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Recover files from unallocated space - preserve file names

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September 9, 2012 3:38:43 PM

Hi all - looking for some guidance here - any help at all would be appreciated!

I have a 3 TB WD Green 3.5" internal drive that I was using in an external enclosure for file storage. I got a better enclosure (Star Tech 2.5/3.5" esata dock) and decided to switch the 3 TB drive over. After the switch, the drive did not show up in my computer, but only in Device Manager and I was prompted to initialize the drive. Not sure what to do, I contacted Star Tech and they recommended that I initialize it and that all my data would be safe. Didn't work, and all I could see was 2.7 TB of unallocated space. Switched drive back to old (previously working) enclosure and same thing. 2.7 TB of unallocated space, only viewable in Device Manager.

I have tested several data recovery programs and so far seem to have found only one that I know can recover my files for sure (Wondershare Data Recovery) which I will purchase and use if I can't find anything else to do the job. Wondershare scanned the drive and is finding all my old files, but they will all be renamed 0000001 000000002 etc. which is a huge hassle since there is about 2 TB of files on the drive. I know beggars can't be choosers, but I just wanted to check here first and see if anyone knows any better way to get my files back.

A couple posts found through google seemed to hint at simply quickly reformatting the drive and all the old files would reappear but I am of course hesitant to try a solution that involves formatting.

Any thoughts?

Thanks!

--Brendan

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a c 104 G Storage
September 9, 2012 5:16:22 PM

Hi Brendan, and Welcome to Tom's Hardware!

Well, when you Initialize a HDD, you are adding a disk signature to it so it can be ID'd. Probably added a different disk signature so the associated Partition Table and Volume are not seen.

Don't reformat the drive as you will lose the files on it.

I'd try EaseUS Partition Master (free home version) and use the Recovery Wizard to see if you can reestablish the MBR where the Disk Signature, Partition Table and MBR signature are located. Here's the website: www.partition-tool.com/personal.htm

Switching enclosures for a HDD doesn't make any difference in how your computer sees the Removable Drive, or the file structure. Did by chance you move it from a Win-7 machine to an Win-XP computer, or go from a USB connection to an eSATA connection? The other thing that can corrupt files or the partition table is disconnecting it without using the "Safely Remove Hardware" feature, while the computer was running.

If no luck, EaseUS also has a very good File Recovery Program (free for home use) that might be able to better recover your data with associated file names, but not guaranteed. Home Edition freeware Commercial Ed $69.95 Prof Edition $89.95. Here is the web site: www.easeus.com/datarecoverywizard/


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September 9, 2012 5:35:01 PM

Thanks for the advice! Greatly appreciated. Am using EaseUS Partition Master wizard to scan the drive right now. :wahoo: 

When I switched to the new enclosure I was using esata when the old one was USB 3.0.

I'll let you know how it goes!

--Brendan
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September 9, 2012 6:28:56 PM

It seems that in EaseUS Partition Master my drive shows up as 2.7 TB full size, with 2.0 TB classified as "unformatted space" and 700 GB as "unallocated space". I believe all my files are in the unformatted space and that there is nothing in the unallocated space because I remember 3 days ago when the drive still worked having around 700 GB of remaining free space...

EaseUS Partition Master doesn't seem to provide any options for dealing with the "unformatted space" -- see picture below

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-4DBHlQ38jGg/UEzeYGnm...

Any ideas?

Thanks!

--Brendan
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a c 104 G Storage
September 9, 2012 7:46:01 PM

Hi Brendon,

Your image is great! You may have to go to the file recovery program for the unformatted space. Might try the partition recovery wizard on the unallocated space - manual mode - to see if it can identify any boundary that would make your file visible. If not, the file recovery wizard may have to be used there also. Your disk management image graphic view actually shows two partitions, the unformatted, and unallocated space. That was done with the 2nd initialization.

Might also download their File Recovery Wizard and see if it can associate a file name with file, or if you will end up with the standard F00000001 etc names for them all.

I don't know if it would work for sure, but with a Basic Disk, MBR Partition type structure like you had, partition info is stored in the registry, as compared to a Dynamic Disk. If you have a System Restore Point prior to the time all this happened (with the drive connected back up to the USB port) might try restoring it back to that point. If it doesn't work, you can undo it back to this point in time.
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a c 326 G Storage
September 10, 2012 8:06:06 AM

@Brendan, which external enclosure were you originally using? Was it a WD product, eg a My Book? If so, then I believe it should be possible to manually repair the partition table. IMHO it would be preferable to do it manually because the 3TB My Books use 4KB LBAs which may pose a problem for data recovery software that expects to see 512-byte LBAs. In fact I suspect that your two enclosures may use different LBA sizes, in which case this would explain what happened. You would need to reinstall the drive in its original enclosure, though.
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a c 386 G Storage
September 10, 2012 12:03:42 PM

It looks as if Easeus partition recovery is only looking at the MBR, which maxes out at 2.2TB.

Did your original drive have two partitions or one big one of 3TB. If it was one big partition, then it had a GUID/GPT partition which some recovery software can't see. It appears that Easeus isn't seeing the GPT partition.
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