CNW Data Recovery Software Review

I wanted tell everyone about a newer piece of data recovery software I have been using/ testing.   It is “CNW Recovery.”  I have been very impressed by the software!

This software has a whole lot of functionality and power “under the hood.”  I have used it in a few cases/recoveries so far. Its results have been most impressive.  For the readers information, my comparrison is to my other software such as Encase, X-ways, R-studio, and an assortment of other data recovery products that I have tested that are targeted at consumers and techs.  Encase and X-ways are obviously much more mature pieces of software with a great deal of emphasis on forensic features.  Most of the “data recovery” software targeted at the consumer market is not very powerful or versatile; and they milk their customers for every dime. (NTFS version, FAT version, CD-ROM version…on and on)  With most of the consumer data recovery products the end user is not getting much for their money in results or functionality.

With CNW Recovery there has been a total departure from the what is the “norm” in consumer data recovery software.  This software is a very powerful piece of data recovery software at reasonable cost.  Currently a 30-day license is only $19.99!  That is a super deal in the data recovery world.

The software actually functions at three different levels.  These descriptions are mine for the reader, not the software authors mind you.

Wizard mode:  This is where the average consumer would work.  The software opens up the a screen that scans your computer for currently existing media.  It asks you to choose what type of media you are working with.  You choose from floppy, hard drive, dd image, cd-rom, flash, DVD, Jazz, or Zip drive.  The software then walks the user through either an extraction of files or creating an image of the drive.  The wizard mode might be somewhat confusing to the computer novice, but if you just trust the software and go through the process it would result in good recovery work.

Manual Mode: The manual mode of the software allows the user to go directly to the various functions.  The major ones are Recover, Partition, Image, View, Properties, and Log.  The recovery mode is where most of the work will be done for data recovery.  This allows the user to use the File Table to recover files.  Partition allows the user to locate the partitions and file tables. Partition also includes the ability to do repair operations on these structures, although I haven’t had the opportunity to test that feature.  View allows the user to see the contents of the drive in a HEX editor sort of view. Properties displays fundamental information about the device.  The log actually provides a print out of all the file names recovered or mapped for recovery including the physical location, parent directory, parent directory location, short file name, and directory path.

This manual mode allows the skilled computer user to do alot of very powerful data recovery.  As far as data recovery work goes, it is very user friendly.

Expert mode:  Although not explicitly a “mode” I wanted to note this usefulness of the program.  Because of how robust the log is in displaying details about the files, if you understand all the data it is delivering the expert can actually jump directly into a hex editor and use the information to start manually carving out the data.

Forensic Edition: CNW is rapidly expanding the features in the forensic side of the software.  While the interface to the data is much different than something like X-ways, it is still very informative.  The logs and pop-ups while scanning the MFT allow a very granular view of the raw data the program in using. This provides for the investigator to have a more in-depth understanding of the data.  While it is not as much of a “point and click” interface, this is actually a good thing for when you are trying to manually validate findings, educate yourself, or prepare for courtroom presentation of the evidence.

Just a couple notes on what I have personally used the program to do with success.

I was able to use the software to carve out previously existing image and videos from an NTFS hard drive.  This resulted in very robust recovery of data.  I compared the recovered data to work done on the same drive with X-ways Forensics.  The recovered data was very consistent.

I used the software in a data recovery job that involved a hard drive with bad sectors, inconsistent reads, and a Master File Table (MFT) that would read very inconsistently due the errors the drive was having.  CNW Recovery was able to read the MFT and retain the MFT information.  I was then able to use CNW Recovery to gather the needed files from the sectors that they mapped to with the MFT.  The recovery was very robust and complete.

A neat feature of CNW Recovery is during recovery work its directory pane maps the directory structure of the drive you are working on, but also shows you the directory structure of the recovery you are working on.  This allows a quick reference to what has been recovered and what still needs to be recovered.

If at any point in using the program you are confused, you can go to the programs manual.  Regardless though, I highly recommend reading this manual if you are interested in data recovery.  The manual is a guide to the software, but CNW has done an awsome job of making their manual an education on data recovery also.  There is a lot of good information within the manual.  It is as beneficial a read as any computer forensic book I have ever purchased.

I can’t say enough positive things about this program, most especially at the current price point!!!  The author has shared with me that he will continue development on the software this year.  I expect the program to be truly amazing with the author’s continued enhancements!

If a consumer is looking for data recovery program, to try a do-it-yourself recovery of data this software would be my first choice.  It is so affordable it is certainly worth trying before seeking out professional data recovery help.

Viewing Recovered Files

After a hard drive crash, I repair the drive. I then extract out the needed data files. Sometimes, these files have to be recovered through data carving. They will get assigned random names like 14583.doc or 184893.jpg. Well, you can imagine these names are not real useful for my clients.

I was recently introduced to a program called Directory Opus. This is a very of Windows Explorer to view files. The awsome thing about it for data recovery is that it shows file metadata. If you don’t know, Microsoft Word documents and other have things like their title and author embedded in the document. Well, with Directory Opus you can see all this data in the file tree. It will also show the EXIF data associated with photos. The user can drill down into zip archives to see what they contain.

It also has a nice dual pane interface to allow files to be moved about onto the new locations the client needs them. It has advanced ways to automate the process for the client that wants to put in some more time learning how to operate the program.

The software comes with a free 30 day trial. That should be plenty of time to get your recovered files straightened out.

Before someone writes in and tells me… I know you can view these same file properties in Windows Explorer…just not in the default view. The view the metadata in Windows Explorer.. just go to the top of the view pane where you see the column titles, right click, and a list of attributes the user can add to the view will show up. Just left click on title, author, or whatever else you would like to add, This way is completely free with no new install… whichever you like. Directory Opus is prettier though 🙂

Happy file browsing!

Internet Undercover Investigations

I just completed the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) undercover investigations course. It was a very good class. The class was held in Denver, Colorado. I went up to the town of Boulder a couple of times. The town of Boulder really is beautiful.

As far as the class.. other than to say it is a good course.. this is one I really can’t talk about.

NW3C Basic Data Recovery and Acquisition

I just completed the Basic Data Recovery and Acquisition (BDRA) course offered by NW3C in Miami, Florida.

The class is a combination of technical training on the FAT file systems and the acquisition of disk images. A third of the class time is devoted to labs that involved in depth looks and experience on the technical areas covered in class. The labs are excellent reinforcers of the technical material.

There are two instructors present at all times in the course. The second instructor is moving through the room and helping students while another is leading the exercises. This is a very efficient method of instruction used.

The course planning for the class is OUTSTANDING. It was the most well planned class for law enforcement that I have ever attended. Every powerpoint slide is clear, concise, and to the point. The graphics used to explain points are visually appealing along with representing the technical point in question. The labs are planned out to every last keystroke. The class is perfectly timed to fit the schedule.

The instructors were knowledgable, approachable, and entertaining. They are clearly teaching computer forensics because it is something they enjoy. They are happy to be passing on their knowledge.

I hope to be able to attend more NW3C courses. Especially, to someone new to computer forensics; the course would be highly valuable. I recommend the training. (FYI… It is law enforcement only.)

Certified Data Recovery Professional

I just attended a training by Infosec in Washington, D.C.  The training was specifically on data recovery.

The first two days of the training focused on the physical function/ repair of hard drives.  We learned about how the drive functions internally.  We then began the hands on repair of the drives.  We also learned to evaluate the sounds of a malfunctioning hard drive.

We then moved onto the various software tools that can be used to repair/ read the data that has been salvaged from a crashed drive.  We performed multiple labs with the various pieces of software.   We even did a few RAID repairs.  Not surprisingly to me, or you if you have read my blog.  X-ways Forensics was one of the most highly regarded tools.

The class ended with a sort of seminar on solid state drives.  This provided alot of knowledge on how the drives function internally.  Without going into alot of technical detail, I can tell you what the opinion I came to.  If you are going to use a solid state drive, beware of a failure.  If a solid state drives fails, your data is basically gone.  Data recovery on those drives, at least for now, is going to be very technical and expensive.  if your data is retrievable at all, you better send it to a fleet of electrical engineers to get it back.

The class ended with an exam to be a Certified Data Recovery Professional.  I passed the exam with a 96% !!  I was happy.  All my studying about drives and data recovery has paid off I guess.

The set of students in my class were a mix of military, IT network admins, forensic examiners, and data recovery business owners.   It was an impressive crowd.  I learned alot from them with in and out of class discussions.  Specifically, I learned some great info on the business of running a data recovery shop.

I am very excited to bring all of this information back to the Crystal River, Gainesville, Ocala, and Lake City area of North Florida.

I do have to warn other techs though…. I would think hard about wether to attend the course, unless Infosec reduces the price from the $3,200 to $3,800 dollar mark it is at now.  There really wasn’t much in the way of material that you couldn’t learn yourself with diligent research and study.  Then of course, working on hard drives and playing with software on your own.  The class would be good though if you wanted to skip this study on your own, and just have the material given to you.  The more you know about data recovery walking into the class… the less thrilled you will be with your money being gone.

Phone: (615) 208-6565 1633 W. Main St, Suite 902, Lebanon, TN