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I desperately need to recover files after a reformat

Posted on 2009-04-04
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Last Modified: 2012-05-06
Hello experts,

I usually keep my desktop computer on all the time.  It was running fine last night but when I woke up this morning I noticed a blue screen of death.  The error said, "UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME".  I googled it on my laptop and came to this url:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/297185

Because it seemed to be exactly what was happening on my desktop.  I went through the steps on it, did the chckdsk /r and the fixboot commands, but still nothing worked I would still get the blue screen when I restarted.  One thing strange that I noticed though, was that my windows repair utility when the system booted off the widnows installation cd only told me that there was a windows installation on the D: drive.  I have 2 drives in my computer, one is an older one that has an installation of XP and the other is a drive that I purchased less than a year ago, which is my main one.  The main one is naturally drive C: and the older hard drive has always been drive D:.  Now, since the repair utility from the Windows CD only told me there was an option to run chkdsk and fixboot as the article suggested on the D:, it made me start to think the C: drive had issues.  Well, I decided then to reinstall windows over the previous windows installation on the C drive, because I've done that before and it repaired other issues ok.  When it came time to select the partition of which drive to install the new installation of windows, it told me that there was an empty partition on C:.  The new hard drive that is the C: is a 300gb SATA drive, and it was telling me that 300gb of free space was available.  This really, really sucks.  So I decided to install the new installation of windows on the empty partition on the C drive, and it is now reformatting the drive!!!  Is there any possible way to recover the files on there!?  I am such a fool for not having any backups of the drive on hand.  Within the last hour I have ordered a 1 Terrabyte external hard drive from amazon.com because I have vowed that this kind of a scare will never, ever happen to me again, but is it too late?  The format that it's doing right now is a full format, not the fast one, which I have read makes it harder to recover files but not all the way impossible.  Is there a solution that isn't expensive?  I very much appreciate help and advice.

Thank you!
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Question by:Gewgala
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Accepted Solution

by:
skywalker39 earned 400 total points
ID: 24068650
Hi Gewgala,

Here's a link to check to recover your files:
http://www.easeus.com/landing/format-recovery.htm?gclid=CJHoubX315kCFRAMDQodtDSrVA


Hope this works.
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Author Comment

by:Gewgala
ID: 24068724
I feel like such an idiot, lol.  Grrr I hate that this has happened.  Do I allow windows to finish installing after the reformat is done?  It's still reformatting, it's taking a while because it's a 300gb drive.  When windows is done installing to I then purchase this and install it and hope it works?
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Assisted Solution

by:skywalker39
skywalker39 earned 400 total points
ID: 24068759
Here's some information for you to read about this product before you do anything else. Here's the link: http://www.easeus.com/datarecoverywizard/do-data-recovery.htm
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Assisted Solution

by:dbrunton
dbrunton earned 50 total points
ID: 24068777
Your best bet is to slave this hard disk into another computer.  Installing recovery software on it is only going to make the task harder as the software will take up space where possibly the missing data is.

Try GetDataBack http://www.runtime.org/  Free to try.  If it sees the missing files you pay for full functionality.

Also look at PCInspector http://www.pcinspector.de/file_recovery/UK/welcome.htm and Recuva http://www.recuva.com/

Both are free.

I'd try GetDataBack.  If it sees your files then try the free ones.  If they work you save money.
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Assisted Solution

by:garycase
garycase earned 50 total points
ID: 24068918
Reformatting a drive with important data on it wasn't (as you know) the best choice => it would have been far preferable to remove the drive and attach it to another PC as a slave drive, and then run recovery software.   I suspect you won't make that mistake again :-)

But since you've already reformatted it ...

==>  The #1 rule of data recovery is STOP !!   Do not do anything to the drive -- don't try to boot from it; don't write to it; don't run Chkdks; etc.   However ... Don't simply yank power to stop it (losing power during a write can make this even worse, depending on exactly what the drive's doing at the instant of power loss) ... but if you can abort the install, go ahead and do so => the less that's written to the drive, the better.

=>  The two best products for recovering your data have already been noted in previous comments:  Easeus has an excellent record for recovering formatted partitions; and GetDataBack is overall the best of the reasonably-priced data recovery programs [OnTrack's Easy Recovery Pro is superb ... but costs a lot more.].   Since your issue is likely more than a simple inadvertent (or even intentional) reformat, you'll likely have more luck with GetDataBack ... although since both products have free demo downloads you may want to try Easeus first, since it's a bit less expensive.

... but in either case, DO NOT do anything else to your drive => attach it to a functioning system and then run the recovery software on that system.   Note also that these recovery packages require that you have ANOTHER drive to store the recovered data on (No good recovery software will write to the disk it's working on) ... so it's a good thing you've got a nice large drive enroute.

==>  Once you've recovered your data and are ready to reinstall Windows, you should consider the following:   Install Windows to a modest-size partition (For XP 40GB is plenty; for Vista I'd use 50GB ... in either case a bit more is fine if you'd like); then create a 2nd partition for the rest of the drive; and relocate My Documents (XP) / Documents (Vista) to that partition.   Once you've got the system fully installed/ updated/ all your programs installed/ etc. make an IMAGE of the OS partition and save it on (a) the 2nd partition (I always store it in a folder called OSIMages) and (b) on your external drive (so if the drive itself failed you have a fully-configured backup).    If you keep the OS and data segregated like that, then if you ever have any major problems (virus, malware, disk corruption, etc.) you can simply restore your image and there's NO impact on your data.   Of course you also need to keep backups of your data, so if the disk itself was to fail you'd have copies of that.   But data's simple to backup ... any of the good freeware synchronization utilities (SyncBack, Replicator, etc.) will easily do that (I use SyncBack & have it automatically run at 4:00 AM every day).   You don't need to update your image very often -- a few times a year is plenty -- but you do want to do so anytime you've made major changes to the system (installed new programs, etc.).
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Author Comment

by:Gewgala
ID: 24069016
Yes, you are absolutely right, I will never make such a foolish decision again.  The funny thing is that I had this inclination to take it out and have my computer boot off of my other hard disk, but did I do that?  No.  So stupid of me.

Anyway, I have Easus demo version scanning the now reformatted drive which is a secondary drive.  It has been running for about 45 minutes now and says it has a time remaining of 1 hour and 35 minutes.  So far it says it has found a total file count of (and keeps growing every second) 231,254 files and has identified 42,402 (which also keeps growing) of them.  I think that's a good sign, right?

I don't want to wait until Monday to copy the files over (the current drive I'm booting off of doesn't have sufficient space to copy the files onto) so I think I'm going to go to Best Buy here in a bit to buy another external drive.  I contemplated buying 2 from amazon earlier today so this will be good anyway.

I can then install that external drive on my current good hard drive that I am booting off of and then choose to copy the files from the bad drive to the new external, right?
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LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 24069087
It could happen that found files are unreadable, particularly when CHKDSK did its dirty job. So insure yourself. Your idea of buying new HDD to copy data to it is correct. At the same time I recommend you using some free utilities like Recuva and PSinspector.
http://www.recuva.com/
http://www.pcinspector.de/Sites/file_recovery/info.htm?language=1
These tools could help you if easus fails to restore the data.
Also, the fact that you formatted the drive does not mean that your data is erased, to erase it you have to use wipe or overwriting which is not your aim as far as I could get you =)
I would try the following:
Connect the drive as slave to working PC.
Delete the newly formatted partition and then apply Undelete Partition to the empty space. Most possibly it will find two partitions, empty one and one which is your old partition with data on it.
Many partitioning software has Undelete option included. Just search for it. My Partition Manager 9.0 has it and did the trick many times when my customers managed (how do they manage that???) to format or delete drive in Windows.
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Expert Comment

by:Wayne Barron
ID: 24069117
are you installing Windows on the driver that you have just lost the data on?
If so, then you may not be able to safely recover your lost data.

Most data recovery programs specifically state that the data that you are trying to recover.
Not be on the OS partition. And that you run the program on another partition other then the one that you are trying to recover your data from.

I have had this happen in the past.
And used NTFS GetBackData = http://www.runtime.org/data-recovery-software.htm
(Mentioned by: dbrunton)
And though I was able to recover over 75% of my files.
Most were corrupted.
Meaning:
Files had information within them from other files.

I do wish you the very best in this, as I know what you are going through.
Good Luck
And hope that someone's links will help you to at least get some of it back.

Carrzkiss
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Expert Comment

by:garycase
ID: 24069119
Yes, once you buy a license to actually recovery the files (the demo will just show you what it can get -- but won't actually get them), you can select the destination for the recovered files => which can be an external drive.

... and it's certainly a good sign that it's finding lots of files :-)

There is one other alternative recovery utility that's less expensive than the above, and will actually recover the partition in place [It doesn't copy and/or recover data -- it simply restore the partition information].   http://www.partition-recovery.com/    I've used this for a friend who did a similar inadvertent reformatting and it worked perfectly.   I didn't suggest it before, because it sounds like your drive likely has more than just a missing partition, since you were having problems before you did the reformat => but if you want to run the demo against the drive and see what it shows, it may save you the expense of an additional hard drive.    In general, I do not like recovery programs that write to the drive being recovered => but in this case it only writes to the partition table; so IF it shows the correct partion info during its scan, it's reasonably safe to do that [Even if it messed up, the data would still be intact for the more robust recovery software].   Up to you if you want to try it ... running the demo scan won't hurt anything (it doesn't write anything) => you could base your decision on the results of that scan.
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Expert Comment

by:dbrunton
ID: 24069177
>> I can then install that external drive on my current good hard drive that I am booting off of and then choose to copy the files from the bad drive to the new external, right?

Yes.

>> I think that's a good sign, right?

Hopeful.  Depends on what may have been written to the disk at those locations.  You won't know until you actually view the files.

And note garycase's comments above.
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Author Closing Comment

by:Gewgala
ID: 31566624
Thanks again everyone.  I was able to get most everything back with the easeus data recovery wizard.    I awarded most points to skywalker39 for being the first to point me to the software that ended up saving me but I also awarded dbrunton and garycase for elaborating on the process.  Many thanks to everyone for assisting my desperate cry for help!
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Expert Comment

by:skywalker39
ID: 24123912
Thank you Gewgala!
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