Computer Help forum

General discussion

Easiest way to recover data from unbootable HDD?

by hanselthecaretaker / April 20, 2008 5:20 AM PDT

For a Sony Vaio VGC-RB44G with Windows XP Media Center Edition installed.
Here's what's happening:

I tried Knoppix 3.9 at first, and it detected the SDA2 portion of the HDD with all the typical files, but it froze up so I restarted and then it was unable to mount it after that. I tried version 5.3.1 and same thing. It'll mount SDA1 that has the system files but not SDA2 which has the more customizable/personal files, which are what I'd like to get.
I tried hooking it up to my rig with OEM XP Home on installed but it's not reading the drive either, detecting several corrupt sectors following a scan, and asking me to format.

The partition table is screwed up too from the looks of it.
For a 250 gig drive it's showing:
"-" (EISA) ~7 gigs
"H" Fat32 ~1.3 gigs
"C" Unknown ~231 gigs

None of the above are even detecting a Windows install.

Here are the errors I've gotten in the process of trying to boot from the C:

"Windows could not start because of an error in the software.
Please report this problem as:
load needed DLLs for kernel."

"Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:
<Windows root>\system32\hal.dll.


I know I'll probably end up having to reformat the drive, if it's even worth saving at all, and then hopefully finding an OS to reinstall that will activate on a vendor rig. The original OS cd is unavailable as the pc was "open box" and all that it came with are a couple unbootable recovery discs.
I'll try making a boot disc out of them for now.

Any ideas are much appreciated.


Post a reply
Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: Easiest way to recover data from unbootable HDD?
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: Easiest way to recover data from unbootable HDD?
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Put it into an external case. . .
by Coryphaeus / April 20, 2008 5:53 AM PDT

or internal as slave?

Collapse -
by hanselthecaretaker / April 20, 2008 7:53 AM PDT

and no matter how I configure it I can't open it without Windows saying it's not formatted and asking me to format. The optional disk check at Windows startup reported several bad sectors but when I check disk management it shows both partitions as being healthy. There is one 7 gig partition in NFTS EISA configuration and another "Active" partition with 100% free space (226.75 gigs), which doesn't make sense as it should have data on it if active.

Collapse -
Try these demos.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 20, 2008 8:11 AM PDT
In reply to: Internal

Look for:



Collapse -
Thank you!
by hanselthecaretaker / April 20, 2008 11:38 AM PDT
In reply to: Try these demos.

This worked, had to register but it's worth it!
You are an invaluable asset to these boards, thanks again.

Collapse -
When these work...
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 20, 2008 11:44 AM PDT
In reply to: Thank you!

It usually is cheap recovery compared to It doesn't always work out and some balk at the cost (which tells us how much the files are worth?)

Thanks for the report and the kind words. Best of luck!

Collapse -
That EISA and the FAT32 partitions are normally ...
by Edward ODaniel / April 20, 2008 8:47 AM PDT

the vendor's recovery and system tools partitions.

IF there is nothing wrong with those partitions (hopefully you haven't tried to "explore" them) you can perform a complete System Recovery by following these steps CAREFULLY. They will restore the computer to it's "as delivered" configuration.

1. Disconnect all network connections.
2. Disconnect all peripheral devices.
3. Turn off the computer.
4. Turn on the computer.
5. When the SONY logo is displayed, press the F10 key.
6. In the VAIO Recovery Wizard window, click the Next button.
7. Under Recovery Options, click to select the C Drive Recovery option.
8. Click the Next button.


A) A C Drive Recovery will return the (C:) drive to its original, factory-installed state. All software and data on the (C:) drive will be erased. If there is a (D:) drive, it is unaffected.
B) Only a C Drive Recovery can be performed using the VAIO Recovery Wizard on the Recovery Drive. For a Custom Recovery with options for removing or reinstalling the Recovery Drive, use the Recovery Media Kit.

9. Under C Drive Recovery, click the Next button.
10. Under Click Finish..., click the Finish button.

*****NOTE*****: The computer will restart.

11. Under Recovery Progress, when the recovery is Completed, click the Next button.
12. Under The Recovery process is complete, click the Finish button.
13. After the computer restarts, the operating system setup wizard will start. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the setup wizard.

*****NOTE*****: After the setup wizard is completed, all bundled applications will be reinstalled.

If your recovery partitions are corrupt you can check on this page and provide your serial number to possibly obtain recovery CDs -

There is also a "Live Chat" link on that page

Collapse -
Thank you
by hanselthecaretaker / April 20, 2008 10:49 AM PDT

I ran Get Data Back and am waiting for the activation to copy the files off the HDD.
So with the steps you outlined I shouldn't have to use the recovery discs, correct? Everything is through the BIOS recovery wizard (the OS won't boot)?

Does the fact that there were damaged sectors on the HDD matter to the process of restoring the PC to its "delivered" config?

Thank you very much for the help!!

Collapse -
Tried to run recovery...
by hanselthecaretaker / April 23, 2008 9:43 AM PDT

got an error:

"Disk access: Sense operation failed!"
at 1% complete.

Basically that means it needs a brand new HDD, correct...
I have recovery cd's but now when I put the 1st one in it says there's no operating system.

Collapse -
by hanselthecaretaker / April 23, 2008 1:52 PM PDT

I've read of the program called "Killdisk" that will wipe the drive and allow the recovery wizard to run, but how can you run Killdisk if the OS doesn't even boot? Can it be run from a boot cd at startup? Last time I tried running a boot disk though I got a "No operating system found" message.

Trial and error.

Collapse -
Killdisk boot
by hanselthecaretaker / April 23, 2008 2:05 PM PDT
In reply to: Killdisk

I found a bootable version of Killdisk. Read in another forum that someone used it after the "sense operation failed" error and it worked. It sounds like the factory partitions need to be in place for the recovery wizard to work though. Can I install any OS after the disk is wiped clean or do those Sony-installed partitions need to be in place for the system to function properly?

Collapse -
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 23, 2008 10:02 PM PDT
In reply to: Killdisk boot

Back on Windows ME Sony machines you had to manually create partitions. Today we just slip in a new blank drive of the supported size and it works. But your hard disk appears to have failed.


Collapse -
so about the OS NOT FOUND
by i.ate.tacos / February 17, 2009 1:43 AM PST
In reply to: Iffy.

the only reason you are getting the os not found is cause you are trying to boot from HDD. you have to go into the bios and change the boot order in order for it to try from cd. it obviously isnt set as the first boot. you also need to run checkdisk over the partition you are trying to reinstall over. the hard drive isnt dead but all the bad sectors have to be flagged and marked as unusable before you can continue with a reinstall. if you have another hard drive or a big flash drive (7gb or more) you can download gparted and make a backup of your recovery partitions in case checkdisk decides it wants to format your whole hard drive which shouldnt be the case cause i have had 2 partitions on the same hard drive and only scanned one partition and removed bad sectors from it so this step inst necessary but is a saftey precation. alternatly if you have the key on the side of your computer you can torrent download an OEM copy of xp home and use that key and your download will be considered fine.

Collapse -
slave drive
by chickenorfish / February 17, 2009 4:19 AM PST

times when my OS crashed and i needed to get data off the disk i brought the hard drive to another computer and made it a slave drive to transfer the files. as long as its not the boot drive, you should be able to get data off of it

Popular Forums
Computer Help 49,613 discussions
Computer Newbies 10,349 discussions
Laptops 19,436 discussions
Security 30,426 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 20,308 discussions
Windows 10 360 discussions
Phones 15,802 discussions
Windows 7 7,351 discussions
Networking & Wireless 14,641 discussions

CNET Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for great gifts under $100?

Trendy tech gifts don't require a hefty price tag. Choose from these CNET-recommended useful and high-quality gadgets.