Trying to recover files from laptop drive. Unrecognized in USB enclosure.

Posted on 2006-07-14
Last Modified: 2008-01-09
I'm having problems getting a desktop computer to recognize a failing 2.5" laptop drive in a 2.5" MadDog USB-2.0 enclosure.

Details (long ... sorry)
A friend has an 18 month old HP Pavilion zv5000 laptop (off warranty). The 80gb Fujitsu 2.5" drive has developed problems, and the laptop won't boot ... almost but not quite.

It gets to the point of showing a screen-saver and icons on the left side, then briefly shows the BSOD (blue screen of death) and then attempts to reboot .... over and over.

The laptop has many .jpg pictures from the friend's Iraq tour-of-duty with great sentimental value. I am trying to recover these pictures, with no success so far.

With the drive installed in the laptop, I've tried the recovery console, safe mode, Last-good-boot, VGA mode, etc. with no success.

I tried doing a "non destructive" reinstall of WinXp-Sp2 (without format) to be able to get to the files, but the CD/DVD appears to also have problems ... getting many error messages about files that can't be copied from CD to drive (from 2 different XP install CD's, so the problem is probably the CD reader or the disk). Iraq is hard on laptops, apparently.

Using the recovery console during a re-installation attempt, I was able to see part of the file system (C:\Windows) but I was asked for an administrative password to see all files. Using just a blank Enter didn't work ... I get "Access Denied" when trying to look at any other subdirectories. I checked with HP tech support, and the default is a blank password, so that should have worked. The idea was to perhaps copy files to a USB device, but I was unable to access the .jpg files.

I removed the drive and took it to a local "DataDoctor" franchise, but the device wasn't visible to their equipment (odd since it almost boots and the recovery console can CD to C:\Windows).

My "best shot" was to put the laptop in a 2.5" MadDog USB-2.0 enclosure and plug it into the Desktop computer. There are two USB cables .... data and power. When the primary USB cable is plugged in, the Desktop recognizes that a Fujitsu drive has been plugged in, and indicates success. However, there is no drive letter assigned, and I can't "get at" the device to copy files. When I unplug the cable, I can hear the drive "spin down" and a LED goes out, so that indicates to me that the device is at least partly alive.

Any suggestions greatly appreciated to get files off the laptop onto the desktop.

Some other approach?
(It doesn't appear that the HP has the ability to boot from USB ... it does have an option to boot from network, but I don't know what that involves.)

How to get a drive letter assigned to the USB enclosure when it is plugged into the Desktop????

Question by:newton-allan
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LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 17113266
First, remember the #1 rule of recovery:  STOP !!   Do NOT use any program that writes anything to the drive (and don't try any more installs, etc.).   That's also the #2, #3, and #4 rule !!

When the USB device is plugged in to the desktop, does Disk Manager give you the "Assign a drive letter" option?   [right-click on My Computer; select Manage; then click on Disk Management; then right-click from within the disk (assuming it shows)]    If so, that may be all you need to do.

... if that works, and you have a drive letter, but still can't access the data; you most likely simply need to "take ownership" of the files.   Post back if that's the case.
LVL 70

Accepted Solution

garycase earned 500 total points
ID: 17113274
... if the above doesn't work;  the changes of recovery are improved if you use a 2.5"->3.5" drive adapter (  and connect the drive directly to an IDE channel in your desktop (you can temporarily disconnect your optical drive for this).

If you try this, and can then "see" the drive with a letter (after perhaps assigning one with Disk Management) then all is well.

If that still doesn't work, you need a good recovery program.   I'd suggest GetDataBack from ==>  it's not free, but the trial version is, and it will show you what it can recover before you have to buy a license (to actually recover it).
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 17113283
... finally, if none of the above work, it's time for a professional data recovery outfit.   I recommend Gillware at   They are very reasonably priced (by data recovery standards -- $378.99), and have a "no recovery, no fee" option.   HOWEVER, from the problem you've described, I'm fairly confident you will NOT need to go this far -- I suspect you'll easily be able to recover the files by either directly connecting the drive to an IDE channel; or with GetDataBack.
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Author Comment

ID: 17113998
Good advice about STOP!

Also, thanks for the info about the 2.5"->3.5" adapter. I wasn't aware this kind of connector existed, but that would be definitely be more of a "direct" connection than a USB 2.5" enclosure.

>> When the USB device is plugged in to the desktop, does Disk Manager give you the "Assign a drive letter" option?   [right-click on My Computer; select Manage; then click on Disk Management; then right-click from within the disk (assuming it shows)]    If so, that may be all you need to do.

With WinXp .... no "Assign a drive letter" message. My impression is that not seeing such a message is indicative of "A Bad Thing".

I connected the USB 2.5" enclosure to a partition with Win2000-SP4 and was able to get a drive letter. However, whenever I clicked on the drive, it gives a message that is equivalent to "Unformatted drive ... do you want to format?" (which I cancel). Again, a Bad Thing. Bummer.

I've downloaded the GetDataBack demo and will give it a try. Again, thanks. However, I suspect that GDB won't be able to "see" the drive in the 2.5" enclosure and therefore not even be able to get started.

On the Desktop, I can use the DELETE key during boot to get to the CMOS setup, and the 2.5" enclosure is visible .... it shows up as one of the options to boot from ... but any attempt to boot from it didn't even get to the point of "Bad partition ... system file(s) missing" ... the boot just hung.

I don't think the professional recovery by Gillware is an option because of the cost, but thanks again for the link.

Looks like the 2.5" to 3.5" adapter is the best bet.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 17114455
From what you just described I think a 2.5"->3.5" adapter along with GetDataBack is your best option.   Since the laptop was booting "almost" to the desktop, the drive IS readable to some extent;  so it's fairly likely that GetDataBack will be able to "do it's magic" and recover the files.   Get an adapter -- and cross your fingers :-)
LVL 88

Expert Comment

ID: 17114499
I believe you will be able to access your data with getdataback, so i suggest you try that first like gary has shown. I don't use windows XP home, so I'm not sure if that could be the reason you can't assign driveletters. What I do know about XP home is that in order to be able to many things you need to be administrator, and to be able to login as administrator you need to boot into safe mode, so you can try that.

Back to the laptop, once you have the data recovered, you could try returning the disk to it then get a copy of the UBCD, boot the laptop with that and first test the memory with memtest86+ which is on that CD. Very often when trying an installation and you get errors copying files, this isn't because the CD drive isn't working, but rather because the RAM is bad. I have a feeling that is the case with your laptop, and possibly after you have removed the bad memory module(s) the installation may work without problems. This CD you can also use to test the HD with, as the manufacturer's testing tools are included, and if you want you can also use it to lowlevel format or zero fill the disk. But if the RAM tests bad and after you have replaced it, you can probably go on with the repair installation you started off with.

Author Comment

ID: 17125438
The 2.5" to 3.5" adapter worked!

On the Desktop (WinXp-Pro-Sp2), there was a drive letter, and I was able to directly copy files (didn't need GetDataBack). I put the files on a DVD, and will proceed to re-format the laptop drive and re-install the o/s, then put back the files.

The GetDataBack didn't work well when the laptop drive was in the USB-2.0 enclosure. I speculate that was because Win2k uses an older, incompatible version of NTFS. The laptop has the WinXp version of NTFS. When I used GetDataBack, it attempted to recover files for about an hour, then detected and error, and finished shortly thereafter, with no files detected.

I ran a utility from Maxtor to check the laptop drive. The SMART utility indicates the laptop hard-drive is ok.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 17125484
Glad it worked.   As I noted, the adapters with a direct connection to an IDE channel work much better than using external USB adapters.

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