Stupid hard drive, be more useful
July 19, 2011 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Data recovery tools: What are the best free tools that are currently available? Also, I have this hard drive that is being a jerk.

A friend of mine dropped off a computer and external hard drive to "fix." The goal is to pull the data off of the external drive and put it onto a new one.

The external hard drive is in an ancient no-name enclosure that appears to not function properly. The enclosure is not getting recognized when connected via USB to either my Windows 7 desktop or Ubuntu laptop. There are no power lights on the enclosure to show it is or isn't working. The hard drive itself is a Western Digital 120GB IDE 3.5" hard drive. I pulled the hard drive out of the enclosure and connected it to my Windows 7 machine to see if I could yank the data. The Master/Slave jumper is missing, but no jumper is indicated for auto-select on the drive. BIOS shows is as auto-selected as a Master IDE drive.

My desktop is recognizing the hard drive in both BIOS and Windows 7. I'm not getting any clicking and it spins up without an issue. I went to Disk Management in Windows 7 and it shows an non-utilized single partition on the hard drive. Windows 7 naturally wants to format the hard drive. I cancelled before that happened. I ran an Ubuntu boot CD to try to yank the data, and it shows an empty partition as well.

I wondered if there are good current free tools available to try to read this drive and get any files off of it. I haven't done one of these data recoveries in probably 6 years. I'm not sure how it was originally partitioned or formatted. I suspect it's FAT32 that likely got corrupted along the way. Also, if anyone has suggestions on how to yank the data off of this thing, I'm open to any suggestions. Thanks MeFis!
posted by Mister Fabulous to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
PC Inspector is a decent freeware solution for recovering files. If you suspect the drive is failing however, try attempting a raw dump (man dd) of it in linux just in case (will need 120gb of storage to place the file elsewhere). This way, if the drive fails mid scan, you could restore the dump to another drive and continue the recovery attempt.
posted by samsara at 11:20 AM on July 19, 2011

I don't know about recovery software, but you should first make a backup of that partition to guard against further damage.

The Linux dd command can copy the partition's contents into a file or into a new partition on another hard disk, even if the filesystem on the partition is hosed. Google "dd copy partition" and "dd backup partition".
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:55 AM on July 19, 2011

Nthing using dd to make a raw sector-by-sector copy before you do anything else. Note that screwing up the dd command itself can result in you blanking out a different hard drive so be careful. You may just want to burn a Parted Magic CD, it has tools to clone disks along with some decent data recovery tools.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:17 PM on July 19, 2011

If the drive itself is trashed, spinrite or hddregenerator. Neither are free but both are amazing. I've actually had better luck with hdd-regen, I use it A LOT.

To actually pull data if the drive is fully functional and you're positive the MBR isn't whacked out (likely, actually, if the drive had a lot of on-offing in a row while the controller was failing) you want Recuva or TestDisk, in this case probably testdisk first.

And absolutely use Acronis or something of the ilk to image the drive first.
posted by TomMelee at 1:30 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

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