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Old 04-16-2006, 06:24 AM   #1
vharishankar
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Data recovery from a crashed hard disk


My father's machine recently stopped booting and the hard disk drive is no longer recognized by the BIOS. This disk was often running Scandisk, so it might well have been having problems. However, I'm not able to use Knoppix to recover any data since the hard disk itself is not recognized and the BIOS doesn't even detect it.

Is there any free tools which can be used to recover data from the hard disk? It's a FAT32 partition and there are some important files on that disk. My father not being a technical person didn't take any backups since he didn't know how to use the CD writer.


I searched google for Hard disk recovery tools, but most of them seem to be paid software and in that case, I'd rather hand the machine over to a professional who will do the job.

I wonder if anybody knows of any free tools to recover data from a corrupt hard disk drive. Thanks.
 
Old 04-16-2006, 08:49 AM   #2
kilgoretrout
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If the drive is not recognised in the bios it's dead and no software tool will help you recover it. There are companies that have the equipment to get info off of even dead hard drive disks but it's a very expensive service; we're talking thousands of dollars here. The procedure involves disassembling the drive in a "clean room", removing the platters and reading the platters with some special equipment.
If the drive is still spinning up, there is an old trick that sometimes works called the "freezer trick". You remove the drive and place it in a plastic ziplock bag and put the drive in the freezer for several hours. Then take the drive out of the freezer and quickly install it; boot up and see if you can read data off the drive. If you can, quickly copy your data to another drive.
The freezer trick works on the premise that the drive is not functioning because some aspect of the drive hardware, usually the platter bearings, have gone out of spec from wear. By reducing the temperature, the metal contracts bringing the bearings back into spec allowing the drive to function long enough for you to get the data off of it. It's reported to work about one in three times and generally tried as a last resort before sending the drive to a data recovery company.
The above assumes that you have checked out the hard drive cabling and jumper settings and eliminated those issues as a problem. If not, try swapping out the ide cable if you have an extra one around and try a different power connector just to eliminate those as a source of the problem.
 
Old 04-16-2006, 10:26 AM   #3
vharishankar
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Oh dear. I'm pretty certain it's dead because I didn't change any jumper settings or anything. We even changed the IDE cable and tried but it didn't work.

In that case, I'll have to consider the next step. I don't know whether we can afford to spend so much money on recovering that data... But I'll have to take it to a technician and see whether there's a slim chance of recovery anyway.
 
Old 04-17-2006, 02:35 AM   #4
elliott678
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Usually if a drive is no longer recognized by the BIOS the controller board on the bottom of the drive has gone bad. If you can find another drive that is 100% identical to the dead drive you could swap the controller boards and make a working drive. I did this recently when I acquired a large stack of similar HDDs from a company, there was a couple with the "click o' death" and a few that were no longer recognized by the BIOS I took the boards from the clicking drives and put them on the non-recognized drives and they worked fine. They are actually still going strong in my distro testing/"security research" rig. I did find some interesting buisiness and client related info on the drives, but just formatted over it and forgot about it.

Last edited by elliott678; 04-17-2006 at 02:41 AM.
 
Old 04-17-2006, 09:17 PM   #5
Shade
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There are a couple of things you need to know about basic data recovery.

There are two kinds of HD failures -- physical, and file system. Any program or software you find out there is going to be primarily going after the file system errors, attempting to separate the data from the bad bits, and putting them back onto a healthy filesystem.

Physical hard drive crashes can be caused by a number of things and are generally harder to recover data from, though it isn't impossible. If the drive isn't even recognized by the bios, the controller card is probably fried. This is the circuit board on the bottom of the drive which you plug the power and IDE cable into. If you can find an exact duplicate of the drive, chances are about 50/50 that you can simply swap the boards and have it come back to life -- but that's assuming there are no other problems. Another method to deal with this is to keep the drive cooled. You can put it in the freezer for about half an hour, hook it up, and see what you get. I've had success with this before.

If the drive is 'clicking' when you apply power, this is what's known as a 'head crash'. The heads which read the platters need to line up to the first track on the disk and are not able to. The click is caused by the heads returning to the 'rest' position each time it attempts to find 'home'. The freezer trick will work for this, but you can also try to physically adjust the position of the drive.

My friend used to call this 'massaging' the drive. If the heads crashed due to a motor failure, or misalignment, sometimes you can move it back and forth while the BIOS is waiting for it. I mean gently tilting it one way or another, on angles, in an effort to guide the heads towards the center of the disk. Results vary, of course, but we were able to resurrect a few drives by this method. When it shows up in the BIOS, make every attempt to keep the drive at the same angle.

If all else fails, send it to a facility with a 'Clean Room'. They will charge you anywhere from $1200 to tens of thousands for their expertise. This is darn near fool-proof recovery, though they'll give you no guarantees. They will need to purchase a 'donor drive' and a 'target' drive in addition to the dead drive. The donor drive will be used for parts, while the target drive is what will have the recovered data written to it. The clean room will physically re-set the platters into a known working drive and can 90% of the time recover your data. If there is anything important enough for this, you won't have to think twice.

Hope this helps.

-- Shade
 
Old 04-17-2006, 09:27 PM   #6
vharishankar
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Hey, thanks for the detailed replies. I don't think we have the "Clean Room" kind of facilities here in India... In any case we cannot afford to spend so much. But I'll have to try out the other ideas and see. We are not yet sure what's wrong with the drive, but surely it's a physical problem.
 
Old 10-30-2006, 02:18 PM   #7
m0rg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shade
If the drive is 'clicking' when you apply power, this is what's known as a 'head crash'. The heads which read the platters need to line up to the first track on the disk and are not able to. The click is caused by the heads returning to the 'rest' position each time it attempts to find 'home'. The freezer trick will work for this, but you can also try to physically adjust the position of the drive.

My friend used to call this 'massaging' the drive. If the heads crashed due to a motor failure, or misalignment, sometimes you can move it back and forth while the BIOS is waiting for it. I mean gently tilting it one way or another, on angles, in an effort to guide the heads towards the center of the disk. Results vary, of course, but we were able to resurrect a few drives by this method. When it shows up in the BIOS, make every attempt to keep the drive at the same angle.
Hi, I'm trying to recover data from one drive having this 'click' problem and after reading your posts I have some questions.

I'm trying to do something using dd_rescue but I don't think this will work since the 'click' means something physical.

I'm sure that at least part od the data is readable since I managed to access it but then I unplugged the HDD and when trying again (after having purchased a new drive to put the data on) nothing was accessible.

Reading your comments made me thinks that I probably moved something inside the drive when I unplugged it thus preventing me from accessing the data now

So here are my questions:
First, can the freezer thing work with my drive and if not will I be able to try other methods or will my drive be completly lost?

Second, can you explain (or give me some links) a little more the 'massaging' thing?

Thanks.
 
Old 10-30-2006, 03:15 PM   #8
m0rg
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I finally decided to try the freezer method and guess what....
It works

I'm now getting all my data to another drive. Thanks for the tips
 
Old 11-01-2006, 04:45 AM   #9
AnanthaP
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Hey Harry,

We do have lot of clean room facilities in India and probably in your (and my) home town itself. I won't explicitly name the names since it might be against the rules but you should try the three possibilities listed below:

(1) Get the details from a hardware support guy working in a reputed computer company or their support franchisee. You know the big two in hardware support.(Wipro and HCL).

(2) A big reputed showroom of these two or independant.

(3) Ritchie street with the help of a reliable contact (u could get lucky).

End
 
  


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