How I got data from my broken hard disk (part 3)

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In my two previous posts I have described how my WD hard disk has stopped working and has shown junk folders and how I tried to make backup and use boot CD’s to fix the disk after chkdsk has told me that “The specified disk appears to be a non-Windows XP disk”. In this post I’ll give you the solution that has helped for me.

So this was the situation: my data is gone, the disk causes Windows to boot slower and Windows don’t recognize the disk. Pretty frustrating, don’t you agree?

I have decided to play with master boot record. I have downloaded MBR Fix and have fixed a MBR. Well, that worked fast and I got my disk back again: of course empty with none of my files present. The weird thing was that the free space was not reported correctly – it has still shown only the free space that I had before the crash, not the whole disk. So could there still be hope?

I have run some undelete utilities but they froze my computer every time, making the screen show only tiles. I gave up for a few days and let the disk a rest. I have tried writing to disk and this time it worked, So I guess a rest did god to the drive.

After some time I have tries with some low level disk rescue utilities. Sometimes the system crashed, sometimes it didn’t. I still don’t know what has caused that. I tried Recuva and Restoration, but both with not enough success. I finally tried GetDataBack for FAT 4.0 and it seemed promising. The systems crashed a few times, specially when I started a manual test. I have used it to shorten the test and run the program only on a percentage of the drive because the tests took long time to run.

I decided to run the test for the whole drive and spare a few days with my computer on. The program did manage to find a lot of folders and files many times.  Unlike the previous softwares I tried, the content of the files looked ok and corrupted. So I gave it a try for a full scan of the whole 320 GB. I guess I was lucky because the system didn’t crash the last time I tried it. The program found many folders and files and for most of the it could also find heir names (for around 100 folders and some files it couldn’t though). It also found most of the directory structure. So this was great news – the files could be found! The big question was whether they could be recovered, that is coped to a new drive before disappearing again.

I have selected all the files and started copying them to the external drive. The process was surprisingly fast in regards to the previous drive slowness. For the whole 250 GB of data there were only three errors during the restoration. Most of the data was successfully copied and so far I thing it’s also structurally complete. I have tested some zip files, movies, mp3s and text files and they seem 100% accurate. Nice!

After my data was safe I still wondered if the disk is broken or not. Apparently not I could get all the data from it? I have decided to format it with Windows formatter (this time to NTFS), but to my surprise the format failed. I will try it to FAT again, but I suspect it will fail too.

Next I will try some special formatter software and will report here if I find something interesting. I won’t however, trust this disk important data for at least long time.


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