DataNumen is a Hong Kong based software company that specializes in data recovery technologies. For an outfit I’d never come across before, I was interested to observe a who’s-who list of flagship customers for their software on the company’s “About” page that includes AT&T Global Network Services, GE, IBM, Dell, Motorola, Procter & Gamble, FedEx, Xerox, and HP, among many others. In addition to a suite of data recovery tools and an SDK to permit developers to integrate those tools into their own applications, DataNumen also offers an interesting collection of repair utilities for a broad range of file formats that includes major Office formats (Access, Excel, Word, Outlook, and so forth), ZIP, TAR, CAB, PDF, and other popular compressed archives or content delivery mechanisms. Most of those tools only perform analysis for free (in the trial versions available for free download), but the company’s DataNumen Disk Image (DDKI) tool is freeware that can copy or clone a disk at the byte level from a source to a target drive. As the company explains, this tool is useful for both data recovery and computer forensics uses, particularly when the source drive may be failing or corrupt. Because recovery inevitably involves writing new files as pieces of old ones get stitched back together to reassemble them in as close to their original form as technology allows, it’s often best to simply copy the original drive to another drive, and then to perform recovery on the copy rather than the original (and for forensics use, leaving the original unchanged is necessary to preserve the chain of evidence as well).
DDKI offers byte- and sector-level raw data copy/clone capability from a source to a target drive for all modern Windows versions (and older OS variants as well).
For those whose duties include the occasional data recovery job, DDKI is a worthwhile addition to their Windows utility toolkit, especially if that toolkit does not already include forensics software suites such as EnCase, FTK, TSK, ProDiscover, and so forth (all of which routinely also include low-level disk copy/clone utilities as well, albeit not freeware versions). Obviously, DataNumen makes this tool available for free to help stimulate sales of its other commercial recovery utilities, because one can’t really recover the files from a cloned drive without some kind of tool to pick up their pieces on disk and put them back together in readable form. But low level drive copy/clone capability is valuable all by itself, so kudos to them for giving it away.