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Multiple unreadable Microsoft Word and Excel files in one folder & subfolders

Posted on 2008-10-20
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Last Modified: 2013-12-26
My hard drive died on my PC, so I restored files from a CD backup. When I tried to open either Word or Excel files in one folder or sub-folder. All the files are unreadable. When opening the Word files, it brings up the "File Conversion"  window. In Excel, it just opens with unreadable characters.

I also have Open Office on the PC and those files in this folder are also unreadable.  When opening a .sxw file it opens an "ASCII Filter Option" window.

Opening the files on the CD results in the same results.

All the Word and Open Office files in other folders are fine. So it doesn't appear to be a problem with the install of MS Office or Open Office.

I ran a Norton Virus Scan on this folder and it shows no errors.

I looked researched on the MS support page and tried their solutions of linking to the files etc and none of that worked. I also can't imagine going through a process with every file, since there are hundreds of them. It would seem that there might be a solution which would solve the problem for all.

Thanks in advance for any assistance offered.
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Question by:wiggintona
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by:redrumkev
ID: 22760866
Wiggintona,

How are you doing?

I think there is a few issues going on here.

1. Possibly, the folder is corrupt (was burnt incorrectly or there is an issue with the disk itself).

2. Are you using the same computer that you orignally burnt the CD on? If the system that crated the disk (or program you used) is not in place, then sometimes the data will not be read corretly. Generally, this is a hardware issue, such as the using one brand of CR-ROM and another, which is not totally compatible with the burning format you used.

3. Can you access these files on another system? If not, then you can rule out the hardware issue and see that it is the disk itself which is corrupt, either recorded the errors duing the burning process or the disk is damaged (which may or may not be visible to the human eye).

Sorry that this is not really a "solution", but recovering that data if it is infact damaged will be impossible.

Hope this helps,
Kevin
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Author Comment

by:wiggintona
ID: 22761650
Thanks Kevin,

1) It's interesting that I have 4 other folders on the CD which don't have a problem. I just tried to open a jpg file in the "problem" folder and it will not open either. Another interesting thing is that when I look at the contents of the folder it groups them with subtitles, by date or letter or type depending on the "view folder" selected.  It doesn't do that on any other folder.

2) I am looking at it on a different PC. However, it is unreadable on the original PC as well. Keep in mind that the original PC hard drive died 2 months after this CD I'm "restoring" from was made. So the original PC's software has been reloaded, but it should have the same CD writing software on it as it had when the CD was made.

3. I've tried accessing these files and three different PC's now and have the same problem with all systems. I do not remember experiencing any problems when the CD was made.

Any additional thoughts are appreciated.

thanks
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by:redrumkev
ID: 22761928
Wiggintona,

I would guess that the folder (or sub folders) are destroyed in its file structure. I have had CD "go bad" in the past. I believe this has to do with the flim on which they are burnt and the fact that the disk can have a breakdown in chemicals or other issues.

One word of advice on future burnings (if you didn't do this on the first one) is always to have the burning program "test/check" the recent burn. Basically, it burns the information to the disk, then goes back and "re-reads" all the data, doing a quick comparison to the original files. This way you know it was successful from the start.

You could try something like this:
http://www.download.com/VirtualLab-Data-Recovery/3000-2248_4-10610841.html?tag=mncol&cdlPid=10801131

A search on download.com showed a lot of CD recovery tools (however I cannot recommend one, since I have never used them).

There is nothing worse than having your data on a disk or within a system but for whatever reason, you cannot get to it, very frustrating, as I have been there before (more than once)!

Let me know if that works for you, worth a try, as many of the downloads have free trials!

Kevin
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Author Comment

by:wiggintona
ID: 22762667
Kevin,

I tried the software you suggested and it didn't work. It "said" that it recovered the file, but there is no difference in the "recovered" file verses the original one.

I tried another "folder" recovery tool and it was unsuccessful as well. Those tools are looking more for orphans then corruption within the file themselves.

I think I'm out of luck.

But thanks for your thoughts.

Jill
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by:redrumkev
ID: 22768645
Jill,

I would say that based on your lastest posting, what was actually burnt to the disk is the incorrect file. Do any of the files start with the ~ symbol? If so, these could be temp files or auto recovery files, which would not be the entire document.

So in short, the disk is probably fine, it is just the data that was actually recorded to it is bad, thus there is nothing to recover, other than the "bad data".

I hate to say it, but yes, I agree you are likely out of luck!

Kevin
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Author Comment

by:wiggintona
ID: 22788796
Kevin,

These are the actual files. They are not temporary files. There are at least 100 of them. Any file which has some type of formatting associated with it, is unreadable (.doc,.xls, jpg). Text files (txt) are readable.

Very strange.

Jill
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Expert Comment

by:redrumkev
ID: 22789639
Jill,

I would guess that the size of the text files (being very small) even in comparison to .doc files, made it through the copy, but something with the file structure is corrupt and thus the other files over a certain size are not readable.

Try opening the folder in windows explorer and sorting by size. The smallest files should be the .txt files, see if there is a cut off point in terms of size where the files will not open. Not that this is a solution, but could be that files under a certain sized were cached during the burning process and made it through correctly, while those over a certain size were left uncached and experienced some sort of error during the burning process, meaning that they are unreadable/unrecoverable files!

Kevin
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Author Comment

by:wiggintona
ID: 22789930
Kevin,

I was wrong. I looked through all the files as you suggested and I found another .txt file which was actually smaller than the first file I looked at and it was unreadable. So the partially written files based on size doesn't quite work. Sorry for the bad info.

I changed one of the .doc files to a .txt file and looked at it with notebook. The words that I could read in the file, were not applicable to the file I was looking at. There were words/phrases in the file, which would not have been in the file. But would have been in another file in the folder.

Therefore it seems to me that the pointers to the data have become corrupted. Does that make sense?

Thanks
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Accepted Solution

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redrumkev earned 250 total points
ID: 22823867
Wiggintona,

Yes, this does make sense, the file structure is/became corrupt during the writing of the CD. It could have been an entire host of reasons (disk skipped, bad media, buffer underrun, incompatible disk, etc).

So the solution to this question is that the data is corrupt and it is not recoverable.

Something I know that no one wants to hear, but does apply in this case is to:

1. Test the backed up CD.
2. Make multiple copies of the same CD
3. Store the CD's in unique locations (in case of fire/theft or simply "losing" the CD).

Of coures these tips above can't help with your current issue, they can help to reduce the risk of data loss in the future, which is a good thing :)

Also - I would invest in a thumb drive, which can be had real cheap. I saw a 2GB drive at Best Buy for $9.99 on sale, which is about the capacitly of 3 CD's and you can even clip it on your key chain, so it goes EVERYWHERE with you. A simple backup solution would be to get two fo these drives, backup your data on the 1st of the month to both. Keep on with you (on your key chain, etc) and put the other in a safe place!

Hope this helps in the future!
Kevin
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Author Closing Comment

by:wiggintona
ID: 31507810
Thanks for you attention to this.
I had already purchased an 8 gig stick but didn't use it in time.
Ah well... it's only data... hopefully I won't need it
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Expert Comment

by:redrumkev
ID: 22834334
Now you have it so that you will be good in the future!

Regards,
Kevin
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