Computer forensics is the practice of identifying, extracting and considering evidence from digital media such as computer hard drives. Digital evidence is both fragile and volatile and requires the attention of a certified specialist to ensure that materials of evidentiary value can be effectively isolated and extracted in a scientific manner that will bear the scrutiny of a court of law.
Computer forensics is not to be confused with the more generic term of 'forensic computing', which refers to the analysis and study of all types of digital media and materials - whether they be of a computing or telecommunication nature. Computer forensics, in a strict sense, applies specifically to the evaluation of computers and data storage or data processing devices.
Forensic science is the scientific method of gathering and examining information about the past. The word forensic comes from the Latin forēnsis, meaning "of or before the forum." In modern use, the term forensics in the place of forensic science can be considered correct, as the term forensic is effectively a synonym for legal or related to courts. .
Most legal systems apply a form of a legal burden of proof. A legal burden of proof is the imperative on a party in a trial to produce the evidence that will shift the conclusion away from the default position to one's own position. 
Four things are key to all forensics examinations; the:
- Maintenance of data integrity as well as data authenticity,
- Prevention of contamination of data,
- Proper and comprehensive documentation and
- Implementation of a systematic, scientific methodology
All professionals involved in a forensics examination have both an ethical and a professional responsibility to:
- Maintain their objectivity.
- Present facts accurately and
- Not withhold any findings as such actions may distort or misrepresent the facts
- Render opinions only on the basis of what can be reasonably demonstrated.
The term artifact (or artefact) is widely used within computer forensics, though there is no official definition of this term.
The definition closest to the meaning of the word within computer forensics is that of the word artifact within archaeology . The term should not be confused with the word artifact used within software development .
If archaeology defines an artifact as:
something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest
The definition of artifact within computer forensics could be:
An object of digital archaeological interest.
Where digital archaeological roughly refers to computer forensics without the forensic (legal) context.