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Failing hard drive: Shows in BIOS, can't access files

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August 17, 2012 3:31:52 AM

Hi, I have a SATA hard drive that's pretty obviously dying. It's mostly dead. I've accepted that but I want to access it for 1 minute to try to copy some tax files. Please help.

Problem start: Computer would hard freeze. No mouse, no response. SpeedFan suggested the video card was on fire, so I replaced it. With new video card, HDD was giving me SMART status bad. Replaced old video card. No more SMART status bad, but can't boot Windows or access the drive.

The drive (E: ) :
Shows up in BIOS 95% of the time. The other 5% a quick restart or jiggling a wire will get it to show up.
Will not boot Windows 7: 10 minute boot, then it crashes and reboots. Same for "last known configuration"
Will not boot in safe mode: loads some files, hangs on CLASSPNP.sys, crashes and reboots.

"Repair your computer" black screen for 5-10 minutes, then just a white cursor on black screen for hours.

Using "Repair your computer" off a boot disk will be very slow, give me the background and white cursor, still doesn't go anywhere.

I have another old drive with Windows 98 installed. I can boot to that (takes 15-20 minutes) and the bad drive will show up in My Computer. If I double- or right-click, windows explorer hangs. After 10 minutes or so it sometimes gives me "Drive is not formatted." Obviously I decline formatting.

If I open command prompt in Windows 98 and type e: it will give me "Cyclic redundancy check"

If the drive would stop showing up in BIOS, I would give up and throw it out. ANY chance of accessing the drive? I have a massive external drive and would love to type "copy *.* e:"

Thanks for any help.
a c 79 G Storage
August 17, 2012 1:45:35 PM

If the drive can't be accessed when installed as a secondary drive, file recovery software isn't going to fare any better. Too late now, but you should always store your data on at least two hard drives as they all fail eventually.

It's not unusual by any means for a failed hard drive to still be listed in the BIOS configuration. That in no way indicates that the data on it can be accessed in some way by software means, any more than a hard drive that's totally wrecked and which the BIOS does not detect.

If the data you need from it is really & absolutely vital, and you are prepared to shell out a fair amount of cash, consider sending it to a specialist data recovery service who use special equipment to access the data directly after disassembling the unit.
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a b U Graphics card
a c 342 G Storage
August 17, 2012 6:34:59 PM

Here's something you can try, and maybe you'll get lucky. Your comment that sometimes "... jiggling a wire will get it to show up" reminded me of this.

One problem that many older machines fall into is malfunctions caused by a thin film of oxidation on the pins of connectors; the film acts as an insulator and prevents good electrical connection.

Go to your HDD - it has two connection cables on the back edge. For each, gently remove it, then push back on. Repeat two or three times. Now, for the one cable (7 wires) that goes to a SATA port on the mobo, do the same thing - at the mobo, disconnect and reconnect a few times. Check to be sure all are reconnected securely and that nothing else has been dislodged by mistake. Close up and power up.

This action can "scrub" the surface of pins and sockets so that the oxide layer is removed, restoring a good connection. If that was your original problem, this action may fix it until the next time - a few months or a couple years from now.

While you're doing this, keep an eye out for apparently loose connectors. Some SATA connectors can lose their tight fit and "let go" even though they don't actually fall off. You can get data cables with locking connectors to help prevent this.
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August 18, 2012 1:22:32 AM

Thanks for the advice. I'm fairly certain it's dead though. I managed to boot into ubuntu, and it's saying that about 200 sections are straight up bad.

The SMART status bad is back, and it won't mount in Ubuntu. I try fdisk and all that sudo stuff and it tells me to chkdsk.

I'm going to make one last attempt to make a Windows Restore flash drive to try to run chkdsk, and if that fails, I'm throwing it out the window.
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a c 85 U Graphics card
a b G Storage
August 18, 2012 1:56:42 AM

go to your drive maker site use the test tool and if you cannot even get it to start short test then the drive is good for a new one but if it still under warranty you could ask for rma with the test answer
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Best solution

August 25, 2012 10:11:31 PM

After two weeks of trying all these suggestion and more, using linux, chkdsk, disk management, cloning and all that and more, I picked up R-Studio (rstudio.org) and it worked great, got 99.9% of my drive recoverd. Only one of four recovery programs to work, and the cheapest option, too.
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a b U Graphics card
a c 342 G Storage
August 26, 2012 2:37:36 PM

Hooray for you!!
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