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Right now I am in Knoppix 3.3 via the CD. I was in Windows, since I still use it for some reason or another, and the memory dropped to 10 MB free and all of a sudden *crash*. Now here I am at the Grub boot screen. Try to boot back into Windows.... disk read error. WTF? Ok, so let's try going into Gentoo. Wait.....wait.... wait... ok, so that won't boot either. Time to bring out Knoppix.
Alright, into a LiveCD distro. Let's try mounting the partitions on my primary drive. Well, hda1, /boot mounts perfectly. How about hda2? Wait, looks like it won't mount. hda5? Well shit, doesn't look too good for all my OS data. Since my data drive is still in working order, let's just repartition and re-install.
Let's try cfdisk.
FATAL ERROR: Cannot open disk drive
Press any key to exit cfdisk
You think it's trying to tell me something? Ok, then let's try fdisk (doing my best to copy the error):
I'll just do it in Knoppix, even though the Gentoo partition is not really the problem, it's every single partition besides hda1, the boot partition.
root@ttyp0[knoppix]# fsck /dev/hda7
fsck 1.35-WIP (31-Jan-2004)
e2fsck 1.35-WIP (31-Jan-2004)
fsck.ext2: Invalid argument while trying to open /dev/hda7
The superblock could not be read or does not describe a correct ext2
filesystem. If the device is valid and it really contains an ext2
filesystem (and not swap or ufs or something else), then the superblock
is corrupt, and you might try running e2fsck with an alternate superblock:
e2fsck -b 8193 <device>
Well, as much as I'm sure many people are going to hate hearing this, I have had much better success repairing damaged partition tables (seems to be the problem you are having) in Windows than in Linux.
I had a brand new (right out of the box from TigerDirect) 120 GB HDD that crashed during formating to XFS (well, the machine actually had a hardware failure). I restarted the machine only to find that the drive appeared completely dead, and I got the exact same cfdisk message as you did.
So I took the drive out and put it in as a slave drive to a Windows XP machine. Windows Disk Manager immediately recognized that something was wrong with the disk and was able to write a new partition table to it and delete the half-formated partition.
With any luck, if you do the same thing, Windows will be able to write you a new partition table. Just don't let it format anything.
A strong reccomendation: ALWAYS place a cooling fan by ALL of your hard drives. They get really hot uncooled, ~70 degrees celcius, and a very small fan can bring temps down to ~40 and under. Hot drives wear _much_ faster than cooled drives. Much faster as in years. I have hdd cooling on my FTP server's drives, my used-to-be overclocker's drives, and even my firewall that's using a 1.4GB laptop hard drive through an IDE converter. IBM/Hitachi drives are most subject to damage in high heat.
That's exactly what the drivers for my hard drive said when trying to write information to the drive; I later found out my hard drive was in a completely unrecoverable state. My advice to you: backup your data to something other than your hard drive and order a new one. Incase it matters: I had an IBM travelstar hard drive in it.