Hard-disk vanishes in Windows, i/o problems, dd_rescue reports numerous bad blocks, identifying the problem and how to recover?

Hello experts,

I've been having a problem with my WD SATA 250 GB hard-drive for some time.
I will describe symptoms, and I hope you can help me identifying the problem, and suggest me on data recovery (there's enough free software available, for Linux, DOS a Windows, so unless it's a  hardware failure that cannot be fixed, I'd prefer using available tools).

I am using Windows XP SP3.
Several months ago, I noticed that after waking up the computer from Sleep Mode, one of the 3 SATA drives is missing from Explorer and Device Manager. BIOS detects the disk and it is visible in Linux (although recently it hasn't been mountable). It has 1 NTFS partition (fully on 250GB).

Sometimes, doing "Refresh" in the Device Manager, brings the disk back.

Mostly, I can see the full directory structure and list the files.
I can also copy some files off the drive, but when I am trying to write files on the drive, or read some files, the operation stalls, after a while I get an error message (from the task-bar error balloon) saying "Delayed write failed", and the device disappears. Again, it can be brought back by rebooting or refreshing device manager.

Using any data recovery software for Windows won't help, because as soon as it reached the problematic region of the disk, the error occurs, disk vanishes, and the recovery software is left with nothing to do.

Another thing that happens to this drive is heating. Compared to other drives, it is much warmer, especially on the electric circuit area, but on the back side as well.
Currently, the HD is standing in front of a big fan, outside of the computer, so it's quite cool.

I switched to Linux, and I am currently in the process of trying to recover everything with dd_rescue to another 250 GB empty drive (formatted for NTFS, but no data on it).

After 2.9 GB of data that was copied without any problem, the bad blocks started showing, and in the last 24  hours, it reached only 3.8 GB.
I am using default settings for block sizes and everything.
I am logging the bad block numbers, and it seems that there is a pattern.

In most occurences (and I haven't been through the entire 5.5k bad blocks log), It seems that there are 7 bad blocks in a row, followed by a gap (sometimes 50 blocks, sometimes 2000 blocks, etc.)
It's not always the case, but almost always it is.
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Boris AranovichSenior Software EngineerAsked:
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Davis McCarnConnect With a Mentor OwnerCommented:
I primarilly use Winhex because it works at a low level and gives me a report of the unreadable sectors when it has finished; but, hate to reccomend something you have to pay for.
Odin said it had a low level, block copy option.  Make sure you use it.
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Mohamed OsamaSenior IT ConsultantCommented:
This appears to be some serious phyusical bad blocks ,there is a piece of software that can help  repair / salvage / fix the situation which is called HDD regenerator , there should be a trial version around , but after trying it , I did purchase the software ,Since  I have successfully used this in the past to recover from severe bad blocks, at least the hard drive was good enough till the data recovery was done, give it a go , if this does not work , then I am afraid you may need professional Data recovery services.

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Boris AranovichSenior Software EngineerAuthor Commented:
I'm going to try this software on demo level, if it'll do anything, I might purchase to try it. Cheaper than sending the HDD to any recovery service.
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Boris AranovichSenior Software EngineerAuthor Commented:
Actually, it's really weird what's going on.
HDD Regenerator cannot find any single bad sector, and it's way beyond 11GB already.
There is some problem, since at some parts of the data, it was struggling to read (instead of jumping 1000 sectors every second, it took about 5 seconds for each jump), but now it seems to be working well.
Any idea?
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Davis McCarnOwnerCommented:
The free version of http://www.hdtune.com is part of my "essential security" suite because it lets you inspect the SMART attributes of your drives and the error scan checks for bad sectors.  Because all drives made since the late 90's are supposed to fix themselves, even one red box indicates a crisis.

WD's account for more than 50% of the data recoveries brought to me and you need to be warned that if the reallocated sector map (GLIST) gets corrupted, the drive will permanently dissappear.  Programs like HDD Regenerator or Spinrite are especially dangerous as they ought to monitor those SMART attributes and STOP if they detect problems (PERIOD).

With what you have described; though, rescue is relatively easy.  Get another SATA, 250G drive  ( $46 http://www.mwave.com/mwave/viewspec_v2.asp?scriteria=AA45160 ) and a cloning utility (this one, maybe http://odin-win.sourceforge.net/ )  Clone the failing drive to the replacement, shutdown, disconnect the failing drive, and run chkdsk on the cloned replacement.

I give you 99% odds that everything will be fine as long as the WD doesn't get worse (meaning disconnect it and stop trying to fix it)
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Boris AranovichSenior Software EngineerAuthor Commented:
DavisMcCarn, I will try that Odin-Win tomorrow and will let you know if it worked, but I doubt it, because in Windows, as soon as any read/write error occurs, windows shuts down the device and it cannot be used anymore (unless rebooted).

Only Linux and DOS tools seem to be working without losing the drive during operation.
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Boris AranovichSenior Software EngineerAuthor Commented:
I found a friend who has Winhex. Loading the entire hard disk device, shows hex data.
When I am double-clicking the partition, I am started to get CRC errors (in options, I removed the "read device by operating system").

For example:

Cannot read from Sector 6,292,083 of WDC WD2500YS-01SHB0. Data error (cyclic redundancy check).

That's approximately on 70% of the disk. Up until 60% was read without any problems.
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Boris AranovichSenior Software EngineerAuthor Commented:
Alright, even though there are CRC errors, Winhex seems to be copying MOST of the data!
Thanks a lot.
I couldn't do it with any other DOS/Linux/Windows program, but this one might have saved me!
Thank you SO much!
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Boris AranovichSenior Software EngineerAuthor Commented:
Just saw now, while recovering data, that not only CRC errors, but also I/O errors are found. As long as it skips the problematic blocks and keeps on recovering data, it's great. The most important part was already backed up, so I can already say that job is successful!
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