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Hard Drive Partition Suddenly Becomes "Unformatted" Under Windows XP

Posted on 2003-02-26
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I was ripping CDs to the music partition on my 60GB Maxtor (5T060H6) drive under Windows XP Professional when I started to hear clicks and the system hung. I then rebooted the machine, only to find that E: was renamed "Local Disk," and when I try to access it, I get a prompt: "The disk in drive E is not formatted. Do you want to format it now?" The other partition on the disk, F:, works perfectly. I'm assuming that the FAT tables have been damaged somehow and therefore the partition is unable to be read from. I'm looking for a way to retain the information on the E: partition. I've already tried XP's "System Restore" feature with no luck. The following is the layout of my hard disks:

Maxtor 6Y080L0 (80GB)
 - C (WINXP) c. 25GB (NTFS)
 - D (WIN98) c. 25GB (FAT32)
 - G (AUDIO) c. 30GB (FAT32)

Maxtor 5T060H6 (60GB)
 - E (MUSIC) c. 20GB (FAT32)
 - F (FILES) c. 40GB (FAT32)
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Question by:thomaswilliams
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26 Comments
 

Expert Comment

by:greatlevin
ID: 8024970
Hi, I think you out of luck. The System Restore can't do anything with hard drive failure. I had the same problem(60G edited video on the drive:( )I assume that you can't run scandisk. Try norton disk doctor or something like that, but I'm affraid without the FAT backup you can't do nothing.
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Expert Comment

by:SunBow
ID: 8026703
I dunno yet. I tend to agree you been washed pretty good. Since you hear clicks, that sounds like head bounced back to begin of disk to write when it should not. But Your partition sector is good? (1st sector) Must be or you'd have lost pointers to F: as well. Maybe you got bios protecting sector zero? Sorry to hear Restore no help, especially since there's the drive letter/name issue. And just what is this?: "The disk in drive E is not formatted" this is talk like it is a removable drive. Diskette or CD. So it appears as if something tinkered with its definition. While some noise may mean your heads bounced off platters and physically destroyed things like FAT, you more describe that definitive configuration changes were made. So, suspect some flaky SW writes here. Decode them and you might have recovery option. Of course you checked for virus.
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Author Comment

by:thomaswilliams
ID: 8028410
I noticed that on the hard drive viewer plugin the data type on the drive is no longer FAT32, but RAW. If I seek to it in other programs, it gives me a long string of jumbled characters for the drive name. I don't know if this is any help.

I run a realtime virus scanner and it's usually really good about keeping up to date and informing me of viruses on the system, so I doubt that's a possibility. How would I go about "decoding software writes," as you call it? Do you mean that the program I was using at the time malfunctioned and wrote to the disk? Are there programs that could recover the data or would I need to have the expertise to analyze the raw data on the drive to figure out what to do?
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Accepted Solution

by:
trins earned 900 total points
ID: 8029352
Thomas,

I had a similar HDD crash happen to my 30GB Maxtor about a year ago. I wasn't able to recover all of the data but I still got about 70% of it back, which is better than none at all. I tried many recovery programs and decided on Zero Assumption Recovery (http://www.z-a-recovery.com). I found this program to have a good comprimise between automating the recovery process and asking for the user's decision (not all of us can reconstruct a file system) :)
If you don't mind spending money to recover your data, sending your drive to a corporation that specializes in data recovery is obviously the best option though.
If you plan on using ZAR32 (Zero Assumption Recovery) you will need to have another partition/drive to copy 'recovered' data onto. The trial version allows you to recover 4 directories at a time. Good luck

/ trins
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Expert Comment

by:brakmat
ID: 8031052
you could try a fdisk /mbr    I haven't had much luck with it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work.
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Expert Comment

by:brakmat
ID: 8031065
I can recover the data and I don't charge alot...if you want just post a temp e-mail and I can get with you on it.
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Author Comment

by:thomaswilliams
ID: 8032361
Good news. I successfully recovered most of the data with a recovery program. One last question: Is it okay to copy the recovered contents back on to the same partition after reformatting it? In other words, judging by the nature of the failure, is it prone to fail again? If so, is there anything I can do to prevent it? Thanks.
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Expert Comment

by:chubbyhwu
ID: 8036454
In short, there is nothing you can do to prevent it from happening again.  The clicking sound you heard was the drive retrying some operations -- be it write or read.   Obviously it failed the retry and the cause remained unknown.  

I recommend you do a full surface scan before you reactivate the drive.   See if you can find a utility that check on the drive's SMART data, that may give you a hint of how bad the drive has become.   The utility exists for Linux, I am not sure about Windows.

SMART: (Self-Monitoring-And-Reporting-Technology).   It used to be a marketing draw, but it can provide some insight into how healthy your drive is.
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Expert Comment

by:zubin_kharas
ID: 8037139
Hi thomas,
  I'd say you forget all else & go for Powerquest PartitionMagic. Thats a tool which can handle serious stuff. U can easily get it. It can recover entire disc partitions without partiotioning/formatting & Ur data lies safe. Then U can do whatever u like next. Clicking sounds could also mean some major head damage/platter damage at track 0.

Regards,
Zubin
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Expert Comment

by:JOligario
ID: 8037209
if u need recovery and the music is that important, i can image the drive and most likely get the partition fixed.
joligario@recoverdata.com
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Expert Comment

by:dbrunton
ID: 8039389
Tch tch.

Should I enquire what type of music you are writing?

Anyway, remember the second rule of computing; Backup, Backup, Backup.  Before the disks give errors.

And use the warranty on the disk, I sincerely doubt that it is more than two months old.
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Expert Comment

by:rickisme
ID: 8039395
Hi thomasw.... PowerQuest the maker of Partition Magic also offers disaster recovery.  You might like to check out the info; www.powerquest.com  They can also advise you as to the best way to protect future data on the drive.  If you decide to use Partition Magic you have to have v8 to handle the combined partitions.  

It sounds to me like the drive designation was incorrect and the burn actually transfered/wrote to the hard drive. If you built or insalled all the drives yourself take them off of Cable Select and designate them as Masters and Slaves and you may avoid the problem again ;-)) ... It only takes one miss-read in boot and the drives can redesignate if set to CHS.  I'm betting they are and this contributed to the problem. Just a guess. <g> Hey, I've been wrong before!  Good luck and God Bless, Rick.
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Expert Comment

by:zubin_kharas
ID: 8040077
Yes thomas,
  I too would second what rick says. Try it out as well along with what U wrote previously.

Regards,
Zubin
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Author Comment

by:thomaswilliams
ID: 8040200
Thanks to everyone who posted in response to my question. I awarded the points to trins because his answer proved to be the most helpful. I was able to recover practically all the data on the disk. Thanks again.

-Thomas
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Expert Comment

by:lrtsenar
ID: 8401762
Hi thomaswilliams,

I have EXACTLY the same problem. My FAT32 partition becames unreadable under WinXP Pro and "unformatted" !
But with my dual boot, under Win98, this partition works PERFECTLY !
I think it's not a crash from hard drive. The surface test under Win98 was ended with complete success : no errors.

Today, i have no solution to read this partition under WinXP. Win98 read & write on it WITH NO PROBLEM !!!

Is it a known XP bug ?

An idea somebody ?
Thanks.
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Expert Comment

by:Walter3ca
ID: 8411432
I just had the same thing happen to me under XP.  A DOS disk (win 98SE or ME) didn't help.  I have a single boot system.  But I'm using a RAID M/b and this HD was the slave on IDE4.  I have an active firewall (Zone Alarm).
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Expert Comment

by:lrtsenar
ID: 8479371
hi Walter3ca,

What's your system file on your hard drive ? NTFS, FAT32 ? If this is NTFS, it's normal that you can't access it from a DOS disk... DOS or Win9x can't read NTFS system file.

Why can't a read/write data to my hard drive from XP when all is ok under Win98 ? This is not incredible ???
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Expert Comment

by:kirby7777
ID: 9354984
Thomas,
I have encoutered the exact same problem with the second partition of my new Seagate 160G HDD.  I was transferring files from another drive and I had both HDDs on cable select jumper settings.

I am getting desperate now .....

Can you tell me which software did you use to recover your data?

Thanks

Kirby
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Expert Comment

by:suthernet
ID: 9688421
I am having a similar problem but using ntsf.

Is there any other OS that will be able to read my ntsf drive other than winxp/2000 ?

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Expert Comment

by:dbrunton
ID: 9688551
Linux
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Expert Comment

by:JOligario
ID: 9689215
Various programs can read NTFS, however there are certain restrictions.  What type of problems are you having with the current partition?  Have you tried booting with another drive which has NTFS on it and then read the current one?

Linux can read it, however you have to know how to use Linux and configure it properly.

John
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Expert Comment

by:suthernet
ID: 9689504

John,

We were using a wd 200 gig drive on a win2k to keep old files on. One day we tried to access it and it gave some type of corrupt error. We rebooted and now it says the drive is  not formatted and if we would like to.

I've tried running a bunch of different recovery tools with no luck. We get some of the data, but not much. I've also moved the drive to a winxp machine and came up with the same not formatted error.

-Sean
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Expert Comment

by:JOligario
ID: 9689528
ok, sounds like the drive went south.  it could be a physical error with the heads and platters or it could be electronics.  depending upon what you want to do, you can buy all kinds of data recovery software, send it for recovery or live with what you have.

joligario@recoverdata.com
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Expert Comment

by:catzwolf
ID: 10199126
You know what would be nice? If you all who have managed to recover your data would come back here and tell us how you did so. The thanks are great, but not really helpful to those of us trying to get our fixed too.
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Expert Comment

by:suthernet
ID: 10201857

We never mangaged to recover our data and directory structure.

-Sean
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Expert Comment

by:falerica
ID: 10415627
This might be a solution for all people here that have one partition "unformatted" after a Windows XP crash. I had exactly the same problem a few days ago, on my Dell Inspiron 4100 laptop (I have a 20 Gb HDD, with a primary XP partition, two FAT32's, and one Linux, plus its swap). Working just normal stuff, I got a blue screen, system hung, and when tried to reboot it complained about no boot disk. Entered BIOS, nothing to do there since the hard drive looked ok, and the system booted normally afterwards. Well, the surprise came when I saw that one of the FAT32 partitions could not be read properly, and recognized only as unformatted or RAW (of course, I did not want to format it when I was asked to). I was just as intrigued as lrtsenar when I booted with Windows 98 floppy, and the partition was perfectly recognized, and all data accessible. I did not find a solution on the web, but someone has posted a link to several programs, among which TestDisk (http://www.cgsecurity.org//index.html?testdisk.html). This is a free program that can be accessed from a floppy disk (works with FreeDOS). It was a magic program for me, because it could find all the partitions, including the one with problems, so it was then when I saw that the boot record info was corrupt, but the backup boot record was still ok (I suspected this before, but the conformation came then). The program does not have a very intuitive interface (can be easily figured out though) but it has an option that allows you to overwrite the boot record with the good backup. I did that, and when next booted into Windows XP the partition was there, including all the data.

If this does not help, then I suspect it would be a more serious problem, and you probably want to transfer the data to other partitions before you do anything else (normally you need to have another FAT32 partition). With previous problems I successfully used NTFS Reader (http://www.ntfs.com/products.htm). This is a free program, but it works only with NTFS partitions, so if you have a FAT32 you probably need to buy the Uneraser, which can handle those too. As this happened on my laptop, I was lucky then to have had a spare FAT32 partition (100 Mb) where I could copy my files. It took some time, but definitely less than recreating all my files.

I hope this will be of help to "unformatted" partition problems.
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