My backup drive has turned to gibberish
January 12, 2009 1:59 PM   Subscribe

My backup drive is suddenly filled with gibberish file names and file dates in the future. Help me save my photos!

I opened my USB backup drive today and found this. None of the files can be opened. AVG Antivirus and Kaspersky can't scan the disk but my laptop is clean from viruses. PC Inspector File Recovery can't open the drive either. What now?
posted by Ariadne to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is that drive encrypted? That looks like the operating system is trying to read an encrypted volume as if it was unencrypted.
posted by DWRoelands at 2:10 PM on January 12, 2009

It looks like your file table is corrupted. Sadly it's almost impossible to repair.

Remember a single backup isn't really a backup, it's a liability.
posted by wfrgms at 2:12 PM on January 12, 2009

There are applications which can do a reasonably good job of recovering files when the file allocation table is lost or corrupted. I've had a lot of success with a product called Stellar Phoenix, although I'm sure there are other solutions that work as well. Might be worth downloading a trial version to see what it makes of the drive.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:15 PM on January 12, 2009

Have you tried chkdsk? I once saved about 2000 files by using that, and then a programme to recover the filetypes from the file0001.chk files.
posted by Solomon at 2:28 PM on January 12, 2009

Here's a list of 9 applications that can help you. Start with PhotoRec. Do not install anything onto the flash drive.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:47 PM on January 12, 2009

Working link
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:00 PM on January 12, 2009

So far none of the applications suggested will read the drive. Chkdsk just hangs and does nothing. This is a backup hard drive that connects through a USB cable, not a CF or SD card. If it can't be fixed, can anyone at least tell me what happened?
posted by Ariadne at 3:11 PM on January 12, 2009

You can give Recuva a try
posted by deezil at 4:42 PM on January 12, 2009

Take an image of that drive and then use spinrite. It might be able to pull some data off that corrupted drive.

Have you tried a different computer just to be safe?
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:54 PM on January 12, 2009

Can you get a hard disk bigger than this one? If so, I suggest you make a bit-for-bit image of the disk using the command dd in Linux. It's not too complicated, but I won't get into it here as it's useless unless you can find a bigger drive to put the image in. PM me if you want help for that.

With that method, you have the data, even if it's corrupted. Then you can see how the drive's hardware is doing.

There are a few possible scenarios. The file system may have been corrupted, which could be a random error and the drive will function fine with a good reformat, or the drive is dying and that caused the file system to be corrupt. I suggest finding a bootable drive test. I like the Ultimate Boot CD. Boot from that and run a HD testing program (I like HDAT2). If the drive has a lot of bad sectors, then it is probably dying and should be replaced. If it's just one or two, it might be okay, but I'd check it at least twice a month and not use it for anything you'd mind losing until you're sure the damage isn't getting worse.

Anyway, if you do make an image, I don't know where to go from there, but I'm sure you could ask around. Someone here probably will have an idea, or you could try a more tech-oriented forum.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:24 PM on January 12, 2009

If you want to be on the safe side, and can afford it, a disk recovery service should be able to do the trick. Start your research here or with these terms instead. Good luck.
posted by spiderskull at 11:32 PM on January 12, 2009

Oh, I'm assuming that you're referring to an external hard drive. If it's a flash-based USB key, those services are also around under the "Data Recovery" umbrella.
posted by spiderskull at 11:34 PM on January 12, 2009

The last time I looked into clean-room disk recovery services, the costs were $4000+, and I decided my personal crap would be easier to recreate. So consider that.
posted by rokusan at 3:31 AM on January 13, 2009

(Coming late to this I know, and probably too late, but just a few things to add from personal experience).

I had a similar problem a while back, (at least the same garbled directory structure with random dates). where the directory structure (NTFS) was chewed up by a dodgy firewire chipset on an external drive. I did manage to get most data back using GetDataBack. Might not work for you, but I'd recommend trying it.

As other people say though, stop using it and make a disk image first. Also, other people say it is a chewed file table. Not necessarily, all you can tell from that picture is that your root directory is corrupted. Sub directories and files could still be fine, as they were for me. Not necessarily, but is a possibility.
posted by Boobus Tuber at 2:54 PM on January 15, 2009

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