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File carving is the practice of searching an input for files based on their headers and/or footers. Most often the input is a disk image, but it's possible (and sometimes practical) to carve individual files.
Many carving programs have an option to only look at or near sector boundaries where headers are found. Searching the entire input can find files that have been embedded into other formats, such as JPEGs being embedded into Microsoft Word documents or files stored in a ZIP archive.