I got caught with my pants down...
I got a hard drive that's giving error readings trying to read data off it.
The data has a fair amount of value, but it can be replaced for a few (maybe
several if my time is worth anything) hundred dollars.
Any fairly inexpensive data recovery utility that's worth a try?
I can't help with the utility, but I think I have a good simple backup
plan. Both PCs have only the Operating System and programs that didn't
have an install path option on C:, all data and most programs are on
large external USB drives. I back up the external drive by moving the
USB plug to the other PC and copying all the recently changed root-
directory folders into \Backup\[date]\ folders. It takes a while but
runs unattended. I didn't buy two new PCs for this, just re-purposed
the older one when I upgraded.
A USB adapter cable that will operate a bare drive can be very
There a a buncha companies which recover data from screwed up hard drives:
But I hear they don't do their thing very inexpensively.
I backup critical data "offsite" simply by uploading it to the scads of
storage space which comes with my Comcast account. That way gives me
protection in the unlikely case of fire or flood where my computer is
I've been using WS_FTP LE to move those files to and from my Comcast
storage space. It has an easy to use "Windows Explorer" style interface
and is still available free at places like:
Second on both.
For offsite I have two of the little pocket HDs and a designated staging
area on one of my machines with a big disk. I push zipped and encrypted
files to the local staging area periodically during the weeks / month.
When the staging area (Vault0) is updated enough I get the pocket HD I
keep in the gun safe and update it from Vault0. Then I take this updated
HD to the bank and it goes into my safe deposit box and the other pocket
HD from there comes back home, gets updated and then put in the gun
safe. Pretty cheap, not overly complex and covers most contingencies. I
may eventually go to remote mirroring to another site (1,700 miles away)
if I have the time and money to set it up.
I had a drive that one morning complained of problems reading the drive,
turned out to be outlook.pst file, the systems was giving CRC errors on
that file but the Windows file system checking showed no errors even
with a full surface scan. I eventually wrote a small prog to read the
data and ignored the bad sector reads and filled them in with crap, then
ran the outlook recovery program and it identified 1 bad email record,
which was of no consequence in the end, so the data was to all intents
restored. Not so confident with the Windows file system checking after that.
You can have any sort of raid and still lose data. There are many
scenarios why one could lose data, examples:
1) Disk failure
2) House fire
3) Accidental deletion
Raid does not protect against possibilities 2 and 3. Only versioned
offsite backup does.
Well, it's not truly inexpensive, but Spinrite 6.0 from Gibson
is the gold standard for disk repairs and data
recovery like that.
About $60 last I checked - and it can be run as a diagnostic on a
less intensive level. If your hard drive is only starting to fail,
the periodic sweeps will start showing bad blocks recovered and saved
- the files that fail first might be photographs or stuff you don't
look at often, but when the OS or Boot sectors go, it suddenly
If there are still signs of life and it's at all possible to extract
the good data, move it to a working sector and flag the bad sector as
bad, Spinrite will do it.
(Only problem I have is their FreeDos bootable CD won't work with
the latest 64-bit machines. I'll have to get on their support
newsgroups and see if someone has a new boot CD that works.)
Note that sometimes it's a thermal fault - the drive starts going
away as it heats up. Open the case and aim the air conditioner output
right at the hard drive.
Worst case, you double-wrap the drive in a static bag for static
protection, and a Ziploc for a moisture block, and freeze it
overnight. Then let it "thaw" in the refrigerator before plugging it
in and trying again, and see above about keeping it chilled as you
repair and then get the data off.
Absolutely. Take your hard drive off line immediately untily you're
ready to do the recovery otherwise you may worsen the damage.
The program to download is DFSee.
It costs $50 to register, but it's completely functional as
downloaded. The directions are difficult to follow unless you're a
hard drive techie - what you're really paying for is the right to have
the software author walk you through the recovery step by step. I've
used it twice. It's paid for itself.
What he'll have you do is have the program read the raw data off the
dying disk sector by sector and put it onto a good hard drive where
the DFSee software will then recover it as files. With NTFS you're
odds of getting data back are pretty good. I did it with Fat32 and
was pretty successful considering that it isn't as robust.
[ ... ]
Yes -- a *frequent* backup. Raid 5 is good for avoiding
corruption of data from a failing drive (I'm using Sun's zfs software
RAID with "raidz2" level protection.)
But -- if you get hit by a virus, or someone breaks in through a
security hole, they can corrupt or delete the files and as far as the
RAID system is concerned, they are perfect -- they are the version of
the file last written to disk. Just because they don't contain what you
expect them to contain does not mean that the RAID system failed -- just
your anti-virus and other security items.