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Hard drive dying? How to best grab the data

Last response: in Storage
December 7, 2012 5:31:06 AM

I believe one of my old hard drives is now dying (320GB, it is nearing 6-8 years old now?)

Edit: I just got a SMART Status Bad Backup and Replace error when turning on the computer, so yeah, the hard drive is going bad. Which is too bad. It seems to have gone bad as soon as I put it in my new computer =P

Whenever I try to do anything on that particular drive, after a few minutes, the drive "freezes" (windows is no longer able to access it, and my computer HDD led is just solid).

I have been booting the computer into safe mode, then copying files to a newer drive, but I can only seem to do it a couple minutes at a time before the drive just freezes up again, forcing me to reboot (and often, force reboot by hitting the restart button on the computer or the computer just sits there at the Shutting Down... screen).

I was able to get the most important documents off of it. But I am wanting to grab the pictures off of it too (can't replace them). Is there some way of getting the rest of it off of the drive?

I have tried to clone/image the drive with Macrium Reflect, but that process freezes almost immediately after it starts analyzing the drive. (when I cancel the process, the drive seems to go back to "normal" and not be "frozen"

Is there any other ways to get it off?
a b G Storage
December 7, 2012 7:22:44 PM

Try using a bootable *live* disk and try to read the drive.

A number of years ago a buddy of mine had a similar issue with his laptop HDD. He asked if I can gather all his data but I promised nothing short of trying my best. It got to a point whereby the HDD itself would *click-click* whenever it was connected to the USB port. Until one day I decided to tap the HDD in an attempt to shock the drive or heads from the dreaded *click-click*. The tap got harder and harder with each pass until finally I managed to obtain all the data whereby shortly thereafter, the HDD let out a final * squeal* and that was the end of the HDD.

The moral of the story, never give up and I take no responsibility.

a b G Storage
December 7, 2012 7:34:10 PM

Actually, I think I would feel lucky the drive would allow any access. Do what your doing as quickly as possible. We all learn the backup lesson the same way.
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a b G Storage
December 7, 2012 8:37:17 PM

Go to another PC and make a Ubuntu Live USB. Boot from it and you will probably have better luck getting the files off your old drive. As long as it's the boot drive you will be getting the freezes.

Get the iso here:

Install to USB here:
December 7, 2012 8:44:14 PM

with trying ubuntu, do I use rsync to try and grab all the files? I was thinking on doing something like rsync (or robocopy in windows) to keep trying to grab the files.

Also thought about getting a SATA to USB enclosure of some sort so i dont have to constantly reboot the computer (just unplug the USB and then plug it back in).

The drive itself isnt the boot drive, just a slave/data drive. It doesnt freeze windows right then. But the HDD activity light is constantly on. I am able to do whatever else on the computer. But if I try and access that drive, it just sits there waiting. Or if I try and reboot the computer, it just hangs there waiting at the Waiting to Shutdown screen.

I think for the most part, the drive only stops working once I try and do something with it. I can navigate through the folders just fine, but once I try and do more, or copy files, then after about a minute it just hangs there.

I will try the Ubuntu thing tonight and see how that goes.
December 8, 2012 7:18:38 AM

Using the Ubuntu live bootable, I am able to grab files off and put them on another hard drive. If it "freezes", I can just cancel, wait 10 seconds, and try again (and usually works).

But this is looking to be very tedious. I usually copy over a folder at a time. And when a problem happens, then I drill down further to copy over files (usually a few at a time)

Was wondering, is there a better, scripted way to do this, using rsync? Something that I can just run, and if a problem happens, just rerun and the script will know where to pick up from where it stopped last time?

Though, I am not sure how I would know when the hard drive froze, and then how to "cancel" it so I can start it again.

Any help would be appreciated. Otherwise, I can forsee this taking a month to do at this rate lol (dont get me wrong, happy to grab the data while I can though)
a b G Storage
December 8, 2012 1:52:35 PM

Never used rsync and the examples I looked at don't say much about recovery from a failing disk advantages. You can try it and tell us how it goes.

There's no reason why you shouldn't remove the drive and put it in an external enclosure. That will slow down transfers but might work. If you have the enclosure I'd try it.

You're learning the hard way why we suggest regular backups "before" something like this happens. Good luck.
a c 271 G Storage
December 9, 2012 2:59:43 AM

You could clone your drive sector-by-sector using a tool (eg ddrescue) that knows how to work around bad sectors, and then use data recovery software on the clone.

Ddrescue can perform multipass cloning. It clones the easy sectors on the first pass, and attempts the more difficult ones on subsequent passes. It can also clone your drive in reverse, thereby disabling lookahead caching. It keeps a log, allowing it to resume after an interruption.

Ubuntu Rescue Remix:
a b G Storage
December 9, 2012 12:29:10 PM

great idea, fzbkar!
December 9, 2012 3:43:51 PM

would have tried that, but I am now 90% of the way through of getting my files using Ubuntu.

I found that when it "freezes", that if I just let it go, after 10-20 seconds, it "unfreezes" and continues on. Every once in awhile, it will get a disk IO error or it will run into a problem with one of the files, but I just skip or retry and it continues on (and then redo those files again, which goes through the second time).

But other than that, I just let it go all day and overnight and hope those errors dont come up.

Thanks though for the idea!
a b G Storage
December 9, 2012 7:12:22 PM

Sometimes the brute force approach works.
December 12, 2012 3:30:19 PM

Best answer selected by whiteazn.