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I dropped my HDD but there's hope for file recovery. Any advice?

Last response: in Storage
January 11, 2013 11:10:25 AM

Sorry about how long and difficult to read this post is. I want to make sure I list every detail as I really feel like this thing can be fixed!

The other day I knocked my ext HDD off my computer tower on to the wood floor. It fell about a foot I suppose. I can't remember whether the drive was turned on as I was super busy and didn't think about it until a few days later. I share its power outlet with another device so there's actually a 50% chance it was off.

The drive is recognised by windows and I can access the file system. The drive is 1TB and contains around 400-500gb of videos, along with some pictures, music and miscellaneous stuff. I successfully played a few songs from a few different albums, but when I try to open a video (700mb-1.5gb), Windows freaks out. Windows will dismount the drive and to get the computer to detect it again I need to turn the drive off and back on.

The drive is 3 years old so warranty is out of the question.
I don't have a backup.
I've taken the drive out of its case and connected via Sata - no change in behavuour.

I own a Roku streaming device that will play media from an ext drive. The device only recognsies mkv and mp4 and since most of my videos are avi, they aren't listed by the device. But the roku returns a list of about 40 videos and they work! So I believe there's a good chance that a lot of avi videos could also be in tact.

To attempt recovery I have now tried: Spinrite, HDDRegenerator and Windows Check Disk. With Spinrite I always receive the Division Overflow error at 23%. I've done some research and tried all the fixes I could find (booting from MS-DOS, changing AHCI to IDE). HDDRegenerator also crashed, although it didn't provide me with a progress report so I'm not sure if the programs crashed in the same position. Windows Check Disk seems to have frozen at what looks like about 5%.

The drive doesn't make any weird noises, it sounds exactly the same as it always has. The ChkDsk is currently still running (halted) and if I listen very closely I can hear that the drive is making repetitive noises. I don't know how to describe the sound a hard drive makes, but it's the sound that you hear when the drive is reading data. It's like a 'click', but not an unusual "I'm dying here" click. Just a regular "I'm reading some data here" click. It makes two of these click every second, over and over and over.

You guys got any ideas?
a b G Storage
January 11, 2013 3:51:56 PM

Use partitionguru to backup your data to another drive. Hope it works. Since you have damaged your drive physically there aren't much options.
January 11, 2013 6:15:44 PM

I've discovered that I can simply just go into the file system and copy files over to my C drive. Some times the files don't copy and I have to reboot the drive, but a lot of them do. I really don't know anything about the structure of a hard drive, but is it reasonable to suggest that only the files written most recently have been damaged? That's what appears to be happening.
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a b G Storage
January 11, 2013 6:24:42 PM

Files of a particular sector has been damaged. What I am telling is boot the system with some other properly functioning drive and backup your data then.
January 11, 2013 6:34:43 PM

Yeah I know, unfortunately I don't have another drive. I have my C and my ext, each are 1TB and both about 3/4 full. It's gonna be a long time before I can afford a new drive so I'm just gonna salvage as much as I can manually. Fortunately a LOT of stuff seems to be intact. Am I right in thinking that formatting the drive wouldn't restore its functionality?
a b G Storage
January 11, 2013 6:44:11 PM

Why don't you take the hard drive to a friends house or you can open the external hard drive case and use it as internal. Then instal os on it and then copy your files.
January 11, 2013 6:50:47 PM

What difference would it make? I have access to the files that are intact by just mounting the drive. I've run 4 different diagnostic tests and all of them have crashed, I wouldn't want to bother with the installation of an OS...something WILL go wrong and I don't see the benefit.
a c 358 G Storage
January 11, 2013 6:51:36 PM

Do NOT format the drive. That would erase ALL your files!

And you're right about the other advice: do NOT install ANYTHING on that damaged drive. Just concentrate on READING files from it.

What you describe suggests that, as a result of the drop, one or more of the heads crashed into the surface of the disk at one point, thus damaging the disk surface there but not elsewhere. If you're lucky, the head involved itself is not damaged. However, this is VERY rare if the HDD is actually turned off, because the HDD parks its heads away from the usable disk area when it is off. So the unit may have been spinning, meaning that the head crash actually damaged more than one tiny spot. It may have damaged many sectors from one track. Still, that usually means you have lost only a very few files.

Copying all you can from it is the right thing to do, but there is a practical problem. With most copy tools (like Copy in Windows, or even Xcopy in DOS), you can tell it to copy a whole bunch of files (like a folder including all its files and sub-folders) and it will UNTIL it hits an error. Then it just quits, and will NOT continue to copy more files from the list. You can't set it to skip files with errors and just keep on with the rest. You have to figure out what it did successfully, which file it stumbled on, and hence which files still need to be copied. This can be a tedious process, but it can be done with careful tracking as you go.

There are better copying utilities that can be told to ignore faulty files and keep on copying the good ones, but they are a bit hard to find.

You may have another practical problem. You say your two disks both are about 75% full. If the "bad" disk is almost all good files with only a few damaged, you may not have enough space on the "good" unit to hold all the copies you need to make. So you may have to find a way to acquire a third drive.
January 11, 2013 7:05:19 PM

Thanks for the detailed response, really cool.

I was thinking of formatting the drive AFTER I have retrieved all the data that I can to see if it would fix. However I seriously doubt it would. I've noticed that attempting to write ANY data to this thing causes it to freak out.

My current plan is to copy the files that I need right now and then stick the drive somewhere out of harms way. When I can afford a new drive I'll revisit this and get the rest of the working files.

I've actually read about these copy and paste utilities somewhere before, but I hadn't thought about using one for this - thanks for the suggestion :)