Borked XP install due to large HDD size

I believe "borked" is the polite way of describing what I've done. A few months back, I started having random issues with BSODs and other strange occurrences. The 640GB HDD I had XP on was overdue for a reformat so I proceeded to do so last night hoping that might clear up the issues. However, instead of using my "newer" XP cd that has SP2 on it, I managed to install with old school XP on it. As I now know, vanilla XP does not support drives larger than 137GB.
As I began the installation process, I thought it was strange that it showed that the drive only when 137GB, when it shouldve had 2 partitions, one of 250-ish GB and the other of 390-ish GB. "No matter, I'll install XP and then increase the partition size up to 250GB from 137GB with software." So I installed XP on what I was hoping was the 250GB partition. It installed fine, but then when it tried to restart into Windows it would flash "Invalid BOOT.INI" and restart. Then it would POST, and again "Invalid BOOT.INI" and repeat.
So I looked into the solution for Invalid BOOT.INI and followed the steps for that, but its giving me the same error.
So here is the kick in the goods. I then said screw it, lets try a different drive. Threw in an old 250GB drive (which was partitioned into 125GB/125GB) and installed XP onto that drive--the one I'm currently using to type this up. Interestingly, it installed fine, and the old data that I had on the D: partition is still on that 125GB partition. So essentially, I did the exact same thing with this current drive as I did with the 640GB, but I believe I was saved by the fact that the 250GB was partitioned into two 125GBs.
If TL;DR, here's the problem: I've got a 640GB HDD that had a failed XP install. I would like to get the data off the D: partition of that drive. XP doesnt seem to recognize the data on it--Manage>Disk Management shows it as being a 1.2TB hard drive with 3 partitions--1 at ~137GB, 1 at roughly ~840GB, and 1 at ~260GB.
Any brilliant ideas of how I can get some of the data off the hdd short of expensive data recovery professionals?
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  1. Sounds like the drive is bad, did you try a recovery program like Recuva? If the issue is not physical, it should be able to reconstruct files.
  2. What motherboard do you have? I have seen a thread on Gigabyte mobos screwing up disk size.
  3. Your fundamental problem with trying to use the 640 GB drive is that the old version of Win XP you have used cannot handle it. Never mind the fact that it is broken up into smaller Partitions. From the perspective of Win XP, it MUST be able to handle the ENTIRE drive size, and yours can't.

    Look at it this way. The underlying issue is that up to the first version of Win XP, the OS would specify a location on a HDD using a single Logical Block Address composed of a binary number with 28 bits. So the maximum number of Sectors it could address was 268,435,456. At 512 bytes per Sector, that is 137,438,953,472 bytes - look familiar?

    To deal with larger HDD's, the OS (and the HDD and its controller) need to use the newer system of "48-bit LBA" in which the address is 48 bits long, not 28. That allows for a MUCH bigger number.

    Now, you have a HDD that already had 2 Partitions on it of about 250 and 390 GB. Then you re-installed Win XP with an ORIGINAL version CD and it re-wrote the Partition table to make the first Partition only 137 GB, because that's all it can do. So now your OS can access the first Partition. But if you try to access any location on the HDD beyond that, your old Win XP cannot send out an address above 137 GB, and it can't really understand data from the Partition Table on the HDD that tells it the other (formerly second) Partition starts somewhere around 250 GB. If you actually tried to write above the 137 GB location, what old Win XP would send out as an address would be missing the upper 20 bits (because it is only sending out the lower 28 bits), and the write operation would happen somewhere down low in your FIRST partition - maybe re-writing some of the OS's own files and corrupting them!

    You have two choices. One is to start over and re-install Win XP with a more recent Install CD. In doing that you WILL lose all the stuff on your new 137 GB Partition and on the smaller fragment left over from your original first Partition. However, you may be able to save what was in the second (390 GB) Partition if you can avoid touching it. As the first step of the Install, you would VERY CAREFULLY get it to Delete the existing first Partition of 137 GB AND the second fragment of about 110 GB if there is one, but NOT do anything to the 390 GB Partition. The risk here, though, is that I am not sure it will keep the location of the larger old Partition in the HDD's Partition Table if you Delete the first Partition. But if it works, you can then proceed to Install the newer Win XP by having it Create a 250 GB Partition (maybe make if a little smaller to be sure it does not write over the start of your 390 GB Partition).

    The other option would be simply to update the old Win XP you now have installed in the 137 GB Partition to SP3. Then that version of Win XP ought to be able to handle the entire HDD properly, including seeing and reading the 390 GB Partition with its data. I'm not sure just what it will tell you about the space between them - the left-over part of about 110 GB that was not used when the 137 GB new Partition was created. It MAY just be Unallocated Space, and you could use that to Create a third Partition in it. This option leaves you with three Partitions instead of two, and not the sizes you had planned, but it has more hope of keeping all your old data on the 390 GB old Partition.

    I suppose there's a third option, too. Follow Option 2 until you can safely access all the data on both the 137 GB and the 390 GB Partitions. The back up all of that to another HDD. Then wipe your entire HDD clean and re-install Win XP with the proper CD containing SP3, re-creating both your original Partitions. Then restore all your data from backups.
  4. Sorry for the delay in response, and I appreciate all of the feedback. I had midterms to grade and such, so I wasn't able to deal with the situation immediately.
    The final solution I used was dig up an old 250GB HDD and put XP on that. It also had 2 partitions (~125GB each), and XP installed without a hitch and it left the D: drive intact without issues. So it did exactly what I was hoping to accomplish with the original 640GB HDD. I then used EaseUS to recover the D: partition of the 640GB drive (I didn't recover the C: partition because I was intended on installing over it anyways).
    Once I get some more time, I'll reformat the 640GB drive and start using it again as this 250GB drive is obscenely loud.
    On a side note, I was very pleased with the ease of use and straight-forward UI of EaseUS. I highly recommend it to anyone who is having issues with a finnicky drive.
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