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HUGE hard disks problem, PLEASE help.

Last response: in Storage
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July 7, 2008 4:30:57 PM

(Apologies for the lengthy message. My technical expertise is nil and I don't know what information is needed, so I prefer to include every possible detail. Neither is my English very good, but I hope to be able to explain the situation clearly)

My computer is an old modified Pentium 4 Micron Millennia with three physical hard disks.
- Disk 1 (40GB) has two partitions (C,D) The C: drive has the operating system (WinXP Pro sp1) plus the program files. D: has only a few of My Documents.
- The bulk of my data is in drive E: (60GB) which is disk 2.
- Disk 3 (250GB) is drive H: and holds images of partitions C, D and E plus individual backups, software installation files and other less important resources and data files.

I thought that this setting was foolproof and my data 100% safe. Not so, a couple of weeks days ago drive E: got virtually "fried" and drive H: was also greatly damaged, both at the same time. How and why did it happen? I don't have a clue. There was a storm, but only a mild one, and - besides - everything is connected through a UPS, which didn't even beep. The only thing I know is that I heard a "clack" and drive E: literally "spat out" both connectors. And I mean *literally*. The only other thing that I can think of is that drive E: was being defragged, which I've done regularly dozens of times.

The situation now is this: the computer doesn't even "see" drive E:, so it seems that there is nothing to do for it other than send it to a data recovering service ...but it's a 2200 to 3600 dollars solution that I cannot afford.

Drive H:, on the other hand, is "seen" by the computer, but as soon as I boot I get a message that says: "Warning. Immediately back up your data and replace your hard disk drive. A failure may be imminent". Did an online search and discovered Ontrack Advisor and Spinrite. Both give the same warning message. Moreover, drive H: appears as "empty" in Windows Disk Manager, "healthy" but with no file system. Amazingly, according to the manager drive E: is also enjoying good health, but as part of the same disk ...and it's not even connected!

Only one of the more knowledgeable people I have consulted so far believes me when I say that drive E: literally ejected the connectors. But not even this person seems to believe that drives E: and H: are two SEPARATE physical disks. The reason is in the attached image. If you'll please take a look at it you'll see that the Disk Manager shows them as two partitions of the same disk. How's this possible? What happened? No idea.

(Couldn't attach the image. Here's the link: http://urlvi.be/5v7wn - please enlarge it to "original size", it has annotations)

That's the problem, explained as best I can. It's HUGE for me, because the information I need to recover is very important to me and because I don't know what to do. Fortunately drive H: has a 15/21 days old image of drive E:, so if I manage to somehow copy or repair it I'll be at least 90% satisfied. Provided drive E was not "stamped" on it, as the Disk Manager seems to imply.

I sincerely appreciate your reading this far, and hope you'll be able to help me find a solution. Specifically:

1. How can I "safely and securely" copy the contents of disk H: to another disk if the computer doesn't even read them? Is there a way, or a software program, to do this?,

and/or

2. Is there a way or a software program to "safely and securely" repair disk H:?

I strongly stress "safely and securely" because I don't want to put whatever data is still recoverable at risk by trying non-100% secure options. I consulted with a disk repair software developer and he very honestly replied that "(his program) is safe to run. However, if you see the warning message, your hard drive's condition is bad. It may completely fail at any time. It may also completely fail when you will be scanning it with (his program), not because of (his program), but because the drive's condition is bad and it may fail at any time."

As a hint, he also said: "It sounds like there are bad sectors in the file table area that affected the logical structure of your disk" ...whatever that means.

Two final details: (1) as you've probably noticed in the attached image, I had an Acronis Secure Zone Partition. A small one, not for backup images but only to be able to use the Startup Recovery and the Try&Decide features, images where created directly into drive H; and (2) now I am using the computer with disk 1 (partitions C and D) only, and after this happened every time I boot I see a message (on the black screen, before starting Windows) that reads: "MBR Error 2".

I trust I covered all the information needed to clearly analyze the problem. If something is missing and you are willing to help me, please just let me know and I'll do my best to provide it immediately. If you are not sure of a solution but know or have an idea of where to look for it, please also let me know. Thank you.
July 7, 2008 4:58:01 PM

So was the 250GB drive a single 250GB partition? Windows has a way of screwing up drive letters if certain disks aren't found. It definitely thinks the 250GB drive is partitioned, but those drive letters may not be what they used to be. Try disconnecting the 250GB drive from the system and see if you can get the other 60GB drive recognized.

I don't quite know what MBR Error 2 is, but MBR is the master boot record... i belive this could affect the partition table as well but i'm not 100% sure. You might need some sort of partition recovery software...

It's difficult to say what's safe and what's not, but nothing is going to be 100% safe. Even a skilled data recovery service that costs thousands will have a disclaimer that says you may end up with squat.
July 7, 2008 5:01:49 PM

Wow, I'm stumped as I don't see how some of that is possible.

-mcg
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July 7, 2008 5:03:58 PM

If Windows is correct there is no DATA on drive/partition E: and H:.

However Windows could be wrong. Download a Linux Live CD and see if you can see the data in the 250GB drive. The data still could be on the drive and Windows could be incorrectly showing that there is no DATA. If you can see the data copy the data to a new HDD.

Also E: and H: dosen't seem to be formated. This could mean that the FAT32/NTFS system could be corrupted or damaged and you have a very low chance of recovering data with out some pro help.
July 7, 2008 5:32:13 PM

Thanks for your very fats replies. (I am not sure of how to quote)

1. szwaba67: drive H was a single partition. Probaly the Acronis Secure Zone partition was there, but I am not 100% sure. The other (60GB) is not recognized even if connected.

2. Shadow7037 93: did a search for "Linux Live CD" and got tons of them. Would you please specify which one (maybe even the link? - thanks). This is Linux, my OS is Windows. It doesn't matter?

Thank you again.
July 7, 2008 11:41:50 PM

Hello SPJ,
Hmm the best thing can think of is using a program such as get data back http://www.runtime.org/ one cool thing is you can install it and use it for free to see if it can find any files and if it can then you must pay to unlock the option to recover the data. it's not bad about $50 usd I think... (make sure you don't install the program on the bad drive and also make sure you have a healthy drive to restore the data on)
Luckily this program will not write at all to your bad drive and only read what it can. so there is not much to lose using this app. I used it about 10x so far with about 8 successes.

Also on windows xp or vista one way you can tell what partitions on what physical drives is you can
right click on the my computer icon and click manage
Click on Disk Management.

This will give you a list of physical drives and also tell you what partitions are on each one.

I hope this helps!
Good luck
July 7, 2008 11:54:04 PM

Thank you for the GetDataBack tip, mancowicp. What I intend to do is write them first, explaining my problem and asking them if their software can help me in a safe and secure way. I'd be more than happy to pay the 50 dollars. Compare that to 3000! I'll buy you a beer if it does ...but you'll have to come down here to Chile... (ticket not included) . Cheers!
!