Help! Installing Vista screwed up my HD?

Help please! I am in over my head... My big hard drive just came up as a grossly smaller size and I got a message from the OS saying "this drive needs to be formatted."

How I got here is kind of long, but bear with me. It started a few months ago with my screen randomly not working when I'd turn on or restart my computer, as if my cable wasn't connected or something. I spent hours and days on forums and help sites trying to figure it out, with the general response that either my crappy motherboard was dying or my video card.

I let the problem go by just never turning off my comp once I got it to turn on. Finally one day, I had to restart for a software update. Right after the XP loading screen I got a BSOD with an infinite loop error, related to a video card driver. This is apparently a problem that many people have had with nvidia cards, some have been able to fix it, others have not. I could get into safe mode at first, but eventually, I started getting the BSOD before booting into any version of safe mode. I spend lots of time researching this, the most common solution was to reinstall windows.

Since I had a Vista disc that I'd held off on installing and my XP was out of authorizations, I tried it out. It was an upgrade disc (which you must install from within an OS). I found a workaround online, which is to install it clean, and then once you're set up, reinstall (this time as an upgrade) from within the "trial" version. This was my only option since I was BSOD'ed out of everything else.

Oh, I forgot to mention that trying the XP "repair install" did nothing but give me a bsod at the same place as before.

Here was my setup:
C: my windows install, smaller
D: all my stuff. programs, files, etc. Nothing os'ey so it'd be relatively protected. important.

I read that installing 2 windows'es on a single partition can screw things up, and I had been lazy about keeping important files on my non-OS partition--formatting would've set me back at least a month with work. So I opted to install it on my D: drive. It made me nervous, but I made sure not to do any of the formatting options in the setup (I've installed Windows of various versions at least 25 times in my life). My idea was to just get into SOME kind of OS, make sure everything was backed up, then format my C: and start with a fresh install.

Well the vista install got all the way to the end, then BSOD'ed before finishing! I tried repairing the install, same thing happened. This is a huge hard drive, so I tried installing it again. Same thing happened.

This is when my new motherboard and video card came in the mail. I installed them, and trying to be careful not to mess with the fragile state of my hard drives, I found a POS HD that wasn't hooked up any more, formatted it, and installed a fresh copy of XP on it , at least so I could try to back up some files. Well I got into XP without a hitch and opened up My Computer. My original C: drive is intact, with all files accessible. This was my original goal.

But now we're getting to the heart of the problem. My D: (which is now E:) is 500GB. In My Computer, it shows me a drive 0 bytes in size and when I try opening it, it tells me it needs to be formatted! Can this be due to the failed Vista install? Would Vista have screwed with my data?

One more thing is I still had the program "recover my files" on my original OS hard drive which works in the new XP install for some reason. I am searching for lost files now, but it only recognizes the hard drive as being 128GB. Does this mean that the other 300 odd gigs are gone?

Is there something I should do? I'm hesitant to mess with anything without getting advice because I fear I've already screwed things beyond recognition. Oh, and by the way, I don't want to lose anything on the big hard drive. I realize a format would probably solve my problems. 60G of music is a pain to replace, but on top of that I have a lot of work stuff (I'm a freelancer). I'm backed up, but not recently. Besides, this hard drive was kind of my backup. Any help would be appreciated!
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  1. No, Vista would not have screwed your data... the constant blue screens due to some sort of hardware / driver problem probably did that.

    First off, you need to install Service Pack 2. (Or SP1, but it's better to install SP2). Windows XP sans service packs can't recognize hard drives larger than 137GB. My suggestion is to disconnect the 500GB drive, install updates, then reconnect the drive. If you're lucky, the data will be recoverable at that point.
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