Hard Drive Recoverable?
June 26, 2009 4:48 PM   Subscribe

I just pulled an older computer out of the closet to donate, and yesterday it booted up fine. Today, I get an error stating "A disk read error occured, press CTL ALT DEL to reboot." I used UBCD for Windows and I cannot see the hard drive when I boot from there either. What other avenues should I explore to try and fix the disk, or is it toast and the files unrecoverable? I am willing to open it up. Thanks in advance.

Info on the computer:

Dell Dimension 2400
Intel Pentium 4 2.8 GHz processor
Chipset: Intel 845GV chipset
Memory: 256MB PC-2700 DDR memory (one module)
Networking: Integrated 10/100 Ethernet
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 40GB ATA/100 7200RPM hard drive
CDROM: Hitachi 48X CD-ROM drive
posted by jules1651 to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a dead disk -- but to be sure (ie, there is a .01% chance...), pop the case and make sure the IDE cable is seated properly.

Look at a local computer store and see if they will sell you an old 40-80gb hd for <$25.
posted by SirStan at 4:57 PM on June 26, 2009

If there are files that you'd like to pull off the machine before you donate it, you could try to mount it via a Linux flavor - I have a old corrupted drive that windows won't read, but linux will. You can make a bootable CD (or flash drive) with the Linux distro and boot from there, move the files you want to another drive. (And then ditch the hard drive before you donate it ;))

can't find them now, but there were instructions on lifehacker maybe 2 years ago about doing this..
posted by snowymorninblues at 5:46 PM on June 26, 2009

Does UBCD have SATA drivers loaded? It might not be seeing your disk because it doesn't have that controller's drivers loaded. From UBCD4Win's own howto page:
Version 3.06 driver change. Our "UBCD4Win driver pack" for network devices is still included in the latest version, however mass storage drivers have been removed. In their place we now have BTS mass storage drivers. The BTS driver pack includes drivers for many devices, so you should be able to see any SCSI, SATA, etc., hard drive hooked up to your system.
So make sure you load SATA drivers (an extra step) when you make your build of UBCD from your XP install. The fact that you are seeing "Ctrl-Alt-Del..." error tells me that the BIOS sees your disk okay and is trying to boot (Ctrl-Alt-Del is a Windows thing), so it is likely a corrupt file on your disk and you may be able to recover your data.

What I'd do is get another (working) system, throw the drive in there, mount it on the working WinXP/Vista installation, copy all the data off of it and either test it thoroughly and reinstall XP/Vista/whatever, or annihilate it. (I'd annihilate it and strip it for magnets and motors.)
posted by ostranenie at 6:28 PM on June 26, 2009

Seconding snowymorninblues' idea. I saved vacation pictures from the fiancees family computer that had been sitting there for years in about 10 minutes. Most of that time was wading through the junk they had in the room.

I used Ubuntu because that's what I already had. Puppy and Feather are both pretty small and should work, but I haven't tried them yet.
posted by theichibun at 6:31 PM on June 26, 2009

I'd recommended using Ubuntu - it'll be easier for a Windows user as it'll all be point and click. Download the iso file from Ubuntu.com for Ubuntu 9.04 burn the disk image to a CD. Boot from the CD on the bad PC, and when it asks select test Ubuntu without changing anything on my computer. When it comes up you should be able to click on the hard drive icon in the desktop to auto mount the bad drive and if it's readable you'll be able to copy data to a USB drive.
posted by COD at 7:09 PM on June 26, 2009

If it is totally undetectable and you've been moving around, i would check the cable connections before you do anything else. Check the power and the IDE cables on both ends.
posted by bensherman at 6:51 AM on June 27, 2009

found the lifehacker link I mentioned above:

posted by snowymorninblues at 10:28 AM on June 27, 2009

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