-mail addresses;
  • surfing unreliable web-sites;
  • non-use of anti-virus programs.

Data recovery specialists of SysDev Laboratories count more than twenty different types of virus software, but emphasize crypto virus as the most severe and troublesome. The crypto virus, also known as ransomware, encrypt existing files on your machine using RSA public-key cryptography, with the private key stored only on the malware's control servers. Then they start asking you to pay a ransom to get the encryption key. You need to meet their deadlines, by the way. If you break the deadline, either the files are deleted or you pay an even higher price. Presently, there doesn’t exist a way to break through ransomware if it happened to affect your device. The only way to break away are timely and systematic backups.


A low rate of 5 % of cases is related to data theft. Leaving out data theft due to stealing of physical devices, that fortunately for the thieves count a variety these days, there occurs logical robbery.

The intruders aim to get the most of your financial and confidential information. Their target is usually customer databases of private companies and healthcare establishments, banking details, passwords, secret private or corporate information.

Logical data theft usually goes beyond the area of expertise of data recovery companies. They may make, however, a forensic inspection of the computer to trace the evidence of breach.

Protection from data theft is rather an issue of precaution and not post factum actions. Commonly known means are using antivirus programs, encryption, employment of secured data management systems, using passwords and laptop lockdowns such as Kensington key.

Other causes

The remaining 3% mostly include the impact of natural disasters: such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and fires. They strike rarely, but right on target!

Catastrophes cause physical computer damages. These are not always data storages media. Other computer components can be broken down as well, whereas the data storage itself may still remain intact. This is a good news for those who want to do without a data recovery center. And yet, if you discover that the trouble is in the data storage itself, never try to get inside of it unless you are a data recovery ace.

Unfortunately, the nature never steps back in its plans nor informs about them. The most reasonable piece of advice is to make timely and preferably off-site backups. Cloud solutions take the stage like in no other place here.


The very use of a PC or a laptop puts you in risk of losing precious information, if you create it. Whatever the real cause of your exact data loss case is, you do have power to overcome it. The deleted files aren't really gone until something is written over them, so if you act immediately, you can get them back. In case of a physical damage, turn to a data recovery center. If a logical failure has broken into the habitual course of action, be sure you have a comprehensive data recovery software in your hands to bring the normal state back.