Recovery of data from a failed hard drive (IDE)

My computer runs (or used to) on Windows XP on a small office LAN, for which my computer has functioned as the server for several years.  I have a less than 3 year old hard drive in my computer and arrived at the office last week to find my computer screen (black) displaying NTLDR (or something like that): Fatal error reading Boot.ini.  My hard drive has failed since that day and I am interested in attempting recovery of data from my recent failed Quantum Fireball IDE hard drive myself to avoid paying high recovery costs by a pro.

I began trying to research recovery of the data myself and found a downloadable NTFS program, which I have been unable to get to function properly when booting to DOS.  I have also placed the failed drive in another computer's slave slot, but start up is very slow and attempting to view files on the failed drive through Windows Explorer is met with an "invalid parameter" error message.

If you can offer an suggestions or help, I would greatly appreciate it.

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Take look at these.


File Recovery is a data recovery program that supports the FAT 12/16/32 and NTFS file systems. The current version 3.x replaces the previous version 2.x, which is now over 6 years old.

For 9x/NT/2K/XP. Restore deleted files that are no longer in the Recycle Bin!

Tool to check and undelete partition
Works with the following partitions:
- FAT12 FAT16 FAT32
- Linux
- Linux SWAP (version 1 and 2)
- NTFS (Windows NT)
- BeFS (BeOS)
- Netware
- RaiserFS


EasyRecovery DataRecovery is a simple, yet powerful tool that recovers data that is lost, inaccessible or deleted. It's the ultimate do-it-yourself solution for nearly all causes of data loss (except physical hardware or system problems) where your hard drive and system are fully functional.

File Rescue 2.5

GetDataBack for FAT
GetDataBack will help you retrieve your files if the hard drive's partition table, boot record, FAT, or root directory have been damaged by a virus, formatting, fdisk or power failure. GetDataBack can even recover your data when the drive is no longer recognized by Windows.

GetDataBack for NTFS
Recover your files when the data is no longer accessible due to formatting, fdisk, virus attack, power or software failure. Get everything back even when the drive's partition table, boot record, Master File Table or root directory is lost or corrupt.
Hard Drives
Floppy Drives
Drive Images
Zip/Jaz Drives

Norton Utilities/SystemWorks
The Norton Protected Recycle Bin helps you recover deleted and overwritten files.
The UnErase wizard helps you retrieve files you've accidentally deleted.


Data Recovery
Fast File Undelete


File Recover 2000


File Restore
If you've deleted your data and you want to get it back, you need FileRestore.
FileRestore is a simple, easy-to-use tool for recovering files that have been lost or deleted from your Windows system. Designed for Windows XP, 2000, NT, Me, and 9x

Hard Disk and Data Recovery Related Tools:
The DiskPatch tool supposedly can rebuild the File System structure depening on the damage to the structure.

Disk Commander
In virtually any situation where you need to recover lost data from a Windows system, Disk Commander is the solution. Disk Commander performs a wide range of data recovery operations.

As a tool to 'UNDELETE' files that have been accidentaly deleted.
This feature is implemented for HPFS and NTFS only.


Emergency Undelete
I believe this is free
For Win2000 and NT may work on XP


Hard Drive Mechanic
It's true. Even if you just re-formatted your entire hard drive, you can still get all of your data back because, unlike what most people believe, formatting does NOT erase your files! With Hard Drive Mechanic's Unformat Feature, you can restore all of your valuable data in about 10 minutes!
demo version:

Filerecovery for Windows
Filerecovery for Windows® is a safe and affordable do-it-yourself data recovery solution that is designed to recover deleted files from all types of media such as Hard Drives, Floppy Drives, SmartMedia, CompactFlash, Memory Sticks, and other types of removable media.

You know how upsetting it is to accidentally delete a file that you need—it takes just a moment to lose hours of work. Undelete file-recovery utility captures ALL deleted files including those that typically bypass the Recycle Bin. You can even recover files you purged from our Recovery Bin. With our Emergency Undelete feature, you can recover files deleted prior to Undelete being installed on your system (provided they have not been written over). Buy Undelete and you'll never again be at the mercy of lost data.

Fast File Recovery
A definite must for the PC guru! It will allow the user to perform all data recovery tasks associated with disks which are not physically damaged.

File Scavenge
File Scavenge is the most comprehensive, award-winning file undelete and data recovery for NTFS volumes on Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

Active UNERASER is a compact and powerful undelete utility that can recover deleted files and folders on FAT12, FAT16, FAT32 and NTFS systems. It can even restore files from deleted and re-formatted partitions.

Undelete 3.0
Undelete 3.0 restores accidentally deleted files within seconds from anywhere on your system. Version 3.0 includes new SecureDelete, full Windows XP support and expanded search options.

FinalData Data Recovery
FinalData Data Recovery Solution will recover files that have been lost by   quick formatting, FDISK, FAT damage, MBR damage or directory   destruction. It recovers data from FAT12/16/32, NTFS, and EXT2, EXT3.

BadCopy Pro
BadCopy Pro is a leading data recovery tool for floppy disk, CD-ROM, CD-R/W and other storage media. It can effectively recover and rescue corrupted or lost data from damaged, unreadable or defective disks. Various damage situations and all file types are supported.

Directory Snoop
Directory Snoop is a low-level forensic utility that can recover erased files in an emergency, wipe sensitive data, and search for hidden data at the cluster level. Step through your File Allocation Table (FAT) and map individual clusters back to the file that owns them. Purge orphaned (and possibly sensitive) file names right out of the directory structure. $29 shareware for Windows 95 through XP (NTFS drives not supported).

Active@ UNDELETE will help you to restore data residing drives formatted in FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, NTFS5 file systems and it works under all Windows family operating systems: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

Undelete & Recover deleted files from your FAT 12/16/32 Hardisks

Or Data Recovery Services
Ontrack offers a full range of data recovery solutions to address your data loss needs. Unlike other data recovery companies, Ontrack provides exclusive and patented solutions that do not require you to send in your media for recovery. In situations where the hardware is functioning normally, our patented Remote Data Recovery service and EasyRecovery software solutions can solve your data loss needs safely and effectively in a matter of hours. If another company claims that there is no alternative to shipping your drive, it's because they don't offer an alternative. For situations in which the hardware is physically failing, our In-Lab services will utilize our Class 100 clean-rooms to retrieve your mission critical data.




Total Recall
Our recovery and forensic technology is used by support and call centers as well as data recovery providers world-wide.

ESS Data Recovery
ESS Data Recovery, Inc. has been removing barriers in the data recovery and computer forensics market ever since its inception

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Wow, that was a nice scripted cut+paste answer above...

Hard drives fail in MANY ways.  I do data recovery all the time nowadays...  "Invalid parameter" means file system damage.  This may or may not mean that the disk is damaged.  If you've heard any crazy noises coming from the drive, there's a good chance it's gone for good or close to it.

My favorite tool out of the above is R-STUDIO, from  They do have a demo available for download, and it can grab files that it finds that are below 64k for free.  Above that you have to pay, but I think it's a reasonable cost.

If your hard drive has physical damage beyond the file system, you should try and make an image of it immediately to pull data from later, using a tool above.  There are instructions on the website I believe.

My personal favorite tool is Linux when I'm doing hard drive analysis and recovery.  Even booting with a knoppix ( CD is good enough for me.  I can often mount the damaged NTFS volume and copy files over the network or to a FAT32 volume without worrying about it stopping with "invalid parameter".

A few weeks ago I had a drive that had both filesystem and physical damage.  I copied what I could using linux to another hard drive (about 50 gigs worth) and recovered an additional 11 gigs with R-STUDIO.  That was out of 77 or so gigs originally on the drive.

best of luck
>>>Wow, that was a nice scripted cut+paste answer above...

Took me a couple of years to put it together. :)
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hi ,
As raybass was saying if the drive is noisy  & not being recognized in the post test then there is not much you can do that won't cost an arm & a leg.
If however it is being seen in the cmos there is a good chance of recovery.
Everyone has a fav recovery tool, mine is recover2000 pro & like most of them it has a free but limited demo available from the link in the massive list above. This package has performed 100% so far.
If the drive is not being accessed by windows but can be formatted, then you could do this & then do the recovery.
For a satisfactory recovery you are probably going to have to part with some cash & buy one of the above mentioned tools.
If the data is mission critical then you had better have a spare limb or 2 lying around.
Most of these places work on no recover , no pay.
good luck with it
Why dont u try this method.
Take the hdd up about 1 or 2 inch, then drop it.
I got this from War.
I have just try it recently and it work :).
There are many "tricks" to kick starting a problem HDD like the "drop" or the "freeze" but you also risk further damage to the drive which in turn could make a relatively small expense into a serious one.(you may cause physical damage when there isn't any to start with)
These should be done as a last resort only
Beside Crazy's LIst, if you have a Cd Burner, YOU could order
a Knoppiz CD if you Bios will allow you to boot from a CD and
run it to see if it can read and then burn any files on the hard



What is KNOPPIX®?
KNOPPIX is a bootable CD with a collection of GNU/Linux software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI and USB devices and other peripherals. KNOPPIX can be used as a Linux demo, educational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. It is not necessary to install anything on a hard disk. Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it.

Knoppix talk, May 2003 (PDF, German) [screen presentation] [print version]
Knoppix reloaded - Remastering Knoppix, May 2003 (PDF, German) [screen presentation] [exercises]
Slides for the cloop presentation at the Chemnitzer Linux-Tagen 2002 (PDF, German)
Paper for the Annual Linux Showcase 2000 (English) [HTML] [PDF]
 Slides for the presentation at the Annual Linux Showcase 2000 (PDF, English)
Slide updates for the presentations at the IFA 2001 (English) [Postscript] [PDF]
Sources for the special components of the KNOPPIX-CD


What software is installed on the KNOPPIX-CD?
The following Highlights are available in version 3.2 of this Debian-based ( CD:

Linux-Kernel 2.4.x
KDE V3.1 as the standard desktop with K Office and the Konqueror WWW-browser konqueror
X Multimedia System (xmms) an MPEG-video, MP3, Ogg Vorbis Audio player and xine
Internet connection software kppp,pppoeconf (DSL) and isdn-config
Gnu Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) Version 1.2
utilities for data recovery and system repairs, even for other operating systems
network and security analysis tools for network administrators
OpenOffice(TM), the GPL-developed version of the well-known StarOffice(TM) office suite
many programming languages, development tools (including kdevelop) and libraries for developers
in total more than 900 installed software packages with over 2000 executable user programs, utilities, and games

What are the minimum system requirements?

Intel-compatible CPU (i486 or later),
20 MB of RAM for text mode, at least 96 MB for graphics mode with KDE (at least 128 MB of RAM is recommended to use the various office products),
bootable CD-ROM drive, or a boot floppy and standard CD-ROM (IDE/ATAPI or SCSI),
standard SVGA-compatible graphics card,
serial or PS/2 standard mouse or IMPS/2-compatible USB-mouse.

Question: "But my computer doesn't have that much RAM, so some programs on the CD won't run at all or will only run very slowly. Is there some trick that I can use to run KDE and the office programs/graphics/games?"

Yes. After a swap partition has been initialized, Linux can add the missing RAM from an area of the hard disk that has been reserved for this purpose. KNOPPIX recognizes and automatically uses any available swap partitions. Optionally, a swap partition can be added manually. However, only experienced users should try this, since repartitioning of the hard drive is required.

Version 1.5 and later of KNOPPIX can use an existing DOS partition for its Linux swap data (command mkdosswapfile or in the KDE menus under "Knoppix"). This also allows one to work with less RAM. The swap data knoppix.swp on this partition can be erased later to free up space for other things.

How is KNOPPIX started?
To start the CD, set up the BIOS of your computer to boot off the CD, put the CD in the drive, and power up the computer. If your computer doesn't support this option, you have to use a boot disk. You can create this disk from the image in KNOPPIX/boot.img on the CD.

Q: My computer won't boot from CD. What should I do?

A: Look in your computer's BIOS to see whether it's set to boot from CD
(on most computers you need to push the "delete" key during the RAM test). If this is already set, your computer may not be able to read the CD (some notebooks have problems with black-coated CD's, for example). Some computers will only use the new BIOS settings after a hard reset. If your computer doesn't support booting from CD, you can create a boot floppy using the "rawrite" program in the "KNOPPIX" directory on the CD.

You can obtain a CD Knoppix 3.2 here for $2.49

CD is 99¢ plus shipping & handling.


The Perfect Rescue Tool  Langa Letter:  June 23, 2003

O.K., I had the same thing happen in 2000, and in XP at different times. Here is what you have to do: go to a good working xp machine and insert a floppy into it's drive. Select start, all programs, accessories, command prompt, type format a: and press enter. When it asks you if you want to format another floppy, just type "n" and hit enter again. Type the following commands and make sure to press enter after you type each command
xcopy c:\boot.ini a:/h
xcopy c:\ a:/h
xcopy c:\ntldr a: /h
now type exit and then press enter to close the window. Now remove the floppy that you made and write on it win XP boot floppy.
Put this floppy in your non booting xp machine. You should be able to boot up your machine now without a problem. If so, you could always boot it with the floppy or you could fix your machine by typing in the following command in the machine. (after booting it with the floppy you made, and leaving it in the drive)
xcopy a:*.* c:\/h
then press enter. This should restore the required files from the floppy you made to the boot record of the machine and should fix it. If this doesn't work you could try to put in a winxp setup cd in the machine and try to boot it up. Just make sure you hit enter when during boot up if it asks you to press any key to boot from CD. If it boots from the CD, just got to the repair prompt and it will fix the install you already have. Just don't tell it to install xp, or you will loose everything on your hard drive. Good Luck, hope this helps.
i had a hdd that failed to detect sometimess.

i found that if i go into bios setup, auto detect hdd, after a retry of about 5-10 mins, the hdd could be brought back to life...maybe the heat of electricity passing through it, or the reset signal caused this...
but u can try to do it...

is the drive completely dead now, no spinning noise?? in that case you can be out of luck as the software may not be able to help you out..

but if assumed that only the controller ckt has gone south...u can search for a trashed drive of same model and swap the ckt board with its..this will work if the new controller is working in the first place...
controllers going bad is rarer than head/surface problems and hence this could work in many cases...

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