How To: Detect a Faulty Hard Drive and Recover Data

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PhoneyVirus

Just Tracking Thanks

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rcw

Forget this article. This article isn't totally wrong, but it is totally wrong-headed. This is all you need to know about HDD failures:
Are you ready?
BACKUP....that's it.

And I don't mean a backup after the failure. I mean a continuing, well thought out, routine backup. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people do backups after they detect the first signs of failure. In some case they've even wiped out a good week old backup to make room for a second copy of bad data already corrupted by an ongoing HDD problem.

You aren't always going to get a warning sign.
You aren't always going to be able to use a recovery tool to bail you out.
You aren't always going to be able to freeze it, boil it or barbecue it.

But a good backup will save your bacon.

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webgrunt

RCW, you are exactly correct about backing up data before you lose it! However, this article isn't wrong-headed, because even when backups are made, data recovery will still be needed.

Here are some examples of such cases:

1. You try to restore the backups and find they are corrupt (happens more often than you'd think)

2. Important new data has come in since the last backup was done.

3. Attempting to back up the data is what caused the data loss in the first place. (This one happens a lot more than you'd think, too! I've spoken with many people who accidentally trashed the drive they were trying to back up because they didn't know what they were doing, for example they ghosted the blank backup drive over their main drive.)

4. The backups are not available. Disgruntled employees have been known to hide, steal or destroy backups. Also, the backup media can be damaged.

5. The data is time-sensitive and data recovery might take less time than restoring backed-up data. (Though not usually the case, sometimes this does occur.)

These are the first ones I could think of, there are probably others.

I agree with you 100% that people should back up their data regularly, but that won't always prevent the need for data recovery!

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Inferno

It was definitely the most ridiculous troubleshooting step I had ever heard when Maximum PC first mentioned freezing my hard drive, but I am pleased to report that it worked for me. About a year ago, I was formatting my laptop and had backed up all my data to my iPod. The format went well, but when I went to restore my data, my iPod decided it no longer wanted to co-operate and would do nothing but display the sad iPod icon. While almost paralyzed by my horror, I was able to recall a tip I read in the magazine about freezing my hard drive. Having no other recourse to recover my data, I decided to give it a shot. I sure am glad that I did because after an hour of freezing the iPod worked successfully for about 7 minutes. After almost a full day of this freeze/restore cycle I was able to recover all of my data.

On a slightly related note, any suggestions for a hard drive that died unexpectedly, with no warning and now isn't even being detected in the BIOS? I have tried the drive in another computer with different cables and it isn't making any unusual noises.

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Crazybillybob

When the drive just dies (no nose or odd sounds) It normally is due to the controller board failing (it's that little circuit board on the back of the drive. Only way to fix it is to replace the board. You can pull the board from a working drive but you have to make sure that they are the same rev. This also will involve some soldering... and should only be done as a last resort.

Nice article good advice!!

CrazyBillyBob

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Talcum X

We read about them all the time and they save you the headaches that may come from diags and recovery you will have to do when a hard drive goes south (the deep south) and that's to just backup your data using some external backup device. You did backup your drive, didn't you?
If it's mechanical, it will break some day, that is a given. It's just a matter of when.

**********
Every morning is the dawn of a new error.

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Marcus_Soperus

A couple of additional tips I'd add to Paul's outstanding summary:

1. Use a demo version of a file recovery utility (File Scavenger or others, such as Ontrack's Easy Data Recovery Professional, available from www.ontrack.com) to determine if the utility can read your drive and find data. Buy the license (so you can recover your data) only after you have verified the program works with the type of problem you have (corrupt file system, no file system, deleted files, etc.)

2. Install the program to a different hard disk or removable media drive to avoid overwriting data on your hard disk. It's neat that File Scavenger specifically supports USB drives. You should make sure you have a drive available that's big enough to store the data recovered from the original drive.
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