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.

Cost Saving Tech Tips

Tech on a Budget

Many families right now are trying to do everything they can to manage their budget. I wanted to pass on some ideas to save a little on the tech side of things. What happens when the families computer has died? (Or has it?) What happens when you can’t afford that home high speed internet and cable any more?  The kids need to do homework, but don’t have Microsoft Office?  Here are some tips in no particular order.

My personal business, along with my “on-duty” time revolves around computers now days.  I am constantly either managing websites, recovering data, or preparing digital evidence for presentation in court.  So, I definitely deal with the ongoing issues of a tech budget.  Here are some ideas and solutions I have found.

1.  Is that old computer really dead?  Most people who come to me complaining about their old computer, aren’t actually complaining about the hardware.  They are complaining about it being ridiculously slow and acting “weird.”  Well this is a complaint about the software and OS (operating system).  Especially if you are running Microsoft Windows this is an inevitable fact of life for most people.  Is it possible to “clean-up” that old computer? Sure.  But, the more time effective thing, and what you will be happier with in the end, is backing up your data, then re-installing the OS.  (Notice I said “back-up.”  Yes, you should be able to do a repair install and not lose your data, but do you want to chance your wife being mad at you forever for losing all of the kids baby pictures?   Unfortunately, many people end up choosing the wrong options and trashing their data.)

Often times now, your manufacturer has a recovery partition that will do the whole reinstall for you, but again, back-up your data first.  To find out how to access the recovery partition, go to your manufacturer’s website.

Another option, if you are running old hardware and want to make it sing, is to install a a compact Linux distribution like Puppy Linux.  That is whole different article though.

2.  I can’t afford or don’t want to spend the money to have cable and high-speed internet any more.  Well, I faced that choice when I recently moved.  I knew there was this thing called digital TV out there now, and I remembered over the air TV when I was a kid with an analog TV—trying to pull in the signal from 70 miles away with rabbit ears and aluminum foil.  Well, I decided to give it a try anyway.  So, I cut the cable when I moved.

Going without cable was a bit of a withdrawal at first.  But, in a short time we adapted to watching all the broadcast digital TV, when we took the time.  The picture is crystal clear and there can be multiple channels “embedded” in what use to be one channel.  For instance there are three PBS channels.

Can’t stand to lose that show you love that is only on cable.  Well, you can download most of those shows through your high speed internet now.  Go check out “” or “”  (SurftheChannel is a bunch of links to commercial-free TV that I am sure are copyright violations… for anyone who wants to go to China and look into it 🙂 )

3.  If you need another computer in the house, buy it the smart way.  That is probably not running out to your local retailer.  Although, you might find a good deal on sale or clearance that way.  I would encourage you to check out “” and “”  With “” especially look out for computers with the free shipping special.  That will save you around $50 dollars on the shipping.

When choosing the computer, be careful to choose one that meet the needs of what you really do with your computer.  If you are playing the latest games on your PC, then sure you need a pretty high end computer.  If you are like most of the population and you surf the internet, check email, and visit web pages… absolutely any PC you buy now will do that very well!!  Also, for a basic computer check out the one with the new Intel Atom processor that uses much less electricity.  After all, most of you already own the Xbox, Wii, or Playstation for games.

Be careful of the Microsoft add-on expenses though.  Getting Microsoft Office can set you back over half the cost of the computer.  There is this thing called “Open Office.” It is open source and completely free.  It will read and write in the Microsoft document formats.  They just released version three, which seems to be very comparable to Microsoft Office 2000.  A lot of people who have Office don’t like the new format anyways (Just ask my wife!).

4.  Depending on what you do on the internet, also consider if you need high-speed internet.  If you just occasionally check your email, or read a news story… good ole’ dial-up still exists and might work for you.  It is less than $10 dollars per month.

Stay tuned for more tech tips.  Hope they give you some ideas or help.

Zonbu Mini and Related Clound Based OS project

I have in the past recommended the Zonbu project to those out there wanting to support Linux, but aren’t computer gurus.  I now feel that I must publicly give an update related to that recommendation.

First, in their defense, I want to say that my Zonbu mini did in fact break a few months ago. Something to do with the flash card port I think. Although it took a few weeks, I did in fact get a replacement Zonbu mini.

As for the overall business, I was an early adopter also. I am a firm believer that it is in the best interest of everyone for us to move away from the Microsoft dominated world. That was why I bought the Zonbu mini, which I don’t think is even being sold now. I wanted to help support a company that would assist in that goal.

I am guessing from the lack of OS updates recently that not enough people purchased the Zonbu devices to make it profitable enough for the primary designers to work on Zonbu full time.

I think they have the best platform currently out there to launch a true cloud based OS… which is a worthy goal. I have to warn consumers though, that they are not staying in touch with their customers. They seem to still be supporting the OS, but they are completely silent on the current status and direction of the company.  There is a lot of frustration among their paying customers about the lack of knowledge of what is going on.

Due to my own business growth, I have not had time of late to post a lot on this blog. I am going to try to start posting more of my helpful computer posts, though.  I actually started turning down some data recovery and computer repair jobs in Gainesville, because I was just to busy.  After that time of slowing down my own business.. I am finally about caught up.

So, I hope to be back up with my own communication!


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.

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