Need to recover data from an apparently bad hard drive

Posted on 2005-04-14
Last Modified: 2011-09-20
I have a Compaq Evo N1020v that has worked great for several years.  Eariler today, it was working fine, but I needed to reboot to re-establish a wireless connection.  While trying to reboot, I kept getting a flash of blue screen and then a restart.  After trying this several times, I ended up getting a message of "operating system not found".

As luck would have it, I just bought a USB external 2.5" Hard drive case yesterday as I had a client whose motherboard when out and they wanted to save the data from the hard drive.  Well, I can connect their hard drive to my PC and immediately see what is on the hard drive.  When I connect my hard drive, I get nothing--and a different drive letter designation.

I would appreciate any suggestions of how to retrieve this data.
Question by:tlindlahr
    LVL 87

    Accepted Solution

    Just leave the USB drive out of it for the time being. What happens when you let the PC sit turned off for a while, then reboot? does it find the Operating system then? If it does, press f8 when booting, so you will get an extended boot menu. Here one of the selections should be to not to autorestart if you get a failure or BSOD. Now you should be able to read what the BSOD says. Can you give us the Stop error you see? Also, sometimes BSODs occur when trying to load a certain driver or dll, and often that file is listed somewhere close to the bottom. Can you also tell us that filename, if any?

    If it doesn't boot, download memtest86 from and let it test your memory. If is doesn't fail on first pass, give it at least 5 passes.
    LVL 87

    Expert Comment

    Now, about your USB case / drive, does this concern the same compaq evo or is this a completely separate thing?

    If you are trying to save the data on the disk of your EVO, I'd connect the Evo's disk to this USB case and then connect the USB case another PC running XP (Exactly what OS are your unning? XP home, pro or win2k?). If you have more than one HD and / or have more than one partition on that PC, then the drive will be lettered the following way:

    the first primary partition on the first drive will be C, the next primary partition will be D and so on. Logical Drives in extended partitions come after primary partitions. So that will be the reason your drive letters aren't correct anymore. You can use diskmanager in computer management (advanced options in control panel) to reassign drive letters, or to find out which partition on which drive has which current drive letter. Now you should be able to copy the important data from the USB drive to your PC.
    LVL 14

    Assisted Solution

    Well firstly u might wanna leave the USB out of this till we finalize that ur disk is indeed bad and gettig ur data backis the only option.

    Enter the BIOS and see if ur hard disk is listed there. If ur BIOS detects the hard disk ur in luck. If not well the disk ahs gone bad and not much u can do. However since if u attach the disk and get a different drive letter it means the hard disk seems fine for now.

    Set ur Boot sequence to CDROm and put in ur XP CD into the cdrom drive. Select Recovery console and manual from there. At the command prompt see if windows recognises ur installation of windows and prompts for ur Admin password. Once thats done type in Fixboot and Fixmbr at the prompt and press enter. reboot and take out the WinXP cd and see if that helps.

    If that doesnt work u might wanna do a repair install of XP and see if that sorts ur problem. I am assuming u have XP loaded. The above two commands and proceedure will work for Win2000 also.


    Author Comment

    Leaving the machine off does not change the Operating System Not Found message.  And the bios does not detect the hard drive any longer.   I'm pretty certain the drive is just DEAD!

    Let me clarify the drive letter when connecting to the USB device, there is not one.  The device is detected on my PC and when I connect my client's HD, it comes right up with Autoplay, and I can explore out to that drive, etc.  When I connect my hard drive, the device is detected, but nothing else happens, no drive shows up, at all.

    I guess, I'm now on to recovering the data off that drive, do you have any suggestions?  Before you ask, I did not have a back up.  But between my company financial records and personal photos.... I would really like to salvage as much as I can.

    Thanks for your help
    LVL 87

    Expert Comment

    You say the device is detected and it autoplays. Is that the one you are certain is dead? What oes it show in devicemanager? Can you hear it running? If it is running, I'd try to reconnect it to the laptop, just make sure the ribbon cable is OK. Maybe you have to open up the case to make sure the other end is connected properly. I know, it can be quite hard to open a notebook's case.

    If you do want to try recovering the data before you are completely sure something is broken,
    Then try using one of the following restoration tools, but often bad or badly seated ram can cause data corruption on disks, so run that memtest above.:

    Unstoppable copy tool

    Free for restoring one file at a time. Is supposed to work really good.

    PC Inspector:

    OnTrack DataRecovery:


    Other Data Recovery Tools:


    Restorer 2000

    Author Comment

    Rindi, the USB device is detected with either hard drive attached (mine or my clients) but only auto plays with my clients hard drive.  

    I tried connecting my client's hard drive to my laptop and I get the same BSOD and restart I was getting originally with my hard drive (so I quickly removed their hard drive as to avoid losing their data).

    I looked at a couple of recovery programs, but you have to be able to detect the drive for them to work and I can't seem to get the drive to detect either on my laptop or connected by the USB device to my PC.  That leads me to ask a somewhat stupid question of, how can I run the memtest if the laptop won't even boot?  Can I run it off a floppy? Or CD?

    Thanks for all your help.

    LVL 87

    Expert Comment

    Off either. You can also download the UBCD fro which already has memtest86 and a couple of others on board, as well as plenty of other tools, possibly even such tools which can test the rest of your system.

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