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Windows XP Repair doesn't show Already Installed OS + Drive Seems Formatted + Anxious About Data


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#1 haroonriaz

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 10:04 PM

Hello

My power went out and when I restarted my computer, I could not get my Windows XP started. Tried safe mode, everything else, failed. Tried to start the repair install thing before backing up my data on the partition on which Windows are installed.

Now, I DID NOT start the Windows installation process.(Nothing deleted or added)

Because when I reached the part when it is supposed to show the already installed Windows versions, there was nothing there. All it showed was the partition where Windows was installed. My other partition's file system shows as NTFS, while that of this one shows Unknown and has totally free space. It is not supposed to be like this, so any help?

I did not proceed of course with the same partition and took it out of my PC. I also DID NOT format or partition it. Could Windows format it on its own when only starting the Windows XP setup booted from CD. I don't think so.

My questions are these.

Why does it appear like that when the Windows at least tries to start though doesn't run successfully.
I did not format or partition my hard drive, why is it appearing like this?
Would I be able to recover my data, even if the partition has become raw due to some virus or malware by using file recovery software such as Recuva?
Will I be able to access the data if I connect my HDD as a secondary disc to some other computer?
Will I be able to access my data without formatting it when using it as a secondary disc
Anyone to redeem my Windows installation without formatting or partitioning?

My HDD is SATA. Brand WD Caviar Blue. Size 500 GB.
Partitions: The faulty Windows one: 98 GB. Other apparently correct NTFS: 400 GB
My processer is Intel Pentium IV. But that doesn't matter here.

I am really anxious about the data so please help me.


Please instant expert help needed. Will be grateful.


haroonriaz

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#2 James Litten

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 12:08 AM

The first thing I would suggest doing is to make an image of the seemingly empty partition to another drive. Then you can use TestDisk (it's free open source) to see if it can recover or repair the partition table on the image. If it can, great, if not, we can try recovering the data on the disk using Recuva, TestDisk or PhotoRec (all free).

Once we have a proper solution (and your drive seems to be physically healthy), we can apply the solution to the actual drive. This way we always have a good copy handy in addition to the one we are working on that may go bad.

If you'd like to try this, let me know if you have an external drive with at least 100GB of space on it (your partition is 98GB so it could be that big) or if you will be doing this by placing the drive in another machine that also has a separate disk with room on it for the image. I do not like to use the other partition on the same disk because we want to be as gentle as possible in case it is a problem with the drive itself.

You will need to be able to burn a CD and boot from it for the imaging tool that I prefer (free also) and it may take a few hours to make the image.

Let me know if you'd like to proceed with this and I can help you tomorrow (it is 1AM where I am now). From what you have said so far it sounds like we should be able to get the data.

James

#3 haroonriaz

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 01:08 AM

Hi James

Thanks a ton for the useful advice. I have still not attached the disk to another PC yet though. I do have an external disk of the size that could get the image copied. I won't be using the other partition by the time this issue is resolved.

I think the disk is in good condition physically. So far.

I'll use TestDisk for sure, but I am not familiar with it at all. I know what you've suggested makes a lot of sense because Recuva doesn't recover all your files. I say that from experience.

I'll go through the procedures of the TestDisk website. I am assuming that you create the image using TestDisk itself (Please bear with me, I know nothing about it yet though I have downloaded it).

So from what you have said, I presume that you do not recommend using a file recovery software before running the TestDisk procedure. Correct me if I'm wrong.

However, I will first make the faulty drive secondary to another healthy disk and see if I can access the data normally. Though I am prepared for going through the suggested procedures. Although at the moment I don't understand the burning disk part but I'll go through the TestDisk articles.


Thank you.

Edited by haroonriaz, 13 March 2012 - 01:15 AM.


#4 James Litten

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 01:30 AM

Here is an example of what I propose...

http://html5.litten.com/windows-file-recovery-series-part-4-recover-files-from-a-bad-hard-drive/

The disk in this example had physical problems but as you see looked very similar to your situation. TestDisk was used with great success.

James

#5 haroonriaz

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 07:02 AM

I have a feeling that this hard disk may even start to develop bad/unreadable sectors. While I tried connecting it to another computer as a secondary disk, the Windows would simply not load without a scan disk. I understood that the scan disk should not run and tried to cancel it, but it simply would not cancel. Another guy was connecting the disk or I would have immediately plugged the computer off myself to disconnect the disk from the secondary plug. Only a bit of scan disk was run and it should 2 unreadable sectors before I cancelled it. It is a sign that the hard disk is dying perhaps. This rules out connecting the disk connecting as a secondary and now I am planning to work with it an USB IDE-SATA Adapter.

So, do you think I should try connecting the disk to the computer via the USB adapter or should I take the image first? I am asking this because there are a few immediate files that I require and those files are on the partition which has not been lost.

Should I access those files first? Or should I wait till the partition image is taken?

Because quite frankly, I am now considering taking the image of the entire 500 GB of the disk to be transferred on a new hard disk. I can't trust this one anymore.

#6 James Litten

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 12:58 PM

Hi

Here are my instructions. They are based on the premise that a broken drive is still in the process of breaking. If you encounter any differences or problems along the way, please stop what you are doing and ask me about your next step.

Before connecting the drive to a computer, let's make sure that you can boot that computer to our recovery tool.

Download the ISO for Parted Magic from here and burn it to a CD...
http://partedmagic.com/doku.php?id=downloads
If you do not know how to make a boot CD of the ISO, let me know and I will get you further instructions.

Boot the computer that you are going to be using with the Parted Magic CD that you made.
We are doing this to make sure that you can successfully boot this way before we try doing it with the 'bad' drive attached.
When it gives you the list of options at startup choose...
1. Default settings (Runs from RAM)

Once it boots, you'll see that it looks kind of like XP. Instead of a start button in the lower left it has a button with a picture of a hard drive on it. For this post we will call that the START button. The two items that we are going to be using later are the FileManager icon on the desktop (START>SYSTEM TOOLS>PCMan File Manager) and LXTerminal at START>ACCESSORIES>LXTerminal. Try opening both of these now so you are familiar with how to open them.

Now you can shutdown the computer.
The CD ROM drive will be open with the boot CD in it. Make sure to close it before shutting down so that it is in there for our next boot.
START>Logout
Choose "Shutdown the computer" and click OK

Now we can connect the 'bad' drive to the computer. Internal or external, it does not matter. Since we are booting to Parted Magic, it won't do the disk scan.

With the bad disk connected and a disk with at least 100GB free connected, boot the computer with the Parted Magic CD just like we did before.

Once it boots, you have to make a decision.

In your last post you said...

I am asking this because there are a few immediate files that I require and those files are on the partition which has not been lost.


Do you want to make a copy of the files on the readable partition first before we try to recover the missing partition?

If so, open the file manager using the FileManager icon on the desktop (or click START>SYSTEM TOOLS>PCMan File Manager). It opens like Windows Explorer. You should be able to navigate around and find your good partition and a recognizable place to copy the files to. If you have difficulty with this. Stop and let me know.

Now on to rescuing the 'bad' partition.

You need to find out the identity of
The 'bad' partition
The 'good' drive/partition where we are going to copy the image

Open LXTerminal, START>ACCESSORIES>LXTerminal
Type
fdisk -lu
and look at the output to try and determine the name of your 'bad' partition which will show as a 500GB drive with 2 partitions on it. One will be the NTFS one you see and the other might show as NTFS or Unknown or some weird nonsense.

If you are confused about this stop and let me know. It would be sooooo much easier if I knew how you were set up. That is why it is what I asked you to tell me in the first post I made.

...If you'd like to try this, let me know if you have an external drive with at least 100GB of space on it (your partition is 98GB so it could be that big) or if you will be doing this by placing the drive in another machine that also has a separate disk with room on it for the image...


Since I don't know how you are doing this I'm going to provide directions for a common setup where the bad drive is in the original machine and an external drive or internal drive is added to the machine for the purpose of collecting the data from the bad drive. For the sake of making this easy to understand WE ARE GOING TO PRETEND THAT THESE ARE THE NAMES OF OUR DRIVES
Our bad partition is THIS IS JUST AN EXAMPLE NOT REAL
/dev/sda1
The good drive/partition that we are going to copy the image to is THIS IS JUST AN EXAMPLE NOT REAL
/dev/sdb1 we will be calling it /media/sdb1 for the purpose of writing to it.

In LXTerminal type THIS IS JUST AN EXAMPLE NOT REAL
ddrescue -r 3 /dev/sda1 /media/sdb1/image.dd /media/sdb1/rescuelog.log

If the drive has significant problems , this could take 20 hours to run. If it is in relatively good shape this will probably take about 4 hours to run.

When it is done, in LXTerminal type
THIS IS JUST AN EXAMPLE NOT REAL
testdisk /media/sdb1/image.dd

Choose Proceed and hit enter
Select Intel/PC partition
Select Analyze
Select Quick Search
Say 'Y' if it asks if the disk was made in Vista/Win7 (even if it was made in XP say 'yes')
If it finds the lost NTFS partition it will be listed and green. If it does not, then try selecting DeeperSearch and see if it finds it. If it still does not find it, let me know.

If it finds it, select it and press 'P' to verify that it contains your files. If it does then press 'q'
Press ENTER
select WRITE
Exit TestDisk

At this point you have a good image. You can either burn this to a new disk and try to use that new disk as a boot disk for your machine or you can simply use it to get the files that were on the drive.

You can also try this at this point since you have a good image.

Run TestDisk on the bad partition and see if it repairs it the same way as you did on the image if it does then it will ask you to reboot. Remove the Parted Magic CD and reboot and see if it boots into XP now.
To do this, in LXTerminal type

testdisk

It will start TestDisk. Choose to not create a log and you can navigate to the drive with the bad partition (it was /dev/sda in our example). Then proceed with detecting and fixing it just like you did with the image.

Let us know how it turns out.

James

Edited by NeverSayDie, 13 March 2012 - 01:07 PM.


#7 haroonriaz

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 08:20 AM

Hi James

I gathered a little courage and connected the drive to my laptop by means of an IDE/SATA USB adapter to see how it works because I needed a few files I have been working on. Of course, that way there would be no disk scans to go through. The good news is that I could access the disk and have successfully retrieved all the important data from the bad partition to an external hard drive. However, when I connected it said that it required scanning, so I am still not 100% sure if it is free of unreadable sectors. So still calling it a "bad" partition. I am not sure if it seemed to have needed formatting because not only the OS did not prompt me for it, but even was showing the correct occupied and free space on the disk. So I wonder if the partition problem has been resolved, which I will find out soon. Of course I have been so obsessed with the data, which I always give high priority to over the hardware, (which is a shame that I say that since I failed to back up in time purely out of laziness) that of late I have been focusing all my efforts to save it instead of getting the hard drive operational and back to normal by connecting it back to the machine to which it belongs.

From within the Windows, it seemed that all the files remained intact and I could go through folders without any glitches. So far, no files have returned a bad sector, delayed write, disk read or I/O error, as many failing and dying disks do. The hard disk does make a bit of sound, not much though, it's bearable and sounds like a disc rotating and would be incorrect to call it noise, but I wonder if that is normal. But since it is the first time I am transferring data from a non-removable hard disk in this manner, I have little idea of how noisy these things are.

Now on to your instructions. When I will connect the drive to the computer again, I will surely run the Parted Magic process and will get the boot disk burned, but I will first check if I can access the partition. I did expect to find the data intact when connecting externally to another computer unless I was very unlucky. But the good thing is that I did not need to use TestDisk or Recuva for saving the data.

I will keep you updated and I don't have words to thank for your input for the solution to this problem. I have really learned a lot from this incident and from your posts and I am pretty sure that these tips will help me in the future as well.

Just one final question. When I reboot using the Parted Magic disc, will it catch the external hard drive connected through USB within its interface? Because I am not too sure about that.

Also, let me know if it is a good idea to format this partition later (since I have saved all the data) and install Windows from scratch? Will it overcome/solve the problems pertaining to the boot sector information on the disk? Will it affect the health of the disk? If it is not a good idea to format, then what process should I follow to save it.

I am working on a backup computer right now.

Edited by haroonriaz, 14 March 2012 - 08:29 AM.


#8 haroonriaz

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 05:03 PM

Update: I do have disk read errors in the affected partition. Nothing of the sort detected in the other partition yet and not sure if it is a hardware or a software error.

#9 Tsh00ter

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 03:40 PM

Power outage damage (specifically the spike the moment the power comes back on) affects usually the controllers itself.

If the bad sectors are "fluctuating" you could try switching the controller boards on the drive. For that you need the exact same drive with the exact same controller. In any case if you cannot flag the sectors using scandisk while the drive is slaved it needs to be replaced anyway. If you still need some data off of it which you cannot read due to sector errors swap the controller from the new drive onto the old one and see if all data is accessible. If so dump the old controller board and keep the controller-less new drive as a spare. (or vice-versa).




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