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Data recovery on seemingly corrupt FAT32 120 gig drive

Posted on 2006-06-30
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First off a few facts, my drive is a samsung 120 gig drive which I have owned and used with the same partition since aug 2003. I have not defragged the drive (which is usually near full, often) since late december 2004, and even then it took nearly 36 to 48 hours, I don't remember off the top of my head. The operating system is Windows XP Pro and the partition was all Fat 32.

Anyways, here's what was happening before the serious problem I had.

Days before, windows disc check ran every time I rebooted the machine, even on a legal and normally fine reboot.. I assumed I would fix this in time with a few reboots, hopefully, or find a way.. as usually this never concerned me i nthe past, but when I let it run through disc check, it took a ridiculously long time, I'm saying an hour or more, when it usually took maybe ten minutes or so usually. I found that odd, so I thought I would make a note of that (i assumed it was teh lack of defrag catching up to me and maknig the drive even thus slower)

Anyways, one friday I was using my machine like usual, and I am a person of the computer technical field, I love computers, and spend many many hours a day on my own comptuer at home, so I'm quite aware of changes and whatnot and usually always have it on, except to let it rest every now and then.

So I was running as usual, I went to save a chat within AIM (irrelevant), and usually it goes straight to the folder it last saved in, but this time it went to the AIM program folder, which is usually the default directory to save in with aim when you first install it or have a problem with it or whatnot. I click on the "My Documents" button o nthe windows XP save as prompt window and get something along the lines of "C:\ drive is not formatted or partitioned, format? OK. Cancel" Or something to that effect. The C:\ was the only hard drive I had on this machine, and obviously I was working fine on the C drive and this folder (My documents) was obviously in that drive. So I found that odd, and scary... I may have double clicked the "my documents" on my desktop and gotten the same error, I can't recall, but then I went straight to C:\Documents and settings\(myusername which is Enduser)\ and right clicked "My Documents" and it began to compile the numbers for the amounts of folders and files in it, listenng them normally... i let it do that till it stopped then closed that and double clicked it... and it openned normally, not slower or anything ... all the thumbnails, the view i had set to it was all there and all. Everyhting worked fine. I closed that and openned it from my desktop. Perfect. I went to save the file again and it went through and I was able to save it. It worked.... then, it could have been a few minutes or it could have been an hour, I didn't keep track of time, but it happeend again... but this time nothnig I did 'fixed' it. It would not allow me to access my documents, giving me the same 'error' as before. I right clicked on my C:\ drive in "My Computer" to be sure it still listed the same amount of used space as before, which was 900mbish short of being full, which it did indeed say, so I felt relief.

I decided mabye I should let the disc check run and that will fix things after some time of trying to get it to work myself... disc check started to run... slowly, I might add, but usually the first few percents ran that way, so I wasn't sure if it was the same as the problem. Anyways it said "

Folder \FOUND.006 is entirely unreadable.
Folder entry removed.
11 percent complete.

"
I took a picture with my camera phone just to be sure for future referance just like this. Anyways this scared me, it made me think that maybe it may delete "My documents". So I decided to take out the hard drive and put it as a slave in another windows xp pro (NTFS 120 gig) machine I had around to see what I could do or if I got the same error. And so I did.

Here is where the problem seemingly got to it's peak and where it was untill now. I right-clicked the drive in the new machine to make sure it read 900ish short of being full again, which it did, thankfully. I openned it up and went into "Documents and Settings". Mind you, there was only one user on this machine, Enduser.. but there were obviously the normal folders for windwos XP pro: All Users, Administrator [Enduser]. I double clicked enduser and I got the same 'error' I got with my documents when I was running the machine before. "this is odd" I thought, I was just running this machine a moment ago! I was very scared at this point, and tried all I could. I opened disc defrag. and clicked the analyze, it said (I think, if I remember correctly) that specifically folder Enduser was corrupted or some odd thing. I could not completely recall that message either or if it specifically said enduser folder.

I caleld a friend who recommended a data recovery center in my area and to talk to them. While I was talknig to this friend I decided to bite the bullet and try to fully run disc check to see what it would do if it entirely ran. It ran, slowly... re-removed (so it seemed) the same \FOUND.006 folder and even one with 003 on it as well... as well as otehr folders which were in programfiles in seemingly random areas (directories in directories ect). But then after a whilke it said

Folder (Null)
.

something something. I could not remember the whole message, but that much of it I was sure of. At this point instead of a percentage of the disc check running it just showed the period below the Folder (Null) message, which I assumed was an error about being able to read enduser. It didn't say it remembered it, but some sort of error or read problem with it.

I tried rebooting again to let windows load, but it would freeze if I tried safe mode or anything. My thoughts were because the only useable user folder (the only user that showed on the user selection screen was Enduser normally) was "Enduser" that windows would not be able to load up at all.

And there is where things ended. I went to this data recovery center a few days later and gave them the drive, told them the problem, and over a week and some days later they did not reply to me after I paid an analysis fee. I called and to be frank (I can elaborate o nthis if need be later) they said they could not recover all the data and never saw anyhting so corrupted ect ect, but frankly they did not sound too professional to me, and they were going to charge me (they said) $900ish for whatever recovery they would be able to aquire by three buisness days from then.

Anyways, this is where I stand. I don't feel confident in these recovery people, and I was holding someone here could give me advice. I was very intimate with this drive so I know it well enough to answer any questions... and everyhting after the events in question I've tried to remember perfectly in a case such as this where I have to retell the story.

I am hoping someone could give me advice or help me with this situation.
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Question by:eachdaythewiser
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garycase earned 500 total points
ID: 17022075
It's a bit late in the process ... but I'd suggest you get the drive back from the recovery folks (I presume you'll only lose your analysis fee and not have to pay the $900) and send it to Gillware (http://www.gillware.com/).   They are very professional, and have a very reasonable fee structure (by data recovery standards) -- it will probably cost you $378.99, plus possibly a $300 cleanroom surcharge); and have a "no recovery, no fee" policy.

It's also a bit late for preventative advice, but I'll toss in a nickel's worth:  with any drive, when you get within 10% of the capacity you should either replace it with a larger drive or add another drive to alleviate some of the storage requirements.  In any event, you should certainly be sure it's well backed up (of course that's true no matter how full it is).   When you were "... 900mbish short of being full ..." you were running the drive at over 99% capacity, with NO room for swap file manipulation, temp files, etc.   That almost certainly contributed to the problem.

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by:garycase
ID: 17022081
... if you want to give recovery a try by yourself;  get the drive back;  hook it up as a slave on your extra system; download and install the free trial of GetDataBack for FAT (http://www.runtime.org/products.htm);  and see what it shows as recoverable.   If you're satisfied with what it can recover, then buy a license and it will recover the files for you.
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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 17022345
try www.runtime.org, for a normal disk, look at getdataback, it makes no changes to the disk and this is the only safe way to proceed, if not already too late.  For raid, look at their raid reconstructor utility.

Do yourself a favour, in the future, dont buy samsung or WD drives.  They are just crap and die after less than a year in many cases.  Buy yourself an IBM Hitachi drive, no more cost, last 3-10 times longer.
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by:ded9
ID: 17022881
www.ontrack.com is the no 1 revcovery software

Try it . Surely will resolve your issue
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by:KCDean
ID: 17023767
Try SR6 it might help you out http://www.grc.com/spinrite.htm, i would have to agree with scrathcyboy, never go with WD or samsung drive (throw aways)
I've been going with Seagate drives, good price and pretty reliable
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by:rgutwein
ID: 17027998
Hi, I do not know if you are familiar with Knoppix.  But they have some Live CD/DVDs that you can download for free.  I would suggest downloading the Knoppix 5.0 DVD ISO.  That is what I use, and it works like a charm...even if your Harddrive is totally hosed, Knoppix will read and mount as much as it can.  I have never had a problem with it, and it has saved my butt a few times.

http://www.knoppix.org/
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by:eachdaythewiser
ID: 17060084
Alright. Sorry for my lack of update on this situation, but I wanted to try to get the drive back from the group before I tried anythnig here and thus gave out the points to the best working answer.

I recieved an e-mail from the group which says

"Thank you for selecting (Name removed for privacy reasons) to perform your data recovery service. Our evaluation process has determined we can recover 75.3GB of data from your Samsung 120 GB disk drive. We CANNOT RECOVER THE TOP LEVEL OF YOUR DIRECTORY STRUCTURE, but we can recover files and some subdirectories.

The recovery charge is $965.00 additional including parts and labor. We will send back data on loaner drive or you can supply us with a destination drive."

Now this dishearted me, as I expected them to make a big deal of the work and then in the end recover most if not all of the data. The price is obviously not disheartening, as I am not gonig to pay and will take my buisness elsewhere with the suggestions here.

But what can you all make of this information? Is it reliable, does it give insight? I don' trust them, personally, but I can't tell what the truth of the matter is, for sure.
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by:ded9
ID: 17060187
You can try www.ontrack.com No1 data recovery software
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by:garycase
ID: 17060208
It sounds like the drive is corrupted, but functional.  If that's true, you can probably recover the same information they've found with GetDataBack (http://www.runtime.org/products.htm), as I suggested in my second post above.

I would recover the drive;  hook it up on your secondary IDE controller (you can temporarily disconnect your optical drive and use that connection) or to a second SATA port, depending on which type of drive it is;  and then run the free trial download of GetDataBack against it (note that you install GetDataBack to your main hard drive -- it will not "touch" the bad drive so it won't corrupt anything).   GetDataBack will show you what it can "see" ==>  if you're happy with it, just buy a license (< $100) and you'll have your data.

If GetDataBack won't work, then I'd send it off to Gillware.
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by:eachdaythewiser
ID: 17060435
Thank you, garycase. I'm going to be getting the drive back a week from next week as I'm out of town next week, but I will likely do exactly that.

Do you feel that it is possible to still recover the drive to where it was originally before it went 'bad'? I feel odd that at one point "my documents" did not work, then it did, then it did not, and then the entire folder of my username went bad.. because the "my documents" came back at one point, it seems like it should be all there just.. possibly a hardware issue? Is it still possible, in your opinion?
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by:garycase
ID: 17060507
I think it's absolutely possible -- and even likely, as long as the drive is electronically functional.   Your top-level directory structure was apparently corrupted; but if the subdirectory information is still intact (and with FAT32 that's very likely) any good recovery program (and GetDataBack is one of the best) will be able to restore the vast majority of your data.

You WILL need a drive with enough available space to copy your recovered data to -- GetDataBack does NOT write to the drive it's working on (which is good).   If you don't have that much space available, you may want to get an external USB drive so you'll be prepared for the recovery.
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by:eachdaythewiser
ID: 17063034
I've already ordered a 250GB drive with an external exclosure for easy access later.

My hope is to one day be back on that same hard drive information running programs and files off of it like I was last month.

I'll comment again here when I've an update, and I don't have the drive currently to do anything with. It may be up to two weeks till I comment again, but this is my only hope, so I will be back to comment here again in the future.
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by:garycase
ID: 17063050
Keep us posted after you get the drive back and try GetDataBack ...
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by:ded9
ID: 17063284
You can try to repair your corrupted disk by downloading this software
Hdd Regenerator
http://www.dposoft.net/

Also can try www.ontrack.com to recover data from corrupted disk

Ded9
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by:_Mr_Limo
ID: 17070576
This, actually sounds like a physical issue - you have a failed drive.  The BEST data recovery firm (also the oldest - as they were the first), is DriveSavers Data Recovery: http://www.drivesavers.com

If your data is important to you, they'll get it back for you, but it will not be for less than a couple of grand...

It's very unlikely that the software suggested is going to get the data back...
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by:Marc5000
ID: 17115169
Hmm .....

I Like the way every one is pointing you to software to solve this issue? Anyway, I’m going to advise you to do two things, well maybe more if it doesn’t work.

Ok.

The first is to back up anything you can with software.. choose the best out there!! Look above for suggestions! :P

Ok, once you have all the stuff backed up, then double check you have all that Data on a DVD or HDD or something.

Now, this is where it gets risky... well maybe, sometimes not, because at this stage you hardly have nothing to loose eh?
I want you to grab your Windows XP disk... and make sure your 120Gig HDD is connected and then start up your computer....

and it carries on...

No, when you are in set up, make sure it has found your HDD. If it hasn’t, then double check cables.. etc, etc. If that still doesn’t work, you have a SERIOUS problem. But it should pick it up.

Now when in the XP setup, I’m going to recommend two options:

1) By choosing this option, you will try to replace all the Windows Files in the directory. To do this choose the recovery option, this will re install windows, but tries to not affect your Documents and programs. If this works, you will be running windows again, and see if all your files are there, is so BRILLIANT! If not, then shed a tear or two, because the next stage is VERY RISKY!

... stage 2...

2) By choosing this option you will convert your FAT32 HDD to NTSF... I haven’t researched on this, but if you look it up, there HAS to be a program that will convert your FAT32 HDD to NTSF, please look around for the best option in that area.

As i say, its risky, but do it at your own risk! lol

Anyway,
Let us know how it goes... we all know how it feels, loosing valuable data... but we'll do anything safe to get it back! :P
 

Regards
Marc5000
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by:_Mr_Limo
ID: 17117706
I actually have NOT referred him to a "software" solution - software is not going to help in this type of situation....

Since he cant ACCESS the data, he can't BACKUP the data - the hard drive is inaccessible...

Professional data recovery is the only option if he wants his data...

If the data is not important, chuck the drive and get a new one.
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by:eachdaythewiser
ID: 17127170
That's right, Mr Limo. I can access everything except my User Folder, which is the only user folder on the choice menu to log into XP on.
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by:eachdaythewiser
ID: 17209775
Alright. Finally after so long I have gotten the drive back from the recovery people and I tried GetDataBack, as garycase first mentioned. I ran it on the drive and was not surprized to see this error:

http://i14.photobucket.com/albums/a309/uneasyspider/error01.jpg

As read on screen: "I/O Error 'Unknown error (23)' reading sector 7313601 on HD128:."

After which, I cancelled, of course. Any insight or suggestions as I move on? I'm sure to provide as many screenshts of anything as possible, as I have the drive with me, now.
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by:garycase
ID: 17209820
The picture you posted shows that GetDataBack was having problems with virtually every sector, and apparently was not able to recover any of your data.   I assume you are CERTAIN that the disk was formatted in FAT32 [otherwise you should try GetDataBack for NTFS].

... presuming that, it's time to send it off to Gillware (see my first post).
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by:eachdaythewiser
ID: 17209896
110% certain [of FAT32]. It says so on the program as well.

It was able to get some of the data, but I assume it got to the part where the data was inaccessable.

I guess I'll send it off to Gillware and see how that goes.

Atleast I seem to have a definate pattern, which would be an I/O error. I explained the full situation before, so i'm sure adding up all the details you all could give an interesting assumption of the situation as I prepare this to send to them?
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by:_Mr_Limo
ID: 17211790
have you thought about DriveSavers?  If the data is important, they're definately the best at getting it - I've seen them get data where others have failed...
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by:_Mr_Limo
ID: 17211798
there is NO cleanroom surcharge, there is no charge if your data is not recovered (tell 'em yo heard it here), and there are NO extra charges for parts, or extra effort...
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by:eachdaythewiser
ID: 17224590
I spoke to Gillware and mentioned the data recovery software and I felt as if the software was scoffed at by them as they mentioned it's good for recovering deleted files ect, but for a drive which may be even slightly damaged it's not so great. How uncomforting to hear. I hope this isn't like the last recovery group. : )

Anyways I am sending them the drive and a blank drive and see what they can do.

garycase, how do you feel this will turn out, after seeing the error from GetDataBack? The Gillware rep said it may not be hardware and it may just be anything out of a number of things.. and as I know they are not supposed to assume based on anything I say untill I have the drive, it had me make a mental note to ask you.
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by:garycase
ID: 17225423
It's almost impossible to say how it will turn out --> but I'm confident Gillware will do a good job for you.   If the data can be recovered, they'll let you know;  if not, it's my understanding that they will not charge you anything for the analysis.   The errors you posted from GetDataBack aren't conclusive; but look like corrupted sectors.   If this is because of drive electronics issues, Gillware should easily be able to recover them;  if it's a physical corruption of the data, they may be less successful.   You'll just have to see what their analysis shows.
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by:_Mr_Limo
ID: 17229747
that was why I had recommended DriveSavers - it doesnt matter if its a logical or physical issue.  If Gilware is unsuccessful, you still have a chance with them..

Just remember, the more times the drive is accessed, the less chance of getting the data back...
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by:garycase
ID: 17229848
Both DriveSavers and OnTrack are "bigger boys" in Data Recovery than Gillware.   But both of them have costs starting near $2,000 and going up from there.   Gillware charges about 20% of that ==> and if your drive is one they cannot recover, they will let you know up front; and will even forward the drive to OnTrack for you.   They may be the "little guy" => but they ARE good.
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by:_Mr_Limo
ID: 17230124
so, gary, how long with Gilware?

:)
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by:garycase
ID: 17230495
... no connection whatsoever.   I a retired old guy in Texas;  they're a data recovery company in Wisconsin.   I "found" them when hunting for a place for a friend to recover some data from a disk that had some very important files from his business on it => and they got ALL of his data back for him.   I've recommended them to quite a few folks on EE, and a couple of other folks in the local area (I get a lot of requests for help) --> and have had very good feedback from those who have used them.   In a "former life" I've used OnTrack -- who I also can recommend as an excellent company --> but in that "former life" the cost wasn't particularly relevant.   If I had a drive I needed to recover data from (a very unlikely event ==> I am VERY well backed up at all times), I would definitely send the drive to Gillware.   If they couldn't recover it, THEN I would have to decide whether or not to send it off to OnTrack or DriveSavers.   Personally, I don't have ANY data on a disk that I'd spend $2,000+ to recover !!
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by:eachdaythewiser
ID: 17232012
Alright. I'll send it off then with a 250 I have around and just hope for the best. I'll keep you all posted.
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by:eachdaythewiser
ID: 17369061
alright i have been busy lately but i am going to send it off soon with the other drive. Just dont want anyone to think this is an abandoned question. Far from it.
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by:garycase
ID: 17369183
Thanks for the status => let us know how it works out.
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by:Crapshoot70
ID: 17517019
I have a similar problem to this, exact same thing happened to me.  I moved a hard drive from an older P3 based system to a new Core 2 Duo system and CHKDSK took forever to run saying that certain sectors of the disk were unreadable.  The disk was completely fine prior to running the CHKDSK.

Honestly, it doesn't make me feel good having to read all this since I'm pretty much in the same boat, and I really would like my data back but it's not worth enough to go to a data recovery professional.  I think that Microsoft should have to pay for it since it's their fault, if they were capable of creating working software both you and myself wouldn't be in this mess and I'm sure we're not the only ones, I'm sure there are several people who have also had this same problem.

Just wondering if anyone has any other suggestions, or has come across this same problem.  Also Eachdaythewiser, please keep us up to date on your progress.
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by:eachdaythewiser
ID: 17517891
Progress right now is i'm looknig for work to pay for all this. I'm 21 and studying and I barely have money to consider something like this, after car problems I blew alot of the money I planned to use to recover my data, so in due time I will have the money to do it again, but when I have a chance, I will update this. I'm not going anywhere. I made an account on EE just for this and still pay that account, so unless my account is dead, i'm still going to reply.
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by:Crapshoot70
ID: 17518097
Did they end up quoting you?  How much is it going to cost.  I too am 21 and in University, and it's going to be hard to find the money to pay for this, then again I am still assessing whether or not it might be worth the cost.

I can't believe all this was because of a bad CHKDSK, next time I see that happening I'm going to shut down the computer and yank the drive immediately.  Luckily for me only one folder is corrupt, but unfortunately it's my most recent data, months worth of work that I don't want to have to redo, but just might have to because of a stupid problem with CHKDSK.
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by:garycase
ID: 17518192
Okay youngsters ... learn your lesson well:  ALWAYS have any important data on at least two different disk drives AND on a backup DVD !!   You can get a 320GB external drive these days for just over $100.   And it's simple to automate your data backups with free tools like Karen's Replicator or SyncBack.

Crapshoot70 => I know eachdaythewiser has tried it;  but have you tried GetDataBack on your drive?  It has a very high success rate => and the free download will "show" you what it can recover (you'll have to buy it to actually recover the data).
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by:Crapshoot70
ID: 17589846
Ok, well I don't know if this will help you or not now, but I have a very similar problem to the one you are talking about.  Apparently taking the hard drive from the old machine and putting it into the new one is what caused the slow CHKDSK, because when I put the hard drive in the old computer (Pentium 3) that I was using it in before I built my new one and all the files are intact.  Which kinda leads me to my next question...why?

Why is it that the files are readable on one computer, but not readable on another.  Both are formatted with Windows XP, one is SP2, the other I believe is not however, but this shouldn't cause files to be unreadable.

Anyways, I hope you're having some good luck.  Right now I am really relieved, now I just have to see if I can get the files onto a new hard drive I just bought.
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by:garycase
ID: 17589951
"... one is SP2, the other I believe is not ..." ==>  If the drive is larger than 137GB (128GB in "computerese") that would explain why one system would read it okay (the one with SP2) and the other would not (the one without the service pack).

... if that's not the issue, it may be a function of needing to "take ownership" of the files and folders on the disk.

... in any event, it sounds like you're able to access what you need => so be sure to save them in a secure backup location :-)
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by:Crapshoot70
ID: 17592023
Thanks for the response gary.  I forgot about that, and that was my original reasoning for why it didn't work it must have just slipped my mind.  I still don't understand why it works that way however.  I mean it is an old P3-based computer, but I was under the impression that the whole 137GB issue was resolved with the release of Windows XP, not SP2.

After reading some documentation on the Microsoft support site, I guess that's just how it is.  So if I were to put this in a computer with Windows installed, but without SP2 installed would the files be readable since anything beyond 137GB is inaccessible?

Also if the files have been written beyond the addressable limit of 137GB, why is it that they can still be read with SP2, or any OS for that matter?

Thanks.
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by:garycase
ID: 17592803
Crapshoot70 => Your questions are "hijacking" this thread ... so if you want to continue this dialogue you should ask a question r.e. YOUR issue.  Doesn't need to be a lot of points (50 is fine) ... just a question to separate your issue from this thread.   Just compose a summary of your issue and post a question and I'll be glad to write a detailed note about it.   Post a note here with a link to the question so I'll get a notification when it's there.
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