Lost Laptop Data
June 3, 2005 11:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm posting for a friend who was using an old laptop running win95. One day it wouldn't boot, so they took it to "Geek Squad" at compusa or wherever, and they said they couldn't help.

1. Will I do more damage if I look at the drive with a linux boot floppy?

2. Could putting the drive in an external enclosure possibly help us extract data?

3. Is there a way to find which of the zillions of online data recovery services is reliable and fairly priced?

4. I believe the drive contains 20 single spaced pages of a novel in progress. Writers: Should she just try to recreate it?
posted by craniac to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
why do you think there's a problem with the drive? when it "doesn't boot" what does it display/do?
posted by andrew cooke at 11:17 AM on June 3, 2005

1) Not if you don't write to the drive
2) Possibly, depends on what's actually wrong with Windows
posted by cmonkey at 11:29 AM on June 3, 2005

From what they told me, they're not getting pass the bios screen.
posted by craniac at 11:36 AM on June 3, 2005

When HDDs are dying, using them can make the problem worse. So when a HDD is even suspected of dying, I like to set everything up to create optimal conditions to access it, then give it one perfect shot, where all the odds are stacked for success. If that doesn't work, it's serious, and more monkeying around will likely just make things worse. If it does work, the problem is solved because once the disk is accessable, you can copy everything off it before you power down.

So in your shoes, I would put the drive in another computer altogether, a very reliable computer that works.

Turn on the machine, check the drive appears in the bios, continue the boot. If the drive is working, copy everything off it as if this might be the last time it works. If the drive doesn't work, there are a lot of diagnostics you can try, since it is plugged into a working computer, but it sounds like you're not into that and a data recovery place might be your best bet.

(Plugging it into another computer may require changing the jumper settings to slave if you're putting it on the same ribbon cable as an existing drive. THe right jumper settings for each mode should be indicated on the drive itself)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:49 AM on June 3, 2005

I should make clear - DON'T remove the existing drive from the computer that you're adding the suspect drive too - the point is that that computer will boot from its own drive, and the suspect drive will be an auxiliary drive that can then be examined.

I think this is preferable to your option 1 as it's easier to copy the data if the disk spins up, and there are more diagnostic tools at your disposal. So to address (1), yes, you can make the problem worse, but it might still be worth it to give it one perfect shot and see what happens. Risk assesment isn't my thing :)

Re: question (2) It could, and again, it's basically the same (though not quite as good for diagnostics) as putting it in a working computer. but I think this is a better idea than a boot floppy, because if it works, you can rapidly back up the drive, and then it doesn't matter what happens to it.

Re: (4) My rule of thumb (which is highly subjective), is that if it's possible I'll spend more than half as much time trying - and failing - to fix something, as it would take to start from scratch, it's better to cut my losses and start over. How this applies when it's you doing the recovery work instead of her... I don't know :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:59 AM on June 3, 2005

If it's not getting past bios you might try pulling the drive and hooking it up to another computer (might need an adapter for this). If it fails at BIOS, it's not necessarily a hd problem.

most times when bios doesn't post for me it's either a video card or (more likely) memory error. Try pulling the memory and replacing it with known good mem.
posted by fishfucker at 12:01 PM on June 3, 2005


From my experience, I almost always improve what I've written when I'm forced to recreate it from scratch. Sometimes I've lost some clever turn of phrase or a particularly well-structured scene, but most often my re-constructed piece is tighter and better written. And besides: she'd have just revised the hell out of those twenty pages eventually, anyway. Right?
posted by jdroth at 12:18 PM on June 3, 2005


The cost of a full HD recovery procedure from a reputable supplier will work out between $600 and $4,000 depending on a variety of factors. Few of these factors are obvious to anyone outside a drive recovery company.
posted by blag at 2:45 PM on June 3, 2005

I heard back from my friend, and they expressed their thanks for the advice in this thread. The author of the original writing is actually revising/recreating at this point, and at some future date I'll pull the drive and put it in their desktop machine. Thanks!
posted by craniac at 2:57 PM on June 3, 2005

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