Failing Laptop Hard Drive.

  AlanHo 22:56 02 Feb 10

A tearful grand daughter has brought her laptop to me which is refusing to boot - showing a message that says windows needs to be repaired. However - it will not respond to the repair option being clicked on. She has lots of schoolwork stored on the hard drive and many hundreds of photos.

I have removed the hard drive and plugged it into my computer via a USB adaptor which shows 3 partitions. I can access the recovery partition and a small partition called "System" but the data partition cannot be accessed using explorer - there is a 3 or 4 minute wait after clicking on the drive before I get a message that tells me the partition needs to be formatted - which of course I am loathe to do because of losing her data.

Looking at the drive using Windows 7 disc management I can see the partiton I need to access - it is shown as healthy but the format is not NTFS - it shows as RAW.

The drive is making some clicking sounds, so I guess it is on its deathbed - hence I want to try and copy the important data to another drive, fit a new hard drive in the computer, reinstal windows and restore her data.

Where do I go from here....?

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 09:11 03 Feb 10

You mat be able to access the drive with a Linux OS.

1. Attach target drive to machine.
2. Download ISO image of UBUNTU Desktop edition. It's open source and free. click here
3. Burn ISO to 80 minute CDR.
4. Set computer to boot from CDROM.
5. Boot from the Ubuntu CD and select to boot without installing the OS.
6. Once Ubuntu loads you will have access to all the drives on your system.
7. Open the partition and copy all your files from that partition to one of your NTFS drives/partitions. NOTE that you will have to have enough space on your other drive(s) to copy everything over.

  canarieslover 10:53 03 Feb 10

Try some of the freeware data recovery programs like click here or click here There are also 'Try before you buy' options like click here if you are desperate.

  AlanHo 12:20 03 Feb 10

Thanks for the suggestion - I have never before used Linux but here was my chance to have a go.

At first I got a message saying that it could not mount the drive - but after a couple of attempts I was able to access it and it showed 2 partitions - one called System and the other named Vista. It listed all the folders in both partitions and I now know that the Vista partition contains the OS, Programs and Documents and Systems.

Unfortunately, infuriatingly and unhappily - the folder called Documents and Settings is shown as empty. I have tried remounting the drive several times but have come up empty every time. What is more frustrating is that all the other folders can be opened OK so the corruption is confined to the folder I most need. I believe they call it sod's law.

Thanks anyway for your info - it is appreciated.

  itg 14:32 03 Feb 10

My documents are stored in the folder C:\users and not documents ans settings.
Try the users folder!

  AlanHo 14:55 04 Feb 10

I have solved the problem.

I purchased a copy of EASEUS Data Recovery Wizard which eventually recovered all her schoolwork and probably all of her photos and music - thousand of them. Her parents have paid for it because the quote they got from PC World to do the recovery and fit a replacement hard drive was mind boggling. I have ordered a new hard drive and recovered her data for a fraction of the cost.

At first I was disappointed because the program kept pausing for long periods when trying to scan the faulty disk which rattles quite a lot. I wasted many hours before I eventually managed to get it to read the drive by.........don't laugh............promise not to ridicule me......sealing it in a plastic bag and burying it in frozen peas to keep it freezing cold. This trick stopped the clatter and rattle it was making which then allowed it to be read.

It seems to be a very good program and can recover data from most storage media. Unlike most recovery programmes, it recovers the directory structure and all the file names. Furthermore, as I can confirm, it can recover data from damaged hard drives and ones that have been reformatted.

  canarieslover 15:41 04 Feb 10

Glad my advice was of assistance to you. I'm not going to laugh at the frozen peas either as I have used the 'freeze the hard drive' method before with some success. In fact I wish that I had thought of the frozen peas as it would probably enabled me to do the recovery in one session instead of three.

  AlanHo 19:42 05 Feb 10

Now for the next stage upon which I would appreciate some help.

I now have a copy of all her valuable files on my computer - which is also backed up to an external drive so they are safe.

I was able to then connect the faulty drive back to the laptop using a SATA to SATA adaptor cable and, as I mentioned earlier, by using up most of our freezer contents, I have managed to keep the faulty hard drive working whilst I did some experiments. After much faffing around I was able to invoke the inbuilt computer repair software which formatted the damaged partition and restored Vista to the drive. It held together long enough for me to then install Acronis and take an image of the drive onto an external USB hard drive.

The drive has 3 partitions -

1) A hidden one which has the Vista reinstallation software

2) A small one called "System" having a few hidden files

3) A large partition having the Vista OS, Programs and Data (But currently with just the OS and Acronis because I "repaired" it)

I have acquired a replacement SATA 80 GB hard drive which is brand new and not formatted.

So I now have the following ingredients.....

a) An external USB hard drive on which I have an Acronis image of all 3 partitions.

b) My desktop computer to which I am able to connect the external hard drive and the new hard drive (using a SATA to USB adaptor).

c) The faulty hard drive which has now expired - I can no longer access the large partition with the OS on it. I cannot afford any more frozen peas.

d) The laptop in which I could instal the new unformatted hard drive and to which I could connect the external USB hard drive having the Acronis image.[/list]

So what is the best way forward....from here....?

What I am not sure about is whether I first need to format the new hard drive before Acronis can recognise it.

Also - will Acronis create the 3 partitions or do I have to do this first and restore them one by one.

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 19:53 05 Feb 10

Acronis tutorial click here

  canarieslover 21:27 05 Feb 10

You will need to make your Acronis bootable CD first as the laptop will not be bootable with the new hard drive in.

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