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Attempting to Recover Corrupted External Hard Drive (PC)


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#1 Correlation

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 05:32 PM

Hello everyone,

Please allow me to get a few of the obligatory things out of the way immediately. 1) Yes, I know that I should have backed up this data elsewhere. 2) Yes, it is extremely important data. 3) I am sincerely grateful to anyone who can take a moment of their time to offer some insight into this problem.

So, without further ado...

I had a Dell notebook running Windows 7. The motherboard died, so I popped out the hard disk, which was fine, and had been using it without issue as an external storage device via an Apricorn USB To SATA Cable Adapter. The disk actually contained two partitions: one smaller one that I believe was boot and recovery for the original Dell and a larger one that I accessed and that contained programs, music, documents, photos and the like. The drive held about 600 gigs. The other day, while moving some files off of that drive and onto the new laptop I have been using (which is actually back to running XP), it appeared to freeze up and then subsequently was accidentally disconnected from the cable.

That is where the issue began.

Since that time, I have been met with various failures in trying to access the drive. It will show up (both partitions appearing as usual as separate drives) in "My Computer", but neither can be accessed nor can properties be right-clicked to. It will say it cannot access the drive due to an I/O error and when right-clicking it just hourglasses for a while before failing.

After looking online for potential solutions, I eventually tried ChkDisk and also peeking at it in Ubuntu. Neither helped. So, again after reading about people in similar situations. I downloaded and ran TestDisk, basically going through something similar - though not identical - to the process described here. I got to a point after recovering the boot sector that it said both versions are identical and then gave me an option to dump, list or quit. (I have screenshots of this if they help to clarify the situation.). I chose "list."

This is where I started to have hope.

The list does indeed show programs, documents and other files right where I left them, and for the first time in a while I allowed myself to believe that my entire life had not been destroyed. So, I don't want to screw this up. As such, I left things right there and began typing this message. I have used this forum once before and the person who helped was amazing. I can only hope that someone out there can help me get through this process and recover my data. Of course, I am willing to provide whatever further information you may need.

Thank you very much to whoever out there has taken the time to read over this post and extra big thanks to anyone willing to take some time to point me in the right direction. I hope to hear from you soon.

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#2 AustrAlien

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 06:05 PM

Hello Correlation,

I have let James Litten know that you require help with TestDisk: He has considerable expertise in using TestDisk. If he doesn't have time available, then I will assist you. Please sit tight for awhile.
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#3 Correlation

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 06:14 PM

Hello AustrAlien,

Thank you very much for your quick reply and for getting in touch with Mr. Litten. I really appreciate it. Now, I'm off go and sit tight for a bit, haha.

#4 James Litten

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 06:54 PM

Hi Correlation

Since you see them with the LIST option, we should be able to copy the most important files/folders to another disk and then attempt a repair without the worry of accidentally losing those important files for good.

You will need enough free space on another drive to hold the files that you wish to recover.

I'm assuming that you are running TestDisk in Windows. If not, the instructions are basically the same but let me know and I'll alert you to the differences.

You should see some basic directions at the bottom of the screen in TestDisk about how to copy the files to another location.

Some simple navigation instructions.
To see the contents of a folder, highlight it and press the right arrow key on the keyboard.
To go back up a directory highlight the line that has two dots
..
It should be the second entry in the list.


I like to do a test first and try to copy just one file or folder to see if it works.

Select a file or folder that you'd like to try copying by highlighting it.
Press the colon key on your keyboard to select it
:
and then press upper case C to copy the selected file or folder
SHIFT-C
Now it wants to know where to copy the file to.
It will automatically default to saving them in the directory where TestDisk is being run from.
Highlight the second line which is .. (two dots) and press the right arrow key and it will take you up a level.
You can keep selecting the .. line and eventually you'll get to the top of the hierarchy which will list all of the connected disks.
From there you can navigate to the location that you wish to copy the recovered files to. (If you have any difficulty navigating, let us know.)
When you are inside the folder that you want to copy recovered files to, choose the top line which is one dot
.
Then press
SHIFT-C
and it should copy the file there.
Leave everything open and look in the Windows Explorer to verify that the file was copied. If it is there, go back to the TestDisk window and select more files and folders that you want to copy. When you choose to copy them it will automatically put them in the location that you already selected.

Let us know if this works or if you have any questions.

James

#5 Correlation

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:56 PM

Hello James,

Time for another round of thanks, as it is really great of you to reply so quickly. I went ahead an did as you instructed and have been staring at Copying, please wait... for a little while now. I will, of course, check back once that resolves, but I just wanted to express my gratitude and let you know I am following your advice.

#6 AustrAlien

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 08:01 PM

I went ahead an did as you instructed and have been staring at Copying, please wait... for a little while now.

If you have chosen a large (many MB or even GB) file or folder containing many files, it is going to take some time to complete the copying process. However, when complete, you will see something like ..Done!.. in bright green.

Edited by AustrAlien, 17 January 2013 - 08:07 PM.

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#7 Correlation

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 08:11 PM

Done!

Perfect timing. Not long after posting that, I checked back on TestDisk and sure enough, it was finished. I may have missed the "Done!" message actually, TestDisk had already returned to the folder showing the original location and files as they appear on the external hard disk. I went and checked the location on my laptop and sure enough...

the file was there too.

I can't explain how happy I am right now. Knock on wood, this sure looks promising. I have to go out later, so should I buy another hard drive to copy everything over to, or is it smooth sailing to fix the offending party at this point? Either way, thanks to both of you. If you pull this off, you are officially my personal heroes.

#8 AustrAlien

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 08:18 PM

... is it smooth sailing to fix the offending party at this point?

Smooth sailing cannot be guaranteed. You have indicated that the data is of considerable importance to you, so James has suggested that you use TestDisk to copy (backup) all your important data BEFORE attempting a repair.

I therefore suggest that you do acquire a new hard drive (external ?) if necessary to enable you to complete backing up all your important files. That way, if something unexpectedly goes wrong with a repair attempt, all is not lost.
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#9 Correlation

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 08:30 PM

Fair enough. I will go ahead and pick up a new external hard drive. That may not be able to be arranged until later on today, but I will post back once I have bought one and am ready to go. Thanks!

#10 James Litten

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 09:20 PM

Let's see what happens when we try to repair it using TestDisk.

Close TestDisk if it is still open and start it again (we need to start fresh).

Choose Create and hit enter (this makes the file testdisk.log that is automatically created in the folder testdisk-6.13 which is where you run TestDisk from)
You should now see a list of drives.
Select the external drive and choose Proceed and hit enter
Select Intel/PC partition and hit enter
Select Analyse and hit enter
Select Quick Search and hit enter
Say 'Y' if it asks if the disk was made in Vista/Win7 (even if it was made in XP say 'yes')

When it is done (if you are at a screen that has only the option CONTINUE at the bottom of it, hit enter to see the screen we need to see).

If you see what looks like a normal partition(s), highlight the one you think has your data and press
p
and see if you can see your files and folders that you are looking for there. Press
q
a bunch of times to back out of TestDisk

If anything looks different than I describe (possible depending on what is causing the problem) or you have any questions, stop and ask

I'd like to see the contents of the file testdisk.log that is automatically created in the folder testdisk-6.13 it may just be called testdisk instead of testdisk.log if your Windows is set to hide known extensions and it will have a text file icon.

What we see in your testdisk.log file will determine the next step.

James

#11 Correlation

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 11:39 PM

Quick update. I went out and bought a new external hard drive (my new laptop was a cheapy replacement which actually has a smaller hard disk than my previous computer) for backing up my files. I know you had mentioned this before, so I wondered if that was something worth doing before closing TestDisk, i.e., while I am still in that list view. Honestly, this is the first time I have been able to access, let alone copy, that data, so I am terrified of closing that little window, haha. But if you would suggest we jump straight to the fresh start phase, then that is what I shall do.

Also, completely unrelated, but I just noticed James is from Jersey. I have been lucky enough toe visit Australia, AustrAlien (beautiful place), but I actually live in South Jersey. Go figure.

Edited by Correlation, 17 January 2013 - 11:42 PM.


#12 James Litten

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 11:54 PM

Hi

I'm not far from Great Adventure.

I misunderstood your previous post and thought that you had copied all of the most important files already rather than just the one to test it. Sorry about that.

Please finish getting your files copied before proceeding. It would be terrible if this turned out to be a missed opportunity.

James

#13 Correlation

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 12:44 AM

No worries about the confusion over copying the files. And that is cool living out near Six Flags. I haven't been there since I was a kid, but that place was the best. Great coasters. But to jump back to the hardware issue, I will go ahead and copy over my files. The only thing I would add is that this may take a long time. I mean, I would be looking to backup hundreds of gigs of data. I am ecstatic that is looking possible though, it just may be a little while before I am ready for that fresh start.

#14 AustrAlien

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 12:48 AM

We understand that it will take some considerable time to complete your backup task. That's fine! Let us know if you encounter any problems: Otherwise we'll hear from you when you are ready.

Edited by AustrAlien, 18 January 2013 - 12:49 AM.

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#15 Correlation

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 10:35 AM

Thanks AustrAlien! I let it plug away at copying some stuff overnight, but it is still a drop in the bucket. I will go back to sitting tight for a bit until all the really important stuff is backed up and then post back here for the next step. Wish me luck!




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