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External Drive suddenly loses files and capacity, size normal in Disk Mgmnt.

This question is to help out a friend.  He had an external drive, and was using it when suddenly all of the files disappeared and the capacity of the drive started showing up in My Computer as 1.38 MB.  After a restart and it was still showing as the same, he removed the drive from its external case and plugged it in directly via IDE.  The same thing is still happening, and he also then noticed that in Disk Management, the drive shows as its full size, which is 232.89 GB, formatted in FAT.

He is afraid to run diskcheck on the drive in fear that it will blow away his files, however I don't have any other ideas.

When you open the drive in My Computer, it shows literally 0 files on the drive (this is with Hidden + System files being displayed).

Anyone have any ideas?

Thanks in advance,
Jonny
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jonnyz0109
Asked:
jonnyz0109
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4 Solutions
 
jonnyz0109Author Commented:
Also something to note: he just noticed in Disk Management that in the top list of drives, it is listed as Capacity: 1.38 MB, Free space: 1.38 MB, whereas below it is listed as the full size.

He is running Steve Gibson's spinrite on it now but I guess that is going to take a while.  If anyone has any ideas let me know, otherwise we're just going to run Spinrite and Checkdisk, and after that format.

Thanks.
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garycaseCommented:
Spinrite is fine to check the disk with -- but do NOT run ChkDisk or any other program that may WRITE to the disk (Spinrite is totally okay -- it's non-destructive).

Somehow the header sector on this disk appears to have a wrong type indicator -- which is making it look like a floppy drive !! -- 1.38MB is the size of a freshly formatted floppy disk ... I suspect that's not a coincidence !!

A couple of questions:

(1)  Does your friend have a USB floppy drive in addition to this?   ... if so, does he ALWAYS use "Safely Remove" before removing the drive?

(2)  You said it's showing up in two places in Disk Management -- are you seeing two different drive letters in My Computer?   What happens in Disk Management if you right-click on the drive (from within the white area) ==> Do you get a "Change Drive Letter and Path" option?   ... in BOTH places (the 1.38MB area and the 232.89GB area)

The files on the drive are almost certainly recoverable -- but may require you run some recovery software.   First answer the above questions.

Meanwhile, you should also download the FAT version of GetDataBack from http://www.runtime.org/products.htm  (the demo version is free).   Don't run it yet -- answer the above questions first.
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jonnyz0109Author Commented:
Thank you for your response!

1) No he does not have a USB floppy drive.
2) Its not showing up as two separate drives, what I was speaking of is the two areas of disk management.  In the top you have a list of all partitions, and the drive is displayed as follows:

Volume: (D:)
Layout: Partition
Type: Basic
File System: FAT
Status: Healthy (does not say "active")
Capacity: 1 MB
Free Space: 1 MB
% Free: 100%
Fault Tolerance: No
Overhead: 0

Then below where it has the graphic representation of partitions and drives, on the row that is Drive 1, it is displayed as a Basic disk with 232.89 GB capacity, and online.  And of course next to it is the partition graphic, filling the entire width of the screen, and the full 232.89 GB.  Under that, it says FAT, and Healthy (again, no "Active").

Also, he tried to run Spinrite, it has stopped at the screen that says "Discovering system's mass storage devices" and at the bottom, it just says "working"
and it has been doing so for the past 25 minutes.  He sees no evidence of any disk activity or anything.  Also, the problem drive is the only drive connected to the computer at the moment. (This was before he rebooted back into windows)

Thanks again for your help.
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nobusCommented:
try to access the disk and data while booting from a knoppix cd :  www.knoppix.org
it does not write to the disk, and you are not booting from windows, so. . .
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garycaseCommented:
Whoa !!  Something doesn't make sense.

You said "... the problem drive is the only drive connected to the computer at the moment ..."
HOW DID YOU BOOT THE COMPUTER !!????

Surely you're not plugging/unplugging drives with power on !!!

... or did you unplug the other drive to run Spinrite?   (hopefully that's it)

I'd abort Spinrite (ESCape I think -- been a while since I ran it, but it shows you on the screen).

What happens in Disk Management if you right-click on the drive (from within the white partition area) ==> Do you get a "Change Drive Letter and Path" option?  

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garycaseCommented:
... I'm going to bed ... back in 8 or 9 hours :-)

But first:

The partition shouldn't show "active" -- so what you're seeing is okay.  (well, not okay, but at least consistent with what's apparently happened)

Safe things to try: (while I'm snoozing)

(1)  IF instead of "Change Drive Letter and Path" you get a "Assign Drive Letter" in the large partition area, that's safe to do - so do it.   Then look at the drive in Windows Explorer and see if it shows up and has the correct data.  DO NOT WRITE anything to the drive; change any properties; create any directories; open any files; or anything that would cause further write activity.   If it APPEARS to have files on it, COPY a few to another drive -- and open the copy to see if it's okay.

Remember:  FAT has a backup file allocation table.  With any luck, Windows MAY recognize that the original is corrupted and use the backup.   If not, the drive probably won't "look" correct -- but as long as you don't WRITE to it (and lots of things cause writes -- just opening a file with an application can), you can probably recover it with GetDataBack.

(2)  Install the demo of GetDataBack on ANOTHER drive (the system drive in the system you're using); and then run it against the problem drive.   It won't write anything; but it will SHOW you what it can "see".   If it's seeing all the files you want to recover, then the simplest way to recover them all is just buy a license for GetDataBack => it will then let you recover all the files.

There are other tools that may recover the files as well -- but the simplest to use and most reliable is GetDataBack.

If you decide you don't really need the data, then just "nuke" the drive -- delete both of the partitions that it's showing -- and then re-partition and format it into a single partition.   Note that if you do this you will NOT be able to use FAT32 (unless you format it into a bunch of 32GB partitions), since XP limits the size of a FAT32 partition it creates to 32GB.   If the computer(s) you use this on are all XP systems that's fine;  but if you need to use it on Win-9x systems, you should at least create one 32GB  FAT partition.

If you do decide to just reformat; and there are any problems after doing so; then the corruption may have messed the drive up beyond XP's normal deletion capability.  If that should prove to be the case, then CAREFULLY run Darik's Boot 'n Nuke (DBAN) on the drive -- be SURE you do it on the right drive !!
(http://dban.sourceforge.net/)

If you haven't recovered the data (or given up and reformatted) by the time I get back, I'll give you a few more pointers.   The key here is that if you WRITE to the drive (have I said that enough yet) your odds of recovery the files goes down in a hurry.
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JimsZCommented:
Can you access the drive through a command prompt?  If so, are the files showing up there?  May be an error with windows populating the drive during drive startup.  You may try this. Right click on one of your drives in windows explorer, and click on the hardware tab.  From there, find the drive you are missing files/information on and click "properties" on that page.   Then click on the volumes tab, then click "populate".  Did it start up autoplay on the drive now and start reading files?
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jonnyz0109Author Commented:
Thanks to everyone that responded.

Nobus: I had the same idea, he is headed into work this morning where he has a fast connection and is going to download Knoppix.  I have never mounted a drive in there but I told him I know that it is possible.  If there is anything he should know about that go ahead and put it here, he will be checking this link when he gets in.

JimsZ: this sounds like a good way to let windows start writing to the drive... can anyone confirm this before I have my buddy try this?

Garycase: When that drive was the only one plugged in, he was booted into Spinrite.  I wrote that post over the course of 20 minutes, so that may be why it didn't make sense.  After he couldn't get Spinrite to work, he turned it off, swapped out the drives, and booted back into Windows - this is where we wrote down the information from Disk Management.

And in Disk management, if you right click on the drive, it does allow you to CHANGE drive letters and paths.  I had him do this and he was able to assign it to a new letter, and access that via My Computer... same results.

In response to Garycase's most recent comments: (1) we have already tried, (2) seems like the best option and this is where I have 0 experience, and is why I posted here.  The data in fact is *extremely* important - he has both personal and work data on the drive.  This drive was also his backup drive, and he was in the process of moving everything to the backup drive when it died, and somehow at the time the data on the drive was the only copy that existed.  So short of this one is, he really needs to get back as much as he can.

Both he and I will check in throughout the day, thank you to everyone who has commented... hopefully we can get this figured out today!

~ Jonny
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nobusCommented:
for knoppix, nothing special if you have generic drivers for devices. if you need specific drivers, you can add them if you want
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garycaseCommented:
Did you download and install GetDataBack for FAT?   As I noted, the demo is a free download and it is completely safe to run -- it does NOT write to the drive.    I suspect it will find all of the files you need; and then it's just a matter of a $69 license and you'll be able to easily recover them.

But at least run it and see what it shows !!
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jonnyz0109Author Commented:
Last I heard he is working on getting GetDataBack running.  Are there any free alternatives that you know of?
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jonnyz0109Author Commented:
An update: he ran GetDataBack and it didn't find anything but a few files, which were all useless.  He is thinking that the drive was formatted NTFS (and he originally thought it was formatted as NTFS anyway) even thought it is displaying as FAT.  Anyway, I'm not sure what to think about that, but he's getting the NTFS version of GDB and is going to run that to see what it digs up.

Thanks again.
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jonnyz0109Author Commented:
GaryCase, it worked like a charm.  Thank you to all who commented so quickly!!

~ Jonny
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garycaseCommented:
Good - glad all's well ... and you're most welcome.
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