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Are Ghost/True Image appropriate for dealing with hdd failure?

Last response: in Storage
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February 19, 2010 1:30:17 AM

On Windows XP SP2, I've been getting the "Sec Master Hard disk S.M.A.R.T. Status Bad" message for a few boots and instead of dealing with it immediately like I should have, I've just been pressing F4 to go to Windows. Now, after pressing F4, I get an "Invalid Boot.ini file, booting from C:\windows" message followed by the "Sorry for the inconvenience, Windows did not start normally" screen. From there, any selection ("safe mode," last known good configuration," etc.) causes everything to freeze and the "Sorry for the inconvenience" screen just stays there. Both primary and secondary drives are 5+ year old WD that have served me well, but apparently it's past time to update them. I've purchased two new drives to receive the data from the old ones, and am ready to take care of business.

The problem is I'm not exactly sure what my options are. Ideally I would like to clone each drive onto a corresponding new drive and then use the new drives in exactly the same way as the old ones. Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image are the disk cloning programs that I hear the most about. However, are either of those programs appropriate given that I can't boot into Windows from my primary drive? What if important data is corrupted on either drive? Will those programs notify me that they cannot make a perfect clone? Will they attempt to recover corrupted data? Are there other clone/recovery programs that would be better if data loss is a possibility when trying to clone these nearly-dead drives? Should I not even attempt this process given that I'm not an expert? Frankly, I don't want to pay $1000 for a service like this [drivesaversdatarecovery.com], but I would spring for it if I'm very likely to lose data by doing it on my own.

Thanks for any advice!
a b G Storage
February 19, 2010 3:33:37 AM

No, ghosting won't try to recover corrupted data, so moot point: you'll have to reinstall your Windows anyway, based on what you've said. Just try ghosting the data onto a new drive so you can back up any important stuff still on it.
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February 19, 2010 4:05:09 PM

r_manic...Good suggestion, poor instruction, Andrew732 is asking HOW to do the job...

Andrew732... your boot drive is the issue, not the secondary drive. If you have use of another working computer, repair options of your boot drive become easier. If you do, install your boot drive as the secondary and boot the computer. The invalid boot.ini file will not come into play and you should be able to see both drives in "My Computer". Right click on your drive and select "Properties>Tools>Error Checking>Check Now> Select BOTH error checking options and run it, Windows may want to perform a restart, do that also... Now sit back and relax, it may take a while. When done, replace your boot drive back in your computer and test, if it doesn't boot, then you'll need to setup your new drives with a clean install of whatever OS you want to use... your two current drives can still be used to harvest data... Buy Acronis and image your new system once you have it setup, and DON"T ignore hard drive error messages in the future... email me if you need more info..
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February 19, 2010 5:20:15 PM

Thanks very much for both replies, I appreciate it. So basically, until I can get it to boot, I shouldn't be worrying about trying to clone or recover anything? Is it just an odd coincidence then that the SMART status on the secondary drive goes bad and then very shortly thereafter the primary drive can't boot anymore? That makes sense.

I guess I'm still wondering about the data harvesting step though. Assuming I do get the primary drive to boot, then what is the best approach? Try to clone both drives with Acronis and hope that it works perfectly? Is there any software that would be better suited for this, for example, software that detects and repairs corrupted data that's encountered during the cloning process?
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Best solution

a b G Storage
February 19, 2010 5:28:50 PM

Could be a controller or something else if you have issues with 2 separate hard drives at the same time. Or coincidence. I know, real helpful, yes?

I would steer away from thinking about using cloning software to get your data off the old drives. I would do it in this order if it were me:

1) use another computer, put that drive in as a secondary drive
2) boot, make sure drive is visible
3) copy files off using windows explorer, backup software, or any other file COPY method. This will copy what they can, and tell you what doesn't back up (c:\my documents\term paper.xls did not copy, for example).
4) then try a disk repair utility, once all urgent files are copied elsewhere
5) then if it's repaired OK, try an image program if you have to. If you can though, I would just reinstall from scratch onto the new HD (OS/Apps) and then restore your files manually.

(don't forget to do stuff like export your bookmarks, if they aren't already backed up elsewhere)
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February 20, 2010 7:17:36 PM

Thanks again for all the replies. Based on this thread and some other poking around with google, I will summarize what seems to be the consensus course of action in such a situation. Any comments are more than welcome!

1) Install the problem drive as a secondary drive on another computer. (In my case there was no free SATA connector on the other computer, so I purchased one of these to install the problem drive as an external USB drive: http://www.rosewill.com/products/1091/productDetail.htm.)

2) If any essential data is visible on the problem drive, copy it directly to the other computer.

3) Attempt Windows error-checking with the "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors" option checked.

4) If repair works, clone problem drive to brand new drive and continue normally.

5) If repair doesn't work and there is essential data that was not visible on the drive in step 2 above, send the problem drive to a professional recovery service such as http://www.drivesaversdatarecovery.com/ and see what they can do with it.

There are a few contingencies that I'm still not quite sure how to handle, for example: what if chkdsk doesn't fix every single issue on the problem drive, but almost all of the data appears fine on the drive? There must be some type of sophisticated cloning software I can use on the problem drive that just skips corrupted data? I REALLY want to clone the drive and not start over with a new Windows installation. 5+ years of programs and custom settings have built up that I don't want to lose.
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a c 115 G Storage
February 20, 2010 7:24:36 PM

Cloning works when you make the copy before the disk gets corrupted.
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February 20, 2010 7:34:45 PM

Yeah, that's why the plan is to attempt to repair everything before cloning. I was just hoping that there was some type of software more sophisticated than Ghost or TrueImage that was able to ignore corrupted files.
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a b G Storage
February 21, 2010 7:14:56 PM

Can I ask why you are so set on cloning, vs. a reinstall? It seems to be a very bad choice here.
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February 21, 2010 8:43:28 PM

The main reason is that this system has accumulated 5+ years of data and personalized settings. If cloning actually works, it seems like it would save me an enormous amount of pain and suffering. I don't see why it's not worth researching and attempting if at all possible.
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February 23, 2010 12:17:32 AM

Best answer selected by andrew732.
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a b G Storage
February 23, 2010 12:11:18 PM

Thanks! :sol: 

The data should be able to move over manually. Not sure what settings are at issue here. yes, it's a pain to reinstall. My thinking is that once you have trouble with a HD, don't screw with it, just install on a fresh HD from scratch. I guess it doesn't hurt to try cloning & see what happens.
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March 3, 2010 9:49:48 PM

In case anyone else comes across this thread, I thought I would add some of the knowledge I've gained since my HD issues began. To answer my own original question: no, Ghost and True Image are not appropriate for dealing with HD failure. The steps above in the best answer are good ones, but the information in step 5 can be greatly expanded. In particular, it really is just the beginning of the process, assuming you're one of the few stubborn people (like me) who want to exhaust every possibility before reinstalling Windows and losing all your programs.

First, don't use Ghost or True Image for the cloning attempt. Linux programs such as ddrescue are designed specifically to deal with cloning when bad sectors are present. Next, there are several more unobvious steps necessary to get the newly cloned system up and running at full health. Yes, it is possible to accomplish this feat, especially if only one or a small number of sectors are bad.

See this excellent thread [http://www.mail-archive.com/bug-ddrescue@gnu.org/msg000...],
the complete guide to ddrescue [http://www.gnu.org/software/ddrescue/manual/ddrescue_ma...],
and this page [http://wiki.lunarsoft.net/wiki/Data_Recovery] for enlightening information that I myself am still digesting.

My own issues are not over with; I haven't even decided on replacement hardware yet, so it will be a while. I do plan to report how it finally turns out though in case it might be helpful to others in the same situation. Thanks again to all who posted.
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