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Any way to undo a format and make the OS bootable?

Posted on 2011-03-19
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Last Modified: 2012-06-27
Hi all,

Had a user initiate an OS install on a machine they don't want to upgrade anymore. The partitions were deleted via the windows installer and just quick formatted. No OS installation was done.

So obviously the data is recoverable but that's not the issue, data is backed up. But can the partition deleting and quick format be reliably undone to boot the old OS installation to save time or is that asking too much of recovery software?  

Thx
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Question by:Jsmply
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26 Comments
 
LVL 6

Assisted Solution

by:FDomingos88
FDomingos88 earned 500 total points
ID: 35172800
This application appears to solve your problem http://www.partition-recovery.com/ .
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LVL 30

Expert Comment

by:ded9
ID: 35172801
Its not possible to undo format.


Ded9
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LVL 96

Assisted Solution

by:Lee W, MVP
Lee W, MVP earned 500 total points
ID: 35172803
MAYBE.  You can try a tool like Partition Table Doctor (PTDD) - the free version (I don't think there's a full paid version) should tell you what it can recover.  The Partition Recovery program here MAY work.

http://www.ptdd.com/
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LVL 30

Expert Comment

by:ded9
ID: 35172806
Just check with the client whether it was image based backup or normal backup. If it have backed the whole image of the o.s then it can be possible otherwise not possible.

Check with the client which software was used to backup the data.


Ded9
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LVL 6

Expert Comment

by:FDomingos88
ID: 35172807
Oh sorry, it isn't free, I was mistaken by the free download link, maybe there is a better and free aplication.
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 35172835
Hi ded, its file based not image.
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 35172836
Was quick format though, what new windows installer does. Thx
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LVL 30

Expert Comment

by:ded9
ID: 35172842
Its not possible to undo format  as its not image based backup.


Ded9
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LVL 96

Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 35172850
A quick format or a full format doesn't matter - they just erase tables - they don't touch files... but if the setup STARTED copying files to the new partition, then you can pretty much forget it (as an aside, try a "full" format and stop it at 90% - you should find NOTHING has changed on the disk because all a full format is doing is running essentially a chkdsk before deleting the file tables...
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LVL 21

Assisted Solution

by:CompProbSolv
CompProbSolv earned 500 total points
ID: 35172878
I've had very good success recovering from formatting with GetDataBack from runtime.org.  It isn't free (about $100), but I'd be very skeptical about recovering the OS.  You MIGHT be able to recover it, then do a repair install.
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 35172987
Thx compprobsolv. Setup did not start copying any files over yet. Think there is a chance?  Is it even worthwhile if we have the data?  How long are we talking in recovery?
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LVL 96

Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 35173015
Did the links I provided not work for you?
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LVL 21

Expert Comment

by:CompProbSolv
ID: 35173168
The recovery is pretty slow.  Not much of your time, but a long time (typically hours, depending on size, of course) for the computer to scan and similarly long time to recover.

Also, you would want to restore the files to a different drive.  I'd not want to change anything on the original drives.

I would consider trying both in parallel.  That is, try recovering the drives in one computer (not the server) while reinstalling on the original computer with new drives.

To be honest, I'd not be very eager to reinstall on the old drives.  I always have this fear that there is something critical on there that isn't really backed up.  If you reinstall over it, you lose the opportunity to recover anything.
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LVL 92

Accepted Solution

by:
nobus earned 500 total points
ID: 35174694
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 35174700
***note that you best install any software on  the disk you run from, and connect the one to UNFORMAT as second drive
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LVL 34

Expert Comment

by:Michael-Best
ID: 35174985
Only if the Hard Drive was in perfect (which is rare) condition with no weak sectors, will any software recover the OS (data probably but OS not usually)
 
This is because when you format, all bad or weak sectors are marked as unusable and any system files on these sectors will be lost.

http://www.easeus.com/resource/unformat.htm#2
"When you format a hard drive, the Operating System erases all bookkeeping information on the disk, tests the disk to make sure all sectors are reliable, marks bad sectors"

But do try as it is still worth a shot.
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 35175110
not true michael; read this : http://www.dposoft.net/

and not that it DID recover several disks that were marked as bad by the diag, and NON bootable...
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LVL 96

Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 35175859
> all bad or weak sectors are marked as unusable and any system files on these sectors will be lost.
Not during a quick format.
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 35175870
Thanks nobus. Will try Monday. Any idea how long it should take on a modern machine 320gb hdd?
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 35175934
that takes at least an hour on a good drive; depending on the number of bad sectors, it will slow down.
i repaired a 200 Gbone with 64 bad sectors last week in a couple of hours, but it may run op to more than 8 hours - so be prepared to let it run!

if it has hundreds of bad sectors, it is unlikely it will be able to recover all
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 35176312
Thanks. Unless there are no bad sectors it might not be worth it. Can do an OS reinstall in less than an hour and have all data.
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LVL 34

Expert Comment

by:Michael-Best
ID: 35177391
I am aware that HDD Regenerator has the ability to repair physical bad sectors (magnetic errors) on a hard disk surface.
I use it often.
But even brand new drives have some damaged sectors which are more than magnetic errors (surface damage) physical damage or inconsistencies of parity checking bits on disk .
Hard drives are manufactured with 'spare' sectors which are only used to replace space lost due to bad sectors. This allows a drive to automatically compensate for any slight manufacturing defects which may have resulted in the drive having bad sectors 'out of the box.
When a sector is found to be bad by the firmware of a disk controller, the disk controller remaps the logical sector to a different (spare) physical sector.

That is why I closed my comment (20/03/11 08:23 PM, ID: 35174985) with:
But do try as it is still worth a shot.
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 35178554
>>  Can do an OS reinstall in less than an hour and have all data  <<  WRONG - if the sector amplitude is too low, you may not be able to do an install - obviously you did not read what HDD regenerator does
also - if the bad sectors are located in the data - it can be inaccessible

@Michael - there is no way a software can repair a physical disk damage - only the "soft" part of it (if i may call it so)
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 35186575
Nobus, we meant assuming there were no bad sectors (or minimal).  Machine is relatively new (less than 6 months old) and recent Seatools run showed it in good health.  Thanks all!
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Author Closing Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 35186578
Thx!
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 35187076
have fun !
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