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Never Say Things Can’t Get Worse…

My hard drive failed last night… I had my browser open, along with Yahoo! Messenger and DC++. The traffic over DC++ was very high, some 5 Mb/s download and 7 Mb/s upload, but I was just finishing downloading in a few seconds, so I thought I’d open a file in Media Player and then close DC++ as soon as the file opens and the download ends. Plain dumb rush… And it seems that my HDD decided enough is enough, it froze and wouldn’t recover. So eventually I rebooted, only to get “A disk read error occurred. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart.” Rebooted two more times and got the same result. I looked in BIOS and it still saw it just fine though, and the spinning and start-up sounds also seem just fine, but it sounds bad when it gives errors, a spin, click, rewind, repeat cycle…
So I put in the old 20 Gb hard drive, installed Windows on it and tried booting off that one in hopes of being able to access the 160 Gb one and save the crucial data from it, but it wouldn’t work. If the 160 Gb drive was connected, Windows would freeze at logon. I even tried the risky maneuver of connecting it with the computer running, to get past the logon moment, only to have it freeze even so and then unfreeze as soon as I disconnected it.
Then I downloaded the floppy version of SeaTools and ran it. It saw all the details of the 160 Gb drive and also said SMART status is OK. So I tried running a long test, but around LBA 3 million (out of around 320 million) it started finding bad sector after bad sector. I let it find a few dozen, then stopped it and told it to repair them. It said it did so I then ran a short test. It failed immediately, didn’t even start showing anything on the progress bar. Then I ran another short test and this one succeeded, which to me would mean that the problem is not the read head and that there are plenty of good sectors left. Then I ran the long test again only to have it find the same bad sectors all over again. Stopped it after a few, told it to repair them, then ran it again just to see if the exact same ones will be found again, and they were…
There might be just one damaged area, but it’s a critical area and the MBR is most likely destroyed. If that’s the case, the rest of the drive should still be accessible with the right programs, but I have no idea which those would be and how to get them, so any help would be most appreciated.
Today I tried one more thing, namely booting from the Windows installation CD and entering the repair console. It spent quite a long time analyzing the drive, eventually I got the expected prompt, but on a “dir” command it said there was an error. Then I tried “fixboot” and it saw that the boot drive is C: and, after another rather long pause, that the file system is NTFS, then said it had successfully written a new boot sector. So I tried booting with it again but I got the same error. I wouldn’t risk a “fixmbr” because then I’d probably really lose any chances of recovering my data.
The disk itself isn’t a problem, the warranty expires in January so I’ll just have it replaced, but the data is. The vast majority of it is replaceable, there is probably about 1 Gb of data that I couldn’t replace but even most of that isn’t that important anyway. It’d be certainly peeved about losing those things, but in the long run I could do without. But the real issue is that there are probably around 300 Mb, maybe a little more, that I absolutely need recovered. Those things are absolutely crucial!
Please don’t tell me I should have backed up things that were of such importance unless you have a time machine, what I’m asking is what to do now to recover at least that crucial data, if not all that I couldn’t replace or even everything if possible…
I ran some tests, got some results, now I don’t want to simply start trying fixes since I don’t want to damage it further. Right now I’m looking for a way to read any still readable data off a corrupted NTFS drive with a most likely destroyed MBR and almost certainly also some physical damage, and copy it to another location. Only after that will I try to recover any data that now looks lost, since the process could fail and even end up corrupting data that right now would still be readable. As I said before, any help would be most appreciated…

4 Comments

  1. cassini says:

    try a specialized service, they are the only ones that can help you if your data is so important. Maybe just one head of your harddrive is broken and in such case you can’t do anything with software solutions, because the harddisk plates must be relocated in another drive.

    November 19, 2007 @ 1:45 PM

  2. Cavalary says:

    Hmm, should have added not to tell me that either… That costs a lot of money, and I don’t have any. Plus that I’m really edgy about somebody else snooping through my stuff.
    But if a head would be broken, how would that short test have succeeded?
    So far I had 4 people tell me I should put it in an airtight bag and stick it in the freezer for several hours (or a full day), then connect it as soon as I take it out and save all I can in order of importance, because it usually works but it’ll only give me minutes.

    November 19, 2007 @ 4:06 PM

  3. Cassini says:

    then better let your harddrive rest until you have some money to do the recovery properly than stick it in the freezer and hope for a miracle. i heard the freezer story too but i think it’s just a myth,,, just my 2 cents:) anyway if you do it i hope u’ll share the results here:)

    November 21, 2007 @ 2:02 AM

  4. Cavalary says:

    Considering how much a proper recovery costs, that’s highly unlikely to happen too soon, and warranty expires in 6 weeks… Plus that a recovery would be for everything, and I need less than 1% of it! Plus that I REALLY don’t want people snooping through some of that, regardless of any privacy policies they might have. So it’s not an option, period. I was asking what can *I* do…
    As for the freezer thing, from what I see online it works for any mechanical failure but the breaking of the read head… And the advice also came from a tech support person, among others… But still seems darn risky to me…
    So… Right now I’m just letting it rest…

    November 21, 2007 @ 3:10 AM

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