A hard drive died. I review the steps I took, and what finally saved me in the end.
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This is Leo Notenboom for askleo.info.
I had a hard disk crash recently, and I thought it might be interesting to
review what happened and what I’ve done since to try and recover my data.
One day Windows simply reported that it could not read the drive; that the
data had been corrupted.
My first thought was to run SpinRite to locate and repair any physical
defects on the drive itself. SpinRite ran for several hours and told me the
drive was just fine.
Of course it wasn’t, but this ruled out a true hardware crash and pointed to
simple data corruption.
I pulled out a copy of Acronis Disk Director to attempt to repair the
partition table, thinking that might be the next logical place for a failure.
Acronis found nothing to repair, the partition table was fine. That implied
that the actual disk directory structure – NTFS in this case – had somehow
I found an interesting utility called “Get Data Back”. Running that for
several hours recovered what I’d estimate to be about 50 to 70% of the data on
the drive. I copied that off and decided to call it quits there.
You see, recovering the drive was an exercise in convenience. Most
everything on that drive was duplicated elsewhere: the mp3’s were ripped from
my CD collection, the iTunes downloads were being backed up nightly to another
drive, product and other CD images were just that; images of CDs that I had
sitting around elsewhere. Recovering what I could was a time saver, but not
There are two lessons here that I think make this story worthwhile:
Stuff happens. You will at some point, when you least expect it, lose the
contents of a drive.
The only truly reliable way to recover is to have backups.
Yes, I was able to recover some of my data directly from the drive, but not
all. The fact that everything was backed up in some form or another is what
As to why this happened: I suspect, but can’t yet confirm, that putting
three external USB and Firewire drives on a single machine confused the USB and
Firewire adapter I was using. Something didn’t get transferred properly that
But that’s only a guess.
In the mean time I’m reformatting that drive, and once again reviewing my
backup strategy just in case.
I’d love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.info and enter 11707 in the go
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Till next time, I’m Leo Notenboom, for askleo.info.