April 6, 2005 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Miracle Filter: I'm trying to make sure I've covered all of my options and while I hope that this hasn't happened to you, I secretly hope it happened to someone. My hard drive is dead.

Well, not exactly the whole drive. One partition of an external firewire drive. I'm on Mac OSX and first went to TechToolPro and Disk Warrior. They tell me I used to have 72GB there. They can rebuild the directory to see 26GB. Insert cursing.

I called Drive Savers for an estimate. Using the Economy delivery service, the charge would be from $500 to $2700. $500 if they recovered 10%, $2700 if they recover it all. Insert fainting.

My latest crackpot scheme is forensic software. I have an email in to a place that sells it to see if I can download a demo to see if it works. Pricey, but not 2700 frickin' dollars. Insert hope.

My question (finally) is: have any of you gone through this hell and retrieved all or most of your data, and if so, was it by using a method I'm not thinking of. Oh, I tried going in through the UNIX on a whim and that didn't work either.

Yes, I'll backup my data from now on and so should you. Do it NOW! Well, after you've answered, at least.
posted by Moondoggie to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
what does "dead" mean and what kind of data do you want back? if you can mount/read the device in unix, then you can use dd to get a copy of everything it contains. if you're looking for text files you can then read through that in an editor and copy fragments to new files. it's a lot of work, but i got back most of a pile of source in a couple of days after "deleting" it.

however, that assumes that you can still read the disk and have just messed up the directory structure. and you only get text files.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:36 PM on April 6, 2005

I've had 2 HDs die on me. I recovered no data.
That being said, it doesn't sound like you have a hardware issue, as it's only one partition. (My drives woulnd't even spin up). Ergo, sounds like a partition table or somethin'. I'm sure some more knowledgeable folks will be in shortly with good suggestions.
posted by signal at 4:38 PM on April 6, 2005

Well, it starts off with the partion not being mounted and not mounting when I try. I was able to get to the partition in unix, but all that I can find out there are three or four sad little mp3 files.

I'm hoping for a directory problem, but during a late night of frantic googling I fear that there might be physical damage. Some days before the partition disappeared, the machine had completely locked up and I was forced to reboot it with the power button. I found some remarks that this could put a hurtin' on a mounted drive that wasn't unmounted properly. Just typing that gives me the heebie jeebies...
posted by Moondoggie at 4:44 PM on April 6, 2005

Do absolutely nothing more to/with the drive until you've created an exact mirror (all partitions) to another drive. (CCC, for example)

Then get professional confirmation that the partition really has lost the data, not just lost track of it. If the tech determines it's mechanical failure (which it may not be from what you've described), here's some suggestions. Again, ONLY AFTER YOU'VE BACKED UP. Just in case one of the experiments doesn't go so well.

P.S. See if you can find the previous AskMe threads about hard drive failure. My google-fu is failing to turn them up. One recent thread cited the freezing trick.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 4:49 PM on April 6, 2005

Do absolutely nothing more to/with the drive until you've created an exact mirror (all partitions) to another drive. (CCC, for example)

If you have directory corruption, CCC won't do anything, as it's a file-by-file copy utility. What you really need is an image copy utility. You can do this with Disk Utility by making a disk image of the problem drive onto another volume.
posted by kindall at 4:53 PM on April 6, 2005

Ah-hah, here's one of the Ask threads.. And it triggered a memory: when one of the OS X updates hosed a bunch of FireWire drives last year, a number of people at the Apple forums reported successful recovery using DataRescue (it looks like RecoverSoft must be its PC equivalent)

On preview: good point, kindall. Thanks for the correction.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 4:56 PM on April 6, 2005

Here's an old AskMe on the subject. I had an MBR on a drive go bad recently, and used R-Studio to browse the files on it, recover some of them, realize I wasn't terribly interested in most of them.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 5:02 PM on April 6, 2005

My latest crackpot scheme is forensic software. I have an email in to a place that sells it to see if I can download a demo to see if it works.

You can. From bottom of DataRescue page: "You can use an unregistered copy (demo mode) of Data Rescue to do a full scan. This full scan works exactly as the fully licensed version would, allowing you to see all the files that are available for recovery. However, the demo mode only allows you to recover one single file, no larger than 500k."
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:04 PM on April 6, 2005

My google-fu wasn't successful either, ncm. I'm going through the link as I type.

Here's something interesting too. Those sad little mp3 files that the unix shell sees? Disk Warrior doesn't see them or the directory they reside in. Go figure.

I'm gonna give the disk imaging a try there, kindall - first I need to find the room for the image. Oy.

On preview: I am humbled by your googlefu and forgot to add - I tried DataRescue too - same results: 26GB and a lot of crying.

On preview squared: R-Studio looks good, but it also looks to be Windows only. Dangit.
posted by Moondoggie at 5:06 PM on April 6, 2005

I saw this on the last preview, but couldn't think of what came after squared.

Actually, the demo I'm hoping for is actual forensic software. I tried the DataRescue demo and that's how I discovered it only found the same 26GB.
posted by Moondoggie at 5:10 PM on April 6, 2005

As previously mentioned, DO NOTHING until you have made an exact backup copy of the entire drive. If you can boot into some form of unix, use dd.

If the drive is still working, and just the one partition is dead, there are ways to get the data back.

I would suggest finding a local unix geek and paying him/her a few bucks to do the backup and recover your data.
posted by bh at 5:12 PM on April 6, 2005

Some more ideas (including resetting the Firewire ports, resetting PRAM, swapping enclosures...) from the Apple forums: [1] [2] [3]
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:17 PM on April 6, 2005

off-topic note for nakedcodemonkey: regarding your question about an autosave utility for the Mac

Moondoggie, good luck with the drive
posted by blueberry at 1:11 AM on April 7, 2005

Just in case anyone's anxiously watching the thread for results, I've had to spend the last couple of days backing up and moving data around so I'd have enough room to try to start saving anything I find. Hopefully I should have a final answer on what happened Monday.

Also, thanks tremendously for all of your help and searching, nakedcodemonkey. One more reason I like monkeys.
posted by Moondoggie at 7:28 AM on April 8, 2005

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