04-28-2012, 06:45 PM
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Though we've tried to make this clear on the site already, on pages regarding our professional video transfer services, we still get a lot of requests to restore tapes that have been recorded over. But video restoration is not video/data recovery.

-- You restore what's visible/audible.
-- You recover what's inaccessible -- assuming it's even possible, and often it's not when data is missing/replaced.

Recovery is what you have done when a tape or hard drive has mold, was in a flood, was in a mudslide, was in a fire, etc. Recovery is very much a physical repair job. When the media is in acceptable shape, the data is moved to new media, where it can be restored. Restoration happens after recovery. In the realm of audio and video, restoration is making the signal quality better, and/or making the visual and audible quality better. Not perfect -- better.

Now getting back to the sub-topic of "unerasing" recorded-over videotapes...

For example, from an email received today from a potential client:
we went on great trip with the kids,used my vhs recorder took lots of memrebull moments,came home to find somebody pressed the recording butten by mistake,I will give any thing to restore that tape, I know you mentioned its not easy but please can you try
It always pains me to see emails like this, where a person has accidentally overwritten an important video with a VCR. The sad reality is that this could have been prevented by breaking the safety tab on the spine of the video, which prevents further recording. As always, I have to be the bearer of bad news, and assure this person that they've sadly lost that specific family video forever. (And sometimes people write back nasty replies that I'm a moron, they saw it on CSI, etc, etc. Generally I just roll my eyes and hit delete.)

Prior to the proliferation of computers, where people have discovered that it's possible to "undelete" information, nobody ever asked about un-erasing a video tape. They knew it wasn't possible.

The issues lies with understanding how and why data can be undeleted/recovered. When you delete a file on a computer, it's not actually gone. The space is simply marked as available. And because of how operating systems tend to work, they'll avoid the now-available space in favor of more virgin territory on the drive. Data recovery simply restores the file, if it's not yet been overwritten.

When something is overwritten, the underlying data is destroyed. It's gone*. Whether it's a magnetic hard drive, or a magnetic tape (VHS, DV, etc), your information has been replaced. You cannot restore it, recover it, or access it in any way.

* Technically speaking, there are theoretically ways to partially restore overwritten data using magnetic microscopy, but it's unproven, and considered science fiction.

If you're reading this, it probably means you've lost a tape. I'm so sorry to hear that.

Do yourself a favor and break the security tabs on all of your others VHS tapes now! If it's some other format like DV or Video8/Hi8, slide the safety tab into the proper "locked" position to deny further writing. Just be aware that this only works on VCRs, cameras and VTRs that are functioning properly. Note that some professional hardware lacks the ability to check for safety tabs, or has menu-accessible options to ignore them.

I hope this has been educational.

If you come across a service claiming to "restore" overwritten videos -- it's a scam. (I've not seen one to date, but you never know.)

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