This tutorial covers, recovering data from a drive that is dying, and has FAT16/FAT32/NTFS partitions. I assume you are using Windows as you base operating system. The software I use here is Active@ Uneraser. The software costs $49.99, but you can use the demo version to see if it will be able to get any data off the drive, but the demo will NOT allow you to copy the data off. If anyone has a better suite of software then I use in this article leave me a comment. If you are recovering data from a drive formated, ext2, ext3, ReiserFS, XFS, or JFS, this tutorial won't help you.
The scenario I'm talking about is where you Window boot disk is the one that died. The steps are a bit different if you have a stable windows install and need to recover data off another harddrive.
You will need the following
-CD Burner or Floppy Disk Drive
-3CDS or 3Floppies
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Recently at work, one of my co-workers machines took a noise dive. A good portion of the development desktops are Sony Viaos, which I have a personal grudge agaist. In the past I've had to do some serious tinkering with these beasts at my previous employ because the machines would always run hot.
Anyways, basically the harddrive crashed. I pop open the case and unsurprisingly I find that the harddrive is Maxtor. The reason this is unsurprising is the last time I had to recover data off a harddrive it was my own personal drive made by Maxtor. The first time I learned how to do a recovery process it took me ~2weeks after work to get the information off the drive. Anyways, to prevent YOU from having the same headaches I'm going to teach a bit about how to recover data off a drive that is failing but still spins.
You'll notice that the harddrive is going when Windows won't boot. When you see that, the first thing to do is shut down the computer.
You should head to the nearest computer supply store and get a new harddrive. Make sure your getting something that your current computer supports.
I suggest picking up either a Seagate or Western Digital. I know some people have had serious issues with Western Digital. One of my friends lost his data to a WD around a year ago. I have no personal grudge with them, and the fact that so far my Maxtor expereince has been ~100% failure rate (2/2), anything better then that is good.
Install this new harddrive into your system. Make it the master. Unhook the dead drive, you'll get back to that later.
If you don't understand how drive ID's work, it's best to unplug anyother harddrives in the system that you don't need to touch at all, simply for safety. Don't want to repartition another drive accidently.
Boot up the included software for your new harddrive. Usually on CD. Select the option to "Setup a drive". Your looking to partition a section of a drive FAT32. To do that you may need to indicate that you are installing the drive for Windows ME or Windows 98. Setup that partition, giving yourself enough room to recover how much data is on the bad drive plus around 2-5gbs for a windows install. The reason you should format FAT32, is that in the case that if you can not boot into windows with your bad drive attached, you will at least be able to recover data in dos mode. There are no programs that can mount a NTFS drive and write to it in dos. There are readers though. (At the time of my writing this and the best of my knowledge)
Install your windows flavor of choice onto your new harddrive. Make sure that you do NOT repartition or update the drive to NTFS. Finish the install and get the machine up and running to a basic functional point. Get the network drivers installed, etc.
Step 6 in Windows
Grab a copy of Active@ Uneraser, see the top of the article for links and info. Burn this to a CD or create a boot floppy from the included program. Also vist your harddrive manufacturs site and grab one of thier testing tools. You'll need to run this as most of the warrenty programs. Burn this to another CD.
Step 7 in Boot Disk
Ok power down the system, reattach the bad drive. Boot up the active@ uneraser program. Select the drive and partition you want to get data off from. Press enter to start scanning.
Once the scan is finished (45-2 hrs depending on amount of data), it will display the directory structure it found, including previously deleted files. If the scan did not turn up any thing, or enough results, press Escape and then press Ctrl+Enter to do more though scan that can take 3 hrs or more.
Step 8 in Boot Disk
Ok now that you have directory strcutre in front of you, select folders or files and press Ctrl+U to copy those files out of the disk and onto your windows disk. Select the location to save the files too and press enter. It will take several mintues to copy out the data, and during the process prompts may come up indicating which data is unaccessiable or unretrievable.
Keep the process going until you get all the data you need off.
Ok, now you are ready to get the warrenty code to return the drive. Insert the MFG's CD, and reboot. Run the scan software on your busted drive. You should get a warrenty code after it completes. Write this down onto a piece of paper and shutdown the computer. Remove the offending drive from the computer.
Ok, that about covers it. You'll need to sift through the data recovered as some of it may be damaged. Instead of using the bootdisc and running the recovery software from DOS, you can boot into windows with the attached drive, but one of my failed drives, when ever attached to windows would cause a BSOD. Something about the drive and the way it failed caused NTFS.sys in windows to explode on contact.