Hard drive damaged, need to recover file

Posted on 2009-07-09
Last Modified: 2012-05-07
I have a hard drive that I am trying to recover a PST file from, however the hard drive is damaged and the damage appears to cover part of where the PST is stored. The file is around 3.2GB in size.

I was able to copy 700MB of data at once by transferring it to an external drive, however every time I try to copy the PST it goes to around 2.16GB left to transfer and stay there. After while explorer.exe crashes and the computer locks up (i can move the mouse around but there are no icons and keyboard combinations such as ctrl-alt-delete do nothing). After awhile explorer.exe comes back but I'm sure the file wasn't copied properly.

I tried attaching the drive to my computer using a hard drive docking station but I have the some problem, except explorer.exe doesn't crash. After it staying at 2.16GB left to transfer for awhile it gives me an I/O error. The same thing happens when trying to copy the file to another place on the hard drive. I tried running chkdsk /r on it from my computer but it gets stuck on 11% completed on step 4 (of 5). I left it running last night and when I came in it was still there. It only takes about 15 minutes or so to get to that point so it was stuck there for a good 16 hours.

Another oddity is that the computer with the hard drive will boot up normally, however it will not reboot into safe mode of any kind. I've tried loading outlook to export a folder at a time to a new PST file, however Outlook locks up every time I try. It will display the folder structure with all the sub folders in the inbox, but it never display any email. It looks for awhile then stops responding and explorer.exe crashes.

I read that refrigerating the hard drive (wrapped in a towel to protect it from water) sometimes helps, so I am giving that a shot. Do you have any ideas other than sending it to a professional data recovery shop?
Question by:birenshukla
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LVL 30

Expert Comment

by:Britt Thompson
ID: 24818618
Try running SprinRite on the looks junky but it's stellar. It will potentially move the data you need off the bad sectors or repair the damage sectors allowing you to get your PST.

Careful with the freezer thing as to not acquire condensation on the drive. I've seen this work from time to time but I've seen it make it worse as well.

Also, Easy Recovery Pro will allow you to find just the PST and recover it :

Good luck.
LVL 26

Expert Comment

ID: 24819297
A second recommendation for SpinRite.  Your issue is EXACTLY what it excels at.

Author Comment

ID: 24819309
The fridge seemed to have no effect. I may need to leave it in there longer or not wrap it as much. I read that putting it in a freezer is much more likely to cause damage and all we have is a fridge anyways.

I tried using spinrite, it stuck on disk init for awhile then spewed out garbage (a bunch of random letters, numbers, and symbols) and stayed there.

Ontrack fails saying out of memory when it runs it's scan. I believe this PC has 4GB of RAM (can't check right now since it is running a scan) so I don't believe that to be an issue.

I tried using Trinity Linux Rescue CD to copy the file or use ddrestore but it only seemed to be mounting the external usb drive as read only and I couldn't get it to connect to any network shares, it kept saying access denied.

I ran the short test on the Seagate SeaTools and it gave me an error saying I should run the Long test which I am now doing and won't know the results of until tomorrow.
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LVL 30

Expert Comment

by:Britt Thompson
ID: 24819499
You have to be very patient with data recovery...Spinrite may take days to complete but you'll be glad you waited. That garbage you see is what Spinrite does. I assume it's the file headers and/or fonts and symbols the software doesn't have so they're substituted.

If it's not making any clicking, whining or clunking noises you'll have a good chance of getting your data back without paying a $1000 for data recovery. If you're not patient you may take it there and they'll use Spinrite to get it off before disassembling it in a clean room.

Good luck.
LVL 15

Accepted Solution

veedar earned 500 total points
ID: 24819895
IMHO to maximize your chances of recovery avoid Spinrite and other apps that write to your already damaged drive. It can potentially create even more damage. Do a search on Spinrite at the place where the recovery pro's hangout.

You want to use read only techniques to create a drive image. Then operate on the image for data recovery.

You were on the right track with ddrescue under Linux. Give that another look.

Another for pay option is R-studio try the free demo
LVL 92

Expert Comment

ID: 24821133
this helped me recover several drives  :      

Author Comment

ID: 24828111
SpinRite never got to the menu screen on this computer, the garbage I was talking about was before it even asked for input from me, it was not in the process of doing a scan (which it is doing right now on another computer just fine).

Thankfully using ddrescue with Trinity Linux Rescue CD was the key. I found the command to mount the ntfs partitions with read and write access. After that ddrescue was able to copy the file. Once it was copied I ran scanpst.exe in the Office 2007 Program Files folder on my computer which was able to repair the PST to a usable state. I'm sure some things are corrupted or missing, but I haven't been able to find any.

Accepting veedar's answer since his post motivated me to try ddrescue again, thanks!

Author Closing Comment

ID: 31601844
See my last comment.

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