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Can't access hard drive in Dell Inspiron Laptop

Posted on 2008-06-20
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Customer dropped laptop.  It was coming up with a BSOD with a stop code about "hive cannot be found..."  I ran SpinRite 6.0 overnight.  It said there was a ridiculous amount of time remaining so I stopped it.  I rebooted the laptop and everything appeared normal.  I knew there were problems with the drive, so I asked windows to check/repair.  That was probably where I screwed up!  It found and "repaired" bad clusters for hours!!!  However, when it finished, Windows would no longer load.

What I have tried:
1. tried accessing the drive via USB/Sata cable.  It does recognize the drive but hangs my PC.
2. tried using the XP CD to repair but it can't see the drive
3. tried to use the Hitachi diagnostics but it hangs at "Loading DFT..."

I'm pretty sure this drive needs to be replaced.  So, my main concern now is trying to salvage the docs/pics on it.  Of course, she had no backup!
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Question by:cwilliambrown
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by:WallD
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I suspect the drive is lost seeing you cant access the drive, if you can I would suggest runtime.org 's getbackdata, you can try it for free to see if you can recover any data then pay the licence fee if the data is recoverable. You will need to mount the drive via a second machine.

Another option may be to use a knoppix boot disk, then see if you can get the data of, this would of course be free.

Other wise its off to a data recovery company like OnTrack http://www.ontrackdatarecovery.com/
 
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by:cwilliambrown
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My personal laptop can see the drive if I connect it via USB/sata cable.  It recognized the drive type, installed drivers, etc.  Even assigned a drive letter.  When I try to open it, however, it says inaccessible, after several minutes of trying.

I'm wondering if a utility like DiskPatch would help?
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by:Journer
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the drive is most likely toast, but heres what i would try:
1) put the drive in the freezer (yes, the one in the kitchen) for a few hours (inside an anti-static bag of course)
2) boot it up and run spin right.  i know it takes a while, but it is a great program that really works.
3) after that throw it back in the freezer
4) hook it back up and see if you can access it

is there a lot of clicking or odd nosies coming from the drive? when a drive has been dropped, there is only so much software can do to try an recover it.  if that data is very important, you might need to send it off (as the other poster suggested)
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by:cwilliambrown
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Knoppix can see the 3 partitions on the drive but cannot access the one with the users data.  It says it was "force mounted", a window opens but no files are there.  The status at the bottom says it is "stalled."

Is anyone familar with DiskPatch?  I'm thinking I may give it a try.  I hate to pay $70 without knowing it will work but I'm sureI can use the utility in the future.

I might give SpinRite another try tonight.  When I said it had a crazy amount of time left, I'm talking 2000 hours!?!
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by:Journer
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I have never used disk patch so i don't know.  knoppix isn't going to be able to read the drive because it is courrpted (at least on that parition).  You need to use a tool that searches for errors and tries to fix them.  Spin Right has always worked best for me.  It might say it takes 2000 hours but usually it takes around 4-24...sometimes a little longer.  But, if the data is important, I would try it.  It is a very sophisticated program and has a lot of complex code that tries to fix the problem.  All written in assemly too so it is very low level stuff.

If you don't want to use a tool that takes a long time to fix it, try the freezer trick and then knoppix (or similar) to try an access.  
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by:cwilliambrown
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btw, the drive is not noisy at all.  

Guess I'll try the freezer trick over the weekend!
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by:cwilliambrown
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SpinRite has been running 23 hours.  It says 0% complete and nearly 3000 hours remaining.  SHould I continue to let it run?
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by:Journer
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hmmm....it's possible that it is still off.  i would let it run for another 24, maybe.  This drive must be pretty badly damaged.  Have you tried the freezer trick yet?
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by:cwilliambrown
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I let it run another 10 hours and finally stopped it.  It said it had completed something like .48%.  I did it in the freezer better I started it but didn't bother to put it back afterwards.  Unfortunately she will just have to chalk this one up to a lesson well learned (always backup)!

I'm gone to see if there is anyway I can clone the disk using this new utility (DiskPatch) I just bought.  If I can get the raw data onto a drive I can access, I might be able to salvage some of her docs/pics.
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Journer earned 350 total points
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yah, if you did the freezer trick and SR couldn't get anywhere, I would say it is gone.  I've never used DiskPatch, but after reviewing their website, I'm leaning towards saying it won't work. From what I can tell, it uses a similar method to recovering data as SR.  It searches for bad information at the very low level and uses extra sectors (built in to every HD from the manufacturer) to try and move the information.  This tool could be different, but again, I don't think you are going to get the results you want.  It is easily possible that the head crashed into the platter and put a nice big scar on it.  If that is the case, data recovery is going to be practically impossible with a software solution.  The only way I could see it working is if this tool was able to read enough information, copy it to a good hard drive, and use some intense algorithms to try and determine what the lost bits of data was.  

It sounds like her files aren't important enough to justify paying for a recovery service, so I would say, as you did, this is a lesson learned for her.  I'm not sure how your company is servicing her, but you might want to offer some backup solution that is easy for her to use.  Unfortunately, I've had customers in the past who lost data the same way, only to come back a couple months later with the same issue, yet they never started backing up, despite my reccomendations.  I found it easier to provide them with a couple websites (for online) and backup drive reccomendations (like a WD myBook) that they could easily understand.

Anyways, please tell us if that disk patch tool worked.
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by:cwilliambrown
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Diskpatch does seem to be very similar to SR.  I tried using it but it essentially had the same results as SR.  There were so many errors that it would run for hours (30+) and never really get anywhere.  DP has a clone tool, so I tried cloning the bad drive to a good drive and then attempted to recover data from the good drive.  It ran for over 24hours and only got 65% of the drive cloned.  However, when trying to recover, I only found a few files from Dell's utility partition.  

I popped the new drive in today and started up the recovery CD.  It was up in no time.  I'm in the process of installing updates, drivers, etc right now.

I guess the thing that kept me at this so long was the fact that, at one point, after partially running SR, the laptop did boot into windows.  I could see her docs, pics, etc.  I should have immediately copied them at that point but I mistakingly thought SR had repaired the problem.  But it's obvious the the drive was severely damaged after all the work I've done since.

Thanks for all of the help.  Although WallD replied first and had some valid info, I'm going to give Journer the majority of the points for sticking it out with me!   Thanks guys!!!
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by:cwilliambrown
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Thanks again!
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by:WallD
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Thnx
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