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Author Topic: Data recovery problem - can anyone help, please?
Michael Edwards
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Icon 1 posted January 29, 2010 10:58      Profile for Michael Edwards   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hallo.

      I haven't been here for a couple of years, but I hope someone can make a few suggestions to me about a problem I have. I hope it's all right to come back after a long silence and ask for help.
      I do need to give a bit of detail, but will try to keep it as brief as I can for now. If anyone can relate to this, but I'm not quite clear enough on something, I can certainly say a bit more as necessary.

      The hard disk on my laptop has failed and it can't boot up because of a system file that a message tells me is missing or corrupt. I suppose too hard a bump or knock is the likely cause of this.
      The laptop has an I.B.M. utility that you can go into if you press a special button straight after turning it on - I suppose it is probably in a special ROM chip or something - I don't know. Anyway, it provides various utilities intended to help you copy files to another disk and other tasks, and they seem to be usable to an extent, even if very primitive and clunky.
      I got a U.S.B. key (I think it's called) - a little thing you stick into a U.S.B. port and which acts like a floppy disk and you can copy data to. I have copied what files I can to it, but some are not readable. It's possible some may be damaged, although in what way I don't know. I get three kinds of error messages when I try to copy a file across: mostly "Data error (cyclic redundancy check)", but occasionally "Error performing inpage operations" or "Incorrect function". I presume these mean different things, but I don't know what.
      I want to take the disk to a data recovery expert, and see what they can do; but I want to do what I can myself first, because this might be very expensive and if I do as much as I can myself it will reduce the costs. And, as I will explain, I believe I may be able to do a lot of the work myself, if I can find the right software tools.
      If parts of files are actually damaged in some physical way, I probably cannot do anything about this, and maybe even the expert can't. But parts of files may be still readable - the I.B.M. utility appeared to fail on copying a file if any part of it was damaged, and took no account of cases where maybe only one disk sector may be damaged and the rest readable. The files in question - the most important ones - are pure text files, so they will be human-readable in raw format and partial data may still be useful. Also, even if parts are totally irrecoverable, I know from years of past experience that, when you've saved a file a number of times, dozens of copies of it, many nearly identical, are scattered round in the empty parts of the disk, where the file used to reside, but don't any longer after being saved again and recopied to the disk elsewhere. In this way, portions of disk space become unoccupied or reusable space again but still contain copies of files. (There are non-human-readable files which can't be copied from my disk, mainly .pdf files - but they can be got again from the web site where I first got them; so I'm not worrying about them, but only certain pure-text files.)
      First of all, I need a disk I can boot off which will not in any way write to the hard disk and possibly obliterate data I will want to recover. If I go and buy a Windows disk, a normal Windows XP disk, can you boot off that *without* reinstalling Windows? My laptop is secondhand, and, although I have no reason to doubt that the Windows on it is legal, secondhand laptops do not ever seem to come with an operating system disk or boot disk or anything.
      So first I need to get a boot disk of some kind. Is a standard Windows XP disk suitable for this?
      Next, I need certain utilities, as I will describe now.
      If you have a disk editor by which you can directly access any selected part of the disk, named either by file-name or by cluster or sector number or by searching for a specific piece of text, you can read these portions of old copies of files, and you can gather them up piece by piece (searching for specified text if desired) and make a new file out of them. You used to be able to do this in Norton Utilities, and I have much experience in doing it. If I can do this, I believe I can probably recover practically the totality of the files (maybe with parts of them just slightly out of date), even if parts of the current copies are physically damaged. The utility I need to do this will need to include a disk editor and a file-recovery function, which must allow for manual recovering of files, not just automatic. Such utilities typically allow you to change any byte in hexadecimal format or alter the F.A.T., although such low-level work is a true last resort, but one I have used successfully in the past.
      But to do these kinds of things, I need a suitable disk utility, such as the old Norton Utilities. I have old copies of this, for older versions of DOS, but don't know if any of them would be usable for Windows XP. I imagine using the wrong version might actually do damage, and I am hesitant to try this without definitely knowing if a version I use is compatible with Windows XP.
      I've asked around in many places about find such a utility in a more up to date version; but no-one seems to have the faintest idea where I might find a utility of this sort - some shop staff didn't even sound as if they knew what I was talking about. It does seem that utilities of this sort have fallen out of use, or at least are not known by the majority of people.
      They seem to have gone from being, well not mainstream, but at least known about and used by some, to totally vanishing off the face of the earth. But I think surely programmers and data recovery experts and other computer professionals must know about, and use, such utilities. Lots of knowledgeable computer hobbyists and amateur programmers and hackers and such people surely must use such things, too. I'd be astonished if such utilities literally didn't exist now. My problem is to find out what is available, and where to get it.
      The suggestion has been made to me occasionally to Google for it. But with things like this you get a million and one results, and the problem is to find the occasional needle from the huge haystack of false results for your search.

      I think it's probable quite a few members of this forum would know what to do about this.
      If they do, I would be very grateful if they could please offer me a few suggestions.
      Thank you.

Regards, Michael.

Posts: 70 | From: Healesville, Victoria, Australia | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted January 29, 2010 11:30      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
____ Michael, I am assuming that you have a second computer to work from. Down Load a Puppy Linux ISO and burn the CD. Then boot the laptop from the CD. plug in the thumb drive and copy what ever files that puppy will let you. If prompted by Puppy to install decline. I have saved the data off of three Windows boxes with Puppy.

____ Once the machine has booted the drives will appear along the bottom of the screen, sda1 will be the hard drive, the boot CD will show, and your thumb drive will show. Click on "sda1" and all of the folders should show up, click and drag the folders to the thumb drive. Good files will copy, corrupt ones will not. When you get done with the copying unmount the thumb drive and then remove, close sda1 then use menu to find the off switch.


Mount to open the drive, to Unmount is to close.

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Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


Benjamin Franklin,

Posts: 5848 | From: Just South of the Huron National Forest, in the water shed of the Rifle River | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Michael Edwards
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Icon 1 posted January 31, 2010 07:21      Profile for Michael Edwards   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
      Thanks for your suggestions, TheMoMan. A few further comments that may be relevant:

quote:
Originally posted by TheMoMan:
____ Michael, I am assuming that you have a second computer to work from.

      Well, I think I will have in a few days' time.

quote:
Originally posted by TheMoMan:
Down Load a Puppy Linux ISO and burn the CD. Then boot the laptop from the CD. plug in the thumb drive and copy what ever files that puppy will let you. If prompted by Puppy to install decline. I have saved the data off of three Windows boxes with Puppy.

      I think I did exactly that using the I.B.M. pre-boot-up utility I mentioned before. I don't think any further commands in Windows or Linux or at the DOS command-line are going to succeed in copying any more files than I've already done. Any further work has to be done at a lower level, such as with Norton Utilities or an equivalent utility.
      Do you know of a manual (not automatic) file recovery utility such as that which used to be in Norton Utilities? As I said before, I think my main hope is to find nearly-up-to-date versions of the files in empty parts of the disk which may still not be corrupt.
      Thanks.

Regards, Michael.

Posts: 70 | From: Healesville, Victoria, Australia | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted January 31, 2010 13:41      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
____ Years ago for the TI 99/4a there was a program called DiskAssember. Armed with that program one could recover deleted files, reattach flags to files add logical file start and stop blocks. I do not know if there is a like application for DOS/Windows at this time, some one else may have more info.

____ It is good to see people come back, Please stay and post from time to time, most of the old flame wars have died out. I on occassion try to get one going but fail miserably.

--------------------
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


Benjamin Franklin,

Posts: 5848 | From: Just South of the Huron National Forest, in the water shed of the Rifle River | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted January 31, 2010 18:22      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Edwards:
The hard disk on my laptop has failed and it can't boot up because of a system file that a message tells me is missing or corrupt.

Sounds to me like re-installing Windoze would probably fix the problem, but I'd go through the process MoMan outlined first, to get any important data off the disk, just in case the Windows re-install screws things up.

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If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

Posts: 10680 | From: Melbourne, Australia | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted February 01, 2010 03:23      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
____ Michael, Doing a Google, on DiskAssembler. I found the old CPM program "DisAssembler". CPM was the I/O method for non IBM machines back before Bill, Steve, and Steve made it big.

____ Please remember that back then audio tapes and 90K Floppies were the storage methods. To run this program you really needed three drives. One for the suspect Disk, One with a blank disk, and One for the program.

____ First you did a file copy, then the program compared the copy to the faulty disk and returned those sectors that did not copy for exam. It was time consuming on 90K disks I can't imagine doing a Hard Drive.

--------------------
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


Benjamin Franklin,

Posts: 5848 | From: Just South of the Huron National Forest, in the water shed of the Rifle River | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Michael Edwards
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Icon 1 posted February 04, 2010 07:21      Profile for Michael Edwards   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
      Thanks to those who have given suggestions on this. I'm taking a bit of time to reply, often, because I don't have a working computer at home at present, and can only come to an Internet café every few days. I might have another computer with a new disk in the middle of the coming week, though.

quote:
Originally posted by TheMoMan:
____ Years ago for the TI 99/4a there was a program called DiskAssember. Armed with that program one could recover deleted files, reattach flags to files add logical file start and stop blocks. I do not know if there is a like application for DOS/Windows at this time, some one else may have more info.

      It would also need the ability to examine empty areas of the disk and create new files, for which you can choose any empty areas you like.

quote:
Originally posted by TheMoMan:
____ It is good to see people come back, Please stay and post from time to time, most of the old flame wars have died out. I on occassion try to get one going but fail miserably.

      I never noticed flame wars, and that wasn't a reason I fell away. Maybe that occurred during the years I was inactive. Even if I noticed it, that wouldn't put me off, if there were topics and people I liked here - I just ignore that kind of stuff if from time to time I encounter it.
      I think rather that I began to have difficulties with computers, as I got to realize that Windows (in any version) was even more awful than I had anticipated, and I guess I felt less dedicated to computers as an interest (even while using them in a functional way) and thus felt less inclined to engage in geeky talk. When I came back recently just now, I looked up some of my early posts, and was quite astonished at the change in point of view about computers that had overtaken me since then.
      I'm in a bit of a difficult situation, actually, because I simply don't know of an operating system I would find acceptable. I suspect Linux may be the best, but even that is only a supposition - I don't really know.
      But, whatever system I adopt, I must be able to find the kind of unerasing and disk editing utilities I've mentioned before - and I don't know where I'd find those, although I'd find it difficult to believe they don't exist. Even apart from this current problem, I find I do very occasionally need to be able to use a utility such as this.
      Whether I will in practice ever change to another operating system, I don't know. Inertia grows more and more all the time and who knows, I might find myself using Windows for the rest of my life, but with a bad grace, grumbling and hating it all the time.

Regards, Michael.

Posts: 70 | From: Healesville, Victoria, Australia | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michael Edwards
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Icon 1 posted February 04, 2010 07:24      Profile for Michael Edwards   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Edwards:
The hard disk on my laptop has failed and it can't boot up because of a system file that a message tells me is missing or corrupt.

Sounds to me like re-installing Windoze would probably fix the problem, but I'd go through the process MoMan outlined first, to get any important data off the disk, just in case the Windows re-install screws things up.
      Actually, I've already got off the disk all the files that can be got off by ordinary means such as copy commands and other equivalents. I need to do a lot of low-level examination of the disk before I think of anything such as reinstalling the operating system. If that doesn't work sufficiently well, I will consider going to a data recovery expert too.
      In actual fact, I won't ever reinstall anything on that disk anyway, and not only because that might obliterate any files or file fragments I might want to recover; once I've got everything possible off that disk I will never use it again - I won't ever trust it again, as I feel reasonably sure it's damaged, although I suppose there's a slight possibility that the F.A.T. has been messed up somehow. I just can't take a chance of that for future use, though.
      The only course is to use a new disk for all future use, apart from dealing with this problem.

Regards, Michael.

Posts: 70 | From: Healesville, Victoria, Australia | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michael Edwards
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Icon 1 posted February 04, 2010 07:33      Profile for Michael Edwards   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by TheMoMan:
____ Michael, Doing a Google, on DiskAssembler. I found the old CPM program "DisAssembler". CPM was the I/O method for non IBM machines back before Bill, Steve, and Steve made it big.

____ Please remember that back then audio tapes and 90K Floppies were the storage methods. To run this program you really needed three drives. One for the suspect Disk, One with a blank disk, and One for the program.

____ First you did a file copy, then the program compared the copy to the faulty disk and returned those sectors that did not copy for exam. It was time consuming on 90K disks I can't imagine doing a Hard Drive.

      It doesn't sound even remotely likely that this particular utility you mention is at all likely to be suitable for what I want. I really do want pretty well the exact equivalent of the old Norton Utilities program, called nu.exe in most versions.
      I actually do wonder if the later versions of it would work with Windows XP, but I'm just not sure. If so, I'm pretty sure I have a few versions of it somewhere, but it's a matter of finding them.
      But first I do need to find out if it would be usable, because otherwise I might risk actually doing further damage. I would probably also need to boot up in DOS mode, although I'm not sure if it's possible in Windows XP. (I'm pretty sure you could do it in Windows 95, and maybe 98 too.) But in fact I would be booting up off another disk anyway (because the faulty one doesn't boot at all), and just accessing the drive as an extra drive. But it is paramount that the drive not be written to in any way, except for when I tell it to, such as reconstructing a file in the Norton Utilities equivalent.
      Another point is that someone (elsewhere, not here) told me that, if the disk is physically damaged, there could be debris from the damage that could do further damage if I use the disk any more at all, whether or not any data on it was being changed. If so, the suggestion was that my first course should be to do nothing myself, but take the disk to an expert who can apparently take the disk apart in a "clean room" (no dust or anything), clean out any dust or debris that might be in the disk, then copy the entire disk, sector by sector, to another disk, where I could then recover any files possible (beyond those I've already done myself). They might also have special machines which can read sectors that ordinary copy commands can't - I don't know.
      Is that a valid point, and is that the course I should consider taking? Also, what would this be likely to cost?
      In any case, it will be days at least before I do anything at all, simply because I'm not ready to yet, and it may even take a couple of weeks to organize myself and plan what best to do. So any further suggestions or opinions may still help.

Regards, Michael.

Posts: 70 | From: Healesville, Victoria, Australia | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted February 04, 2010 08:35      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
____ Michael, If the drive was dropped while running then there is a probability of damage to the platters. If it was dropped while not in use was it power off with the heads retracted? If so there be no damage.

____ So I take it that you are going to buy a replacement drive? Is this a tower or laptop? Do you have an external drive enclosure? You may want to get a Read/Write DVD drive to back up to.

____ I too dislike MS/Windows, however for my hobby "Ham Radio" most software developers do not know anything but winblows exists.

____ Mac/OS it progressed to the point my hardware would not support it, yes there are HamSoft apps for the Mac just not ones I would use.

____ Linux, what flavor, Ubuntu good OS but is getting too Winblows like. Debian Good solid OS, I have not tried it enough to offer an opinion. BSD, again good solid Disto I am not familiar enough with it, to offer an opinion. Fedora again a solid distro, I am not familiar enough with it, to offer an opinion. Knoppix, again good distro, I am not familiar enough with it, to offer an opinion. Puppy, DigiPup, TipsyPuppy are based on Knoppix I have used these a lot, I do not recommend that someone unversed in Linux try these. Other than looking into a window drive and using the file manager to copy files, there is a steep learning curve.

____ There are people that frequent this BBS that know a lot more about what goes on in the MS/Windows realm. I have been hoping that they would type up.

--------------------
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


Benjamin Franklin,

Posts: 5848 | From: Just South of the Huron National Forest, in the water shed of the Rifle River | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
DoctorWho

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Icon 1 posted February 05, 2010 04:24      Profile for DoctorWho     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I would probably try SpinRite right now. I have found it works very well in recovering corrupt data. It's not free, but it is also possible that it will not only make your data completely recoverable, it could potentially make it boot again. I have seen it perform miracles quite a few times.

--------------------
Laughter is like changing a baby's diapers. It doesn't solve anything but it sure improves the situation. Leo F. Buscaglia

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TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted February 05, 2010 04:48      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
____ Michael, After reading your posts. I suddenly remembered that files are not stored end to end, or like folders in a filing cabinet. Lets say you have three files a,b,c. all the data for each is not in one place, in fact it may be spread all through the platter, when ever the disk controller saw there was enough room at closing time. That is why defragmenting was so important in days past.

--------------------
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


Benjamin Franklin,

Posts: 5848 | From: Just South of the Huron National Forest, in the water shed of the Rifle River | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted February 05, 2010 08:44      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Data_Recovered = (time_spent * skill + money_spent) * luck

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Worst. Celibate. Ever.

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drunkennewfiemidget
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Icon 1 posted February 06, 2010 08:23      Profile for drunkennewfiemidget     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by TheMoMan:
____ Michael, After reading your posts. I suddenly remembered that files are not stored end to end, or like folders in a filing cabinet. Lets say you have three files a,b,c. all the data for each is not in one place, in fact it may be spread all through the platter, when ever the disk controller saw there was enough room at closing time. That is why defragmenting was so important in days past.

Most file systems these days try and keep things contiguous -- at least to the operating system.

With the advent of SSDs, your data is contiguous as far as the computer is concerned, but where it physically is on the disk is all over the place thanks to wear-level protection.

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