Here's how NOT to recover from a faulty hard drive.
I turned on my laptop and got an error while booting about a faulty NTLDR.SYS file - or some name like that. The error said to insert the Windows CD and select option "R" to recover.
My Acer laptop didn't come with a Windows CD, it came with a "Recovery CD". So I inserted that CD, booted from it, and the damned thing started formatting my hard drive. Yes there was some vague warnings in broken English about backing up data, but I was expecting to see a Windows message, and got something totally different.
"Ah!!!!" I screamed as I saw what was happening, and turned my machine off in the middle of the format.
Now the disk drive was partially formatted, and had no directory info on it.
So I plugged in my trusty USB drive backup, and went about getting the machine ready to Ghost the backup drive back to the original drive.
Getting a laptop to boot from a CD and run Ghost is an effort in itself and took me about 2 hours to figure out. If you want to try it yourself, get Ghost to burn a bootable floppy that does the same thing, and use something like UBCD to convert the floppy to a CD.
So I ghosted the backup drive back to the laptop, booted the laptop and.... NOTHING. The USB drive was faulty, and the backup drive was unreadable.
"Ah!!!!" I screamed again in a Homer Simpsonesque panic.
I ran Spinrite on the USB drive in a vain attempt to fix it. But the back up drive was faulty (remember, Neil?) and so it just made things worse - and I lost the partition table on the backup drive.
So I threw the USB drive caddy out the window, and connected te Backup drive to a spare IDE port on my desktop computer. Still no joy.
So I tried a thing called "Diskpatch" which is supposed to fix partition tables. It said a few encouraging words, and did absolutely nothing.
Finally, I tried a thing caled "iRecover". It was able to see stuff on the drive. Most of it was scrambled, but I used it to pump as much corrupted data from the drive as I could.
It has been running for about 7 days, and has almost finished pumping everything from the 60GB backup drive. about 75% of the stuff is rubbish. I was able to recover one or two snippets that were some use to me.
Bottom line - I lost about 6 months worth of work - but was able to scrounge a lot of it back from other sources.
I NEVER EVER want to go through this again. It's bad for my health, my marriage and my business. Here's what I will do in future:
1. Backup more regularly to multiple locations.
2. Use something like NTI to create a bootable backup DVD of my drive.
3. Get a new Laptop - the Acer Travelmate is rubbish.
4. Never try to run windows repair on a faulty drive until I've pumped it for all the information I can.
5. Never trust a USB drive. Especially one that runs hot.
6. Backup more regularly to multiple locations.
7. Buy high quality equipment
The other thing with Laptops - don't move them around until you've put the machine in standby mode. If you do, the diskdrive is still spinning, and there's a good chance you'll stuff the drive up.
You will have one of your disks crash on you sometime in the next few years. It's happened to me 4 times in the last 12 months on 2 different machines. Make sure you can recover from it. Do something about it today.
iRecover is available from http://www.diydatarecovery.nl
It works, but it is damned slow.