Need to recover from dieing hard drive

Posted on 2006-11-25
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-27
I Have a sata 400gig hard disk which has gone bad.  I had a backup of all but about 30gig of information that I had inadvetantly left off the backup schedule.

The disk can be seen in the BIOS but will not allow the OS to fully boot when it is attached even though it is not the boot drive. Tried in 2 different PC's and same problem.

I bought a copy of Spinrite which appears to be detecting and recovering the bad sectors near the start of the disk. Problem is it is taking hours and hours to do about 30 meg. I initially did a level 2 pass and it completed to the end (28 hours) and reported a number of fixes along the way. Problem was it still had the same issue and will not allow xp to boot when connected (PC hangs). Take it off and the pc boots again no problem.

I tried running the analysis again on level 4 and it came up with errors again at the start and then took hours again not getting very far at all. It seems that it may be getting bad again and again near the start.  I have tried starting the level 4 analysis at say 25% and it runs through without errors.

Given I only want a small part of the disk back I don't really need to recover the whole thing. Additionally it seems that just the start of the disk is having repeating issues. What I need is a recovery program that can create a boot CD which I can boot from (As I cannot get into windows with the drive attached) and then allow me to selectively recover the files that I want hopefully avoiding the mess there seems to be at the beginning).

From researching posts I can't see such a program. I really don't want to have to leave this recovery going for what could be weeks on level 4 (yes really) when I need this data faster than that. I realise there are data recovery services however if at all possible I'd simply like to recover myself.

Frustrating that Spinrite can read all the data from say 25% but gives no options to copy off to any disk etc (with smarts to tie into the NTFS etc)...

Is there anything out there that can selfboot (no windows) and allow selective recovery of part of a disk?
Question by:slater27
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LVL 16

Expert Comment

ID: 18011511
If you have access to second computer, easy connect your drive as second disk and try to read it. Or buy a new one , install OS again and connect your disk.
Be aware with data recovering programm, they can delete all your data if will be used wrong recovering algorithm.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 18011553
Although a direct connection is best for data recovery, if the disk is readable in the area's you want to recover data from (no guarantee of that), then hook it up to an external SATA-USB adapter cable (http://insidecomputer.stores.yahoo.net/seatasatousb.html) ... or to an external case for a SATA drive.   Then you can safely "hot plug" the drive after your PC is on; and you MAY be able to read the data via the SATA-USB bridge.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 18011556
... by the way, it's normal for Spinrite to run for MANY hours if it hits some really bad areas of the disk.   The "Dynastat" process takes a long time ... and runs for EVERY bad sector it encounters.
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LVL 88

Expert Comment

ID: 18011713
And sometimes it also helps running it a couple of passes.

A lot of SATA mainboards are already hotswappable, so you could just try adding the drive when windows is up!
LVL 11

Assisted Solution

AlexanderR earned 400 total points
ID: 18012424
Two things to try.  Both worked for me.

Windows for some reason is trying to read the whole table at once upon boot up (or insertion of external storage). That takes time and if partition table is corrupt this process is going to hang the whole system as it will not give up reading it, and probably make things worse in the process.
What i did in that case was to boot into some linux distro (any at all, that understands NTFS, all of them these days), mount the drive if isnt already and copy stuff over (preferably one by one).  Linux puts less stress on partition table. Got all the stuff recovered that way when windows would just helplessly hang. And no specialized software required.

There is also another way, but its risky, so before doing it oppinion of other experts is needed.

If beginning of hard disk is damanged (which is the worst place of all) then computer will not respond. Reason is, OS is trying to read partition table which is located at the beginning of the drive which is the area where it is damaged.  It can't so it stops.

In that case you have to make the OS think its empty so it stopps bothering with it until its better time and way to do so.

My suggestion is to erase the partition and its table so drive appears blanck. OS should but successfuly as it wont even trying getting into something it doesnt understand (blank for that matter).  Once you booted up, fire up my life-savior - GetDataBack for NTFS and let it scan the drive. It will find files that are still written on the surface of disk which you can then copy to your working place.
LVL 70

Accepted Solution

garycase earned 400 total points
ID: 18012739
"... A lot of SATA mainboards are already hotswappable, so you could just try adding the drive when windows is up! " ==> BAD idea.   Unless both the drive and the controller support hotswapping, this can blow the drive electronics; the controller; or both.   Using a SATA-USB bridge is MUCH safer.

"... erase the partition and its table so drive appears blanck ..." ==> ALSO a BAD idea !!  Intentionally destroying information about the structure of the drive will make recovery more difficult ... not less.   There was a case here on EE a few weeks ago where someone intentionally FORMATTED the drive thinking the same thing --> I have no idea where these ideas come from ... but they are NOT a good idea for a drive that needs data recovered.   The #1 rule of recovery is to STOP ==> do NOTHING that writes to the drive.   The one exception to that is Spinrite ... which does not write anything to the file system of the drive; and writes the exact same data back to each sector that was originally there except for sectors that are already defective and unreadable ... and in those cases the Dynastat process MAY recover the original data.   But otherwise, do NOTHING that writes to the drive ==> certainly no formatting; no partition table modification; no "Chkdsk"; and no recovery program that attempts an in-place recovery (NO good recovery program does that).

Booting to a Linux distribution is a good idea ... Linux may very well be able to read the data you need if it will boot okay with the drive connected.

Author Comment

ID: 18013243
Well the board and drive does support being hot swapped however this does not work. As soon as you do it the PC hangs. Presumably because windows is saying hey heres a new drive lets read the partion information  and then encountering bad sectors and dieing like Alexander and garycase are eluding to. So any form of windows application WILL NOT WORK. Tried on two separtate winxp installs and same issue - locks up the os upon connection.

Anyway probably the best windows program for the recovery is Getdataback IF I could boot to windows however this would not work either as it DOES NOT support SATA drives.

Linux distribution may be an idea however if its the file table in NTFS is corrupted then LInux won't be able to read it either?  IS there a Linux program that could do the recovery? Is Linux non destructive when simply connecting the drive (ie: Doesn't try to write anything on connect).  I've had zero experience with Linux but very experienced on Wintel so any pointers for best way of doing a multiboot to include a Linux install would be usefull.

From the responses it also looks like there doesn't appear to be any other bootable program that deals with SATA disks other than spinrite? Thanks for all your replies so far.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 18013454
"... would not work either as it DOES NOT support SATA drives ..." ==> SURE IT DOES !!  It supports IDE, SCSI, SATA, USB, Firewire, and a variety of other drive types (dynamic disks, zip, jazz, smart media cards, etc.).
LVL 88

Assisted Solution

rindi earned 200 total points
ID: 18013464
A knoppix livecd doesn't write anything to the disk, in this OS everything is read-only by default and you have to change that manually. You might be able to us DD to copy the disk to another, or partimage, which allows you to make images of your disk, but if i'm not mistaken, your partition info will have to at least be known to linux. If you can clone you disk to another in that way, you could then try inspecting the newly cloned disk for your data. One problem you may have is that I've had some problems with some sata controllers not being supported by the builtin knoppix drivers, so you may have to use a floppy with the driver module when booting.

Hot swapping disks to a mainboard that supports that isn't a problem, but of course you first have to make sure your hardware does support that.

Author Comment

ID: 18013537
Sorry it was another program I was thinking of that doesn't support SATA...you are correct garycase...


Author Comment

ID: 18016237
Found a solution myself. Found that getdataback supports a bartpe install off cd. Booted off that and saw the disk ok. Selected files to recover and copied off...  Easy.  

As no one actually gave me this solution I've simply split the points across those who at least provided some useful information. Thanks.  

Graded C because if you look at my original question:
"Is there anything out there that can selfboot (no windows) and allow selective recovery of part of a disk? "

The answer is simply:
getdataback using bartpe bootable xp.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 18016559
BartPE is, of course, Windows :-)

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