OK computer expert, I’ve got a question for you. I have an external HD that had two partitions. I just noticed that one partition – the larger one and lower logical drive letter, will not read. When I click on it in My Computer, it hums for awhile and then says that the drive is not formatted, do I wish to format it. Not really, because I would like to recover the files on it if possible. The other partition seems to work fine. I have no idea how the partition might have been wiped or whatever. I recently ran defrag on it, but other than that, it was working fine. Any ideas?
Well, no, actually. This was one I hadn’t run across before. I haven’t had a lot of experience with partitioning drives, because most of my hard drives have been small enough not to need partitioning, and I now have two separate physical drives on my main computer, though one of them has a small partition for DVD QuickPlay in addition to holding the C:\ drive.
So I passed my brother’s message on to the Ur-Guru to see what he had to say about it, which was this:
I’d say before trying any recovery tools… first make an image backup of the entire xHD to some place, just in case the recovery screws up (which sometimes it does and makes it worse).
A “not formatted” usually indicates that the partition got damaged but it says nothing about the data. On the other hand it could be an actual surface failure.
Check in the event log and see if any disk failure type entries are in there and what details they might reveal.
Go to computer management (admin tools) and select the disk management from the tree, check what it says there. Often it could be that the system remembers the partition and drive letter but it needs to be imported. Red warning icons or error icons might appear on the disk management bars where it shows the partitions and disks. That might also reveal what’s going on with the xHD partition. Status in the listview should say “Healthy” if everything is fine.
My first guess would be it’s an actual drive failure that has affected just the one partition. If the entire xHD was a single partition it might affect the whole thing which at least would make it look more like a total failure.
Before sending that on to my brother, I added a note about where to find the Administrative Tools (in the Control Panel; though they may also be on your “All Programs” list) and where to look in the Computer Management tool for the disks (under Disk Management, which is at least logical, unlike, say, using the Start button to shut down).
I also included a warning. Physical damage to a hard drive is very bad news. System failures may put your data out of reach temporarily, but damage to a drive—which is what data recovery geeks mean when they say “crash”—can destroy your data as if it never existed. If your hard drive is making evil noises (clanking, clacking, screeching), your best bet is to shut the machine down and get the drive to a professional data recovery service where they can take it apart in a sterile environment rather like a hospital operating room.
My brother’s response was that he didn’t have Ghost or TrueImage, but did have enough space to copy the disk. Since he was at work by this time and the problem was with his home computer, he wasn’t able to check the Event Viewer immediately. Once he did, however, what he found was definitely not good news:
In the event log, there are a hundred or so errors listed from the last few days that are all the same.
Event Type: Error
Event Source: Disk
Event Category: None
Event ID: 7
Time: 8:04:10 PM
The device, \Device\Harddisk2\D, has a bad block.
That was confirmation of the Ur-Guru’s suspicions. This left my brother with two choices: attempt to use data recovery software, or go to the professionals. Why is this an either-or case? Amateur attempts to recover data can sometimes make things worse. To quote the Ur-Guru, “The serious recovery folks don’t want you to even look at a drive before sending it off, actually. And they have a point.”
Either way, it was clear that the drive had reached the end of its usable life, because even if it could be reformatted, it might give out again at any moment. (The argument against disk-based backup is that hard drives, with all their moving parts, are just as vulnerable to failure outside your computer as inside it.)
My brother professed himself willing to ditch the drive as long as he could get the data back, and elected to try using FinalRecovery. I’ve never used that one myself.
As of this morning, the program has been running for 48 hours and is only about 1/3 finished, so we don’t know how much data my brother will get back. At least the disk doesn’t seem to be damaged in such a way that trying to use it makes the problem worse.
Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion to the saga!