Hard drive crash! How to recover data & info?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by DaveF, Jan 13, 2006.

  1. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I had a serious hard-drive crash on my home PC Wednesday night, and diagnosed it as such last night. Unfortunately, I had not backup in 6 months and have lost all my digital photos! [​IMG]

    I've decided I'm willing to pay for data recovery and a coworker recommends Gillware, which would cost about $400.

    Are there any other recommendations for data recovery after a hard-drive crash? If Ron or Parker read, this, how did HTF recover from its HD crash last year?

    This is extraordinarly frustrating. I'd been meaning to backup my data, but just hadn't gotten around to it. Adding insult, this drive is only 7 months old and I was using it as my "safe" backup for my 6 year old, primary drive! Infant mortality at its digital worst. I expect Western Digital will replace my hard-drive, which I don't want since I have no confidence any more in their hardware. I'd much rather them pay for my data recovery. [​IMG]
     
  2. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    DAve:

    If you have the capacity to hook up the crashed drive as a slave in another machine...you might try the tool recommended to me by Joseph DeMartino in Post #13 in THIS THREAD.

    I recovered quite a lot of data files. Not all. But after trying a couple of others, i think this one did the best. I recovered some Word & WordPerfect docs. And, I recovered some of my image files. You just never know what's gonna be left. If I needed the remaining e-mail files and Word files, I probably would have tried a professional service. But, I don't.

    Good luck!
     
  3. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    What exactly happened when it crashed and do you know what is wrong with the HD? If it's a problem with the bearings, there is a common trick where you can freeze the HD for about an hour in a ziplock bag, then reinsert it. The theory is that the cold shrinks the bearings so they will work for a little while. IF this works it won't give you more than about an hour to back your pictures up.

    This is usually used as a last-ditch effort, but I've heard it reported that it works about 1/3 of the time. I figure it's worth trying before you spend too much money.

    Also, I wouldn't completely write-off Western Digital yet. When you pull out your HD it will have a number on it labled MTBF which stands for Mean Time Between Failure. This is probably a pretty big number, but the jist is that ALL HD's fail eventually. I know that it definitely sucks when it actually happens, but it will happen eventually no matter what brand HD you have.
     
  4. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I'll check the recovery program out. This drive is a slave already, so it may work as is in my system.
    I don't know quite what happened.

    Essentially, my computer went all wonky and I lost access to my second drive. Disconnecting it, the computer works fine. Rebooting, Windows attempted to fix the FAT but to no avail. The HD is seen, but Windows believes it's unformatted. This is why I don't think connecting to another computer will work.

    A longer sequence of events follows. Skip if uninterested.

    - Last week: ripping lots of CDs to 160GB WD HD via iTunes

    - Tuesday: Windows Update installs two new security fixes

    - Wednesday:
    Computer is hiccuping, taking a long time to respond to some menu presses, slow launch times, etc. But I'm ripping some CDs OK.

    I insert a new CD and the computer says the drive is unavaible. Different CD, same problem. Other CD drive, same error.

    Computer is running more erratically, and I'm unable to power off after 5-10 minutes of trying. I kill the power.

    Reboot, Windows launches. Running slowly, and my media HD has lost its label and can't be accessed. Windows thinks it needs to be formatted.

    Reboot to safe mode. PC still runs slowly. Can't access HD. Try to bring add/remove programs, thinking recent Windows update is the problem. It doesn't populate the list after several minutes. There is a scary KACHUNK KACHUNK noise from my PC at one point.

    Power down. Go to Bed.

    - Thursday:
    Disconnect HD, which shares IDE chain 1 with the master HD.

    Boot and Windows is fine.

    Power off, reconnect HD, and boot up.

    WinXP performs integrity check during boot. FAT is hosed and it tries to fix it. Many file segments are labeled as unreadable. It then attempts to correct the FAT using a backup file table. This also has many errors. Links to files are deleted, for being fatally broken.

    WinXP loads.

    HD still not accessible.

    Power down, and go to bed...

    - Friday:
    Plan to contact Gillware.
    Ask HTF for help. [​IMG]
     
  5. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Quick followup on Mike's suggestion:

    The recovery program won't work if the FAT is hosed and the drive is formatted with NTFS, which is my situation [​IMG]

    However, another program (http://www.runtime.org/support.htm) will work in my situation. I just called their tech support and they claim it's read only and won't do more harm, even if it doens't succeed. I'm tempted to try this myself.

    Maybe save $300? Maybe hose myself even further? Stay tuned. [​IMG]
     
  6. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Have you tried using the DOS chkdsk command? If not, I would suggest that before spending more money. I would run it and if it finds errors, then use it with the -f option that will attempt to fix the errors.
     
  7. Ken Chan

    Ken Chan Producer

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    Using a program like CHKDSK can be risky, because it might destroy marginal data that might be helpful in full-scale recovery.

    The first thing you might try doing is to clone the unreadable drive onto a fresh one, sector-for-sector. The sectors that you can't read end up blank on the clone. Then use recovery tools on the clone. That way, you can always go back to the original.

    Given the difficulties in reading the drive at all, attempting to clone it could take a long time, though.
     
  8. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I don't have space to clone it, except CDs and that would take too many, too long. The recovery tools claim to read only, so there's no risk overwriting data. The main motivation to clone is in case of failing hardware: minimize access, minimize risk of hardware failure, and do all the subsequent work from a (safe) image.
     
  9. Christian Behrens

    Christian Behrens Supporting Actor

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    As long as your drive isn't physically failing, that's good news. Having potentially run the wrong tools on your drive as you describe it is bad news.

    What Ken suggested is the proper first step: clone your drive onto A NEW HARDDRIVE of at least the same size, if not larger. You can go out and buy a recovery tool that does sector cloning or use a free alternative like G4U, which has saved my butt once on a SCSI disk at work. You burn it to a CD and boot from that, with your problem drive and the new drive connected ONLY. Then use the proper command to clone your existing drive to the new one. After that, perform all tries to salvage your data on the cloned drive.

    Oh, and the freeze your drive trick seems to be an urban myth, and professional data recovery companies warn against doing that. That forum, BTW, helped me a great deal in analysing the problem a friend of mine had with his harddrive, incidentally also with all his digial photos on. His problem, however, was definitely a hardware problem (drive clicking on power up).

    The reality is, how much is salvaging your data worth to you? Unless some of those free tools can see your original file structure and salvage your files to somewhere else, prepare to pay A LOT OF money for it. That company I mentioned, ActionFront, offers a free evaluation. If they don't have to open the drive, I believe you can get away with about $500 or so. Once the drive's PCB or, worse, the platters are involved, prepare to pay upwards of $1500 and more.

    So to reiterate and second Ken's point, before you use any more tools on the defective disk, make a sector-based clone of your drive to a new drive and work on that. It may still be a hardware problem, even though it doesn't make any strange sounds or the like.

    No matter what you do, advance at your own peril, if you want to get your data back!

    -Christian
     
  10. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    At work, we've used the "freeze the hard drive" trick a few times, and have been successful in reading those hard drives long enough to scrape off the needed data (like 20-25GB's worth on one of them). Some hard drives fail because they get really hot as they become defective, and cooling them down buys a little time to transfer the files to another location.

    Just this past Wednesday I noticed I was getting some funky mouse cursor freezing, and then heard that infamous clicking sound when the freezing occured, so I knew it was my bootup hard drive that was going bad.

    Luckily, I had a spare hard drive (not my backup drive, which I didn't want to use because it did have a backup on it, albeit a little old, and it would only be used if my cloning effort on the spare hard drive failed) and I used Ghost (in "force cloning when bad sectors show up" mode) to clone the failing hard drive, and I was able to recover everything. Whew!

    Once I knew I had a good clone again, then I cloned my spare drive over to the backup drive to get up-to-date. (Yes, that's a total of 3 hard drives in this tale of almost hard drive failure woes).

    I would also give a sector-to-sector clone effort and go, and then hope your operating system's chkdsk can deal with any trashed files cloned from the bad sectors.
     
  11. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Bad to worse.

    I chose not to image my drive. I don't have a third drive larger than my failed 160 GB one, and didn't want to buy a new one yet.

    I tried GetDataBack, a data recovery program, and it ran for about 30 hours, starting Friday night. This morning I checked the results and there were no found files. A few minutes of confusion, and then I found the drive was no longer visible to Windows. I fear that during the recovery scan process the hardware condition worsened and it dropped off the system.

    I've disconnected it, and will contact GillWare this afternoon to see about sending it to them for recovery. This is about $400, at best, if they can recover files. No charge if they fail. I'm reluctant to spend that much money for a $40 drive, but I lost a very valuable set of photos that are worth saving.

    Sigh.
     
  12. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    That's too bad, Dave. I feel your pain.

    Good luck.
     
  13. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Thanks, Mike.

    I spoke with a salesman at Gillware today. He expects they will quickly find a hardware failure, likely exacerbated by my attempts to recover data. This would recover cleanroom work, with a 65% chance of recovering data.

    This raises the price to about $700. Reasonable for what it is, but too expensive for me. So, I'm sending them my HD and hoping they can recover data with cleanroom work. If not, I'll have to beg off, and have it sent back to me.

    His other comments were that high-capacity, Western Digital Caviar drives represent more than their fair share of failed drives seen at the company. He also advised against Maxtor. His recommendation was Seagate, saying their hardware quality is indicated by their 5 year warranty.
     
  14. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    It was my Seagate 7200.7 series that failed me last week. [​IMG] But, by all means, use the Seagate, but back up like crazy!

    I stay away from Western Digital, just my preference.
     
  15. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I hope you lost less than I did. And your recovery process has been better. [​IMG]
     
  16. Chris Bates

    Chris Bates Stunt Coordinator

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    No sweat... save your money. I have a couple tools that can help you out. I'll pm you a link. You'll have to download a file and burn an image to cd... but after that.. its gravy.
     
  17. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Huh?
     
  18. Paul McElligott

    Paul McElligott Cinematographer

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    The runtime.org software worked for me. It recoved most of what I lost when my external went poof. Fairly easy to use, too.
     
  19. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    My story ends a sadly.

    Gillware called me back and said that drive had mechanical problems. It would require clean-room work to recover anything. At best, that would cost another $300 for a $700 price on data recovery. That's past my price point for these files [​IMG]. I declined the clean-room work and they are returning my drive.

    Gillware has been great -- if you need data recovery service, I recommend them. They charge nothing up front. Only if they recover the data you want do they charge you for it. And their prices are very good compared to other recovery companies. While $700 is too high for me right now, it's a very good price for clean-room work. Though they didn't succeed in my case, it cost me only the $6 to ship my drive to them. They're even returning my drive free.

    I'm very sad to have lost my photos. I will be much more careful in the future.
     

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