How can I get data off a bad hard drive?
June 29, 2008 11:28 PM   Subscribe

I am having a very unusual problem with my hard drive and CANNOT recover any data from it after trying numerous methods. Please help me with your technical expertise.

A few weeks ago the hard drive for my Dell Inspiron 1520 became unable to boot into Vista after freezing suddenly. When trying to boot, I get a BSOD with the error message "Stop: c000142{DLL Initialization Failed} Initialization of the dynamic link library winsrv failed. The process is terminating abnormally." When attempting to launch startup repair, boot into safe mode, or boot off of several different Vista DVDs I am greeted with a cursor (that I can control) on a black screen that never goes anywhere.

I ran Dell's built-in diagnostic program, and after being given several hard drive related errors, Dell (very quickly) sent me a new hard drive. Now I need to send them the old one, and I would like to recover my data from it before wiping it and sending it back.

I first put it in an enclosure and connected it to Vista, but Vista does nothing more than prompt me to format the drive.

I then ran Spinrite, which, after 27 hours(!) of operation returned no bad sectors or errors of any kind. What's unusual, however, is that my old drive does not exactly match my new drive in terms of partitions. The data partition is flagged as being too large for the size of the drive, and I am advised to change my BIOS's "understanding" of the drive (which I can't do). It is also missing a partition labeled as "hidden CTOS memory dump". I have no idea what this means.

I then booted off of a Knoppix cd and attempted to mount the drive there. I was able to mount the two partitions containing Dell's hidden diagnostic and recovery data, but Knoppix was unable to recognize the existence of a third partition containing my data.

Google searches have proved inconclusive (particularly in the case of my BSOD error message). Please help me get my data!
posted by deafmute to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: R-Studio NTFS has hacked away at drives I thought were completely toast and found data for me, despite its wildly fux0red partition tables. Good luck.
posted by disillusioned at 11:37 PM on June 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

Just for the heck of it, boot off of a Ubuntu LiveCD and see if you can mount the drive.

Also try a Trinity Rescue boot cd.
posted by zippy at 1:22 AM on June 30, 2008

By the way, here's a step by step guide to recovering data using the Trinity rescue kit.
posted by zippy at 1:56 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

When booting off a linux live cd, you can try gpart [different from gparted, it's editor-cousin, though that's a good live cd to use]. gpart will scan your drive looking for regions that look like partitions--it'll give you a choice to re-write the partition table with the new settings it finds... note that this last step will impact your drive and may (or may not) prevent you from repeating it, but if it finds a partition about the same size as the one you expected, you should be able to put the drive into your enclosure and pull the data off...
posted by zachxman at 5:09 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you let spinrite run against the drive with the wrong partition information, it may have completely trashed the existing information.
posted by nomisxid at 8:48 AM on June 30, 2008

Best answer: I'd second R-Studio, great little program-- horrible customer service though.
posted by Static Vagabond at 11:58 AM on June 30, 2008

Response by poster: R-Studio worked immediately. I was able to pull all the data I needed and then some. Thanks for the help everyone.
posted by deafmute at 11:50 AM on July 4, 2008

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