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How To Save Data on Corrupted Drive

Posted on 2011-02-25
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
On an HP nx9420 laptop the machine boots to the WindowsXP, a blue screen with text flashes for a micro-second, then it displays the F11 Emergency Recovery option. A WindowsXP reinstall from the CD finds no drive. Safe Mode and Last Known Good Config. both revert to the blue-screen flash. The Emergency Recover option only offers to format the drive.

Before I attempt to reformat the drive or replace it, the user would like me to attempt to save any data if possible. Is it possible to rescue portions of the data?
If so, what are the best options?
I'm assuming the answer is Yes with expensive software.
But perhaps I'm overlooking other options that might completely save the data on the drive; perhaps this is simply a corrupt operating system?


 
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Question by:slamond
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by:rabindrajha
ID: 34981041
what i will suggest, use any live cd like ubuntu or ubcd or whatever and see if the file system is not corrupted. if file system is corrupted you might have to contact data recovery professionals. apart from that see if any bios settings is like sata native mode enable/disable or swithc between AHCI mode or sata mode or ide mode.
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by:Nik
ID: 34981495
Do you have a PC that you can use to connect this drive to or an external disk case for the 2.5" drive.
Then you'll be able to connect it to any other PC and transfer your data to safety.
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BillDL earned 500 total points
ID: 34981834
I suggest just removing the laptop hard drive and inserting it into a cheap and freely available empty external usb hard drive enclosure.  I got one from eBay for what would amount to about $10.  You can also get 2.5 to 3.5 inch IDE converter cables quite readily, or if it has SATA connections I'm sure there will be a compatible connector.

It's easier with a USB external hard drive enclosure, because when you connect the usb cable to a Windows PC it will load in Windows Explorer as a "removeable drive" after Windows recognises it.  As long as you are logged into your PC with full admin rights you will normally be able to see and access the contents of the connected drive without any permission issues.

Be very aware that if the problem on the laptop was anything to do with Malware, then there is the potential for that malware to spread onto your own PC, so ensure that your AntiVirus application is updated and set to scan removeable drives fully on insertion.

The good news is that Windows XP doesn't use those annoying "Junction Points" in user profile folders that act as shortcuts to the real folders you don't see.  If you open:
C:\Documents and Settings\Client\Desktop
then that is the folder you are in, and not just a representation of a folder that exists elsewhere.

Before doing ANYTHING to the affected drive, copy out as much data to logically named folders on your own PC as you can.  The obvious places to start are with each configured user's own "My Documents" contents and sub-folders, and you are obviously looking for images, audio and video files, office documents, etc, etc.  

The Windows Address Book, if they use it, is very easily found by searching for *.WAB files, and you will generally find Outlook Express data by searching for *.DBX files.  It's harder to recover Windows Live Mail data, but if you are using a fairly compatible operating system as the host and are prepared to do it, you might be able to IMPORT the data into your own applications by telling them where on the removeable drive to look.  There are free utility programs that allow you to open, view, and sometimes export, files like registry hive files, Outlook Express DBX files, Skype instant message logs, Windows Live Messenger contacts, etc.  If you need any tips about these I can provide details.

TIP:
Copy only the CONTENTS of all these folders and sub-folders into destination folders on your PC that reflect the names of the actual folders the files were copied from, but not exactly.  For example, DON'T just copy the entire "My Documents" folder over onto your PC, especially if you are using a Windows XP system also.  I suggest creating a folder with a name like "Bills_MyDocs" and then sub-folders in it named MyPics, MyVids, MyMusic, and so on.  For folders that were created by the user and not Windows, then you can copy them, but for the system-created ones like "My Pictures", etc, just copy the files IN those folders to the new "MyPics" folder.

The reason that I suggest this is because of what happens when you reinstall Windows on the affected drive and then copy the backed-up folders like "My Pictures" and folders back into each user's "My Documents" folder and can potentially end up with a real mess.

It isn't easy to just make a comprehensive list of what data to copy out and back up, because different software can create user settings and data in a variety of places, including "project" data in sub-folders of the actual program's folder.  I did make a text file list of common places to look for user data on a Windows XP system a while ago for another question.  It did cover quite a lot and would be a start, if I can find it.  In the end though, the customer has to appreciate that recovering data is a time consuming process that would be chargeable to them, and that you may not have the time to recover absolutely everything for them.  They should really have been backing up important data regularly themselves.

If you can get the drive visible as a usb removeable drive and most of the user profile folders seem to be accessible, contact the owner and ascertain what is important to rescue and what is of secondary or no importance if lost before spending time on it.  You could waste hours only to find that they HAVE either used an online repository like Windows Live SkyDrive or have all of their photos already burned to CDs.

Obviously the above is made with the assumption that the blue screen errors are to do with BIOS settings, drivers, or hardware during the early stage of the boot process and that the actual data is unaffected.  If the DATA is completely inaccessible by the host PC's operating system, then a Linux Live CD may just be able to see the data, or a recovery application like GetDataBack run from the host PC may be able to retrieve data.  If the DRIVE won't even MOUNT, then it is probable that there is nothing you can do with it.

I will look for my text file with details of where to find common data to back up.
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by:BillDL
ID: 34981850
Sorry nimatejic, I was thinking and typing while you were posting about an external usb enclosure.
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by:slamond
ID: 34981944
Is the USB external hard drive enclosure something I can find at Staples or another location where I can pick it up today? Obviously, Ebay can take weeks.
S.
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by:BillDL
ID: 34981958
This is the old text file I referred to.  It may help you.  If you know this already, just ignore it.

Back-Up-Common-Data-XP.txt
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by:slamond
ID: 34981985
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by:Nik
ID: 34981986
NP BillDL :)
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by:BillDL
ID: 34982138
I'm in the UK, and Staples here is for corporate accounts only as far as I know, so I am not familiar with their stock.  I can't even browse the Staples US site without being asked for a Zip code.

This is expensive for what it is as far as I'm concerned, it's "web only" availability, and out of stock anyway, but it may give you an idea what you would be looking for if the laptop has a SATA drive:
http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3631893&filterName=Type&filterValue=External 

Wal-mart sels enclosures like this one for IDE hard drives, but most of them will be "site to store" availability i would think:
http://www.walmart.com/ip/Inland-u-Jam-IDE-USB-2.5-Hard-Drive-Enclosur/10363675

I was just searching "low to high" sorting here:
http://www.walmart.com/cp/Hard-Drive-Enclosures/514537?sb=79&sdir=sasc

Check and make sure an enclosure comes with the USB (enclosure to PC) cable.
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by:slamond
ID: 34982165
This is a pic of the drive's connectors, although out of focus.
I'm thinking that maybe the pin connector on the far left is the SATA?

Does this help confirm what type of connectors and whether or not it's compatible with the USB adapter that I listed above in my previous message?

S.

laptopdrive.jpg
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by:BillDL
ID: 34982178
Yes, the StarTech one at OfficeMax would be fine and cheap enough as long as the laptop's hard drive connects with the SATA connector.  The older ones use the IDE connection.  You will have to know which the laptop has.  StarTech make all the cheap adapter cables also.
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by:BillDL
ID: 34982205
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by:BillDL
ID: 34982267
I need to go and have dinner.  Good luck with your shopping.
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by:Nik
ID: 34982283
Does walmart ship to Croatia. I'd need one of those too :)
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by:slamond
ID: 34983075
I found one at Staples for $39. I didn't want to make the longer drive and I'll be able to use it in the future anyway.
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by:rabindrajha
ID: 34983124
you may consider for buying sata/ide to usb converter. in india it costs around $7, don't know about uk whether it's available or not. In this way you may connect any laptop/desktop hdd either sata or ide.
Thanks
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Author Comment

by:slamond
ID: 34983607
50 Gb of data is being transfered to our network. As soon as complete, I will format the drive, reinstall Windows and then transfer the data back to the laptop drive. I'll keep you posted when done.
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Author Closing Comment

by:slamond
ID: 35010758
The laptop is back in operation after using the HP Recovery to format the drive, installing WindowsXP and restoring the data.
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by:BillDL
ID: 35015181
That's absolutely excellent news. A job very well done.  Glad to know that my suggestion helped you to find a successful method.  Thank you.
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