I share some frustrations in my steps to recover data from a friends hard disk.
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This is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary and answers to some of the many
questions I get at askleo.info.
This week I want to share some of my experiences, frustrations and the final
solution as I attempted to recover data from a friends hard disk.
A non-technical friend got a new computer, and I inherited the old.
Naturally, it had important information on it that this friend didn’t want to
lose. Also as naturally, it was most likely heavily infected with viruses and
So the challenge was how to copy the hard disk contents off without actually
booting the operating system and activating any malware while the machine sat
on the supposedly “safe” side of my firewall.
My first thought was to boot the machine using the Knoppix live CD. Booting
into Linux would absolutely prevent any malware from firing up, and once
booted, there are several options for copying the entire hard disk to another
location on my network.
So I changed the boot order in the BIOS, and booted from the latest Knoppix
CD. It booted fine, I could examine the system’s hard disk, and everything
looked good. Except for the network. After a couple of reboots, the network
wouldn’t initialize – it would fail to get an IP address.
My next thought was to boot from a bootable Windows CD I’d created using
BartPE. While I’d have to be a little more careful not to activate malware by
mistake, it “should” be safe. Once again the machine booted fine, I could
examine the hard disk and so on – except now the network wouldn’t work at
It looked like a hardware failure.
I plugged into a different hub on my network. (Which also involved a few
minutes building a new network cable, since I didn’t happen to have any that
were long enough to reach the other device.) No luck.
I added a different network card to the machine. Still no luck.
So at this point, what would you do?
Out of desperation, I warned my wife that our network was going down for a
few minutes, and rebooted my router.
And then, as they say, all was well. The backup DVD is burning as I prepare
My biggest take-away here is that networking is still hard. It’s tough
enough to get it to work in the first place, but random things like a router
clogging up don’t make things any easier.
Oh, and that BartPE and Knoppix (which I’m sure would have worked once the
network issue had cleared up) are wonderful tools for geeks like me.
I’d love to hear what you think. Visit ask leo dot info, and enter 10992 in
the go to article number box. Leave me a comment, I love hearing from you.
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