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Ways to recover data from a corrupt hard drive?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 2, 2008 4:20 AM PDT

My college daughter's 120GB hard drive recently stopped working. She didn't hear any noise--it just stopped working.

I put another hard drive in the machine and set it up with OS and applications, and then put her old drive in as a slave and tried to look at it, but a message comes up that says it's unreadable. Other attempts say the hard drive is corrupt.

I have tried a few free programs such as pci_filerecovery.exe and the drive doesn't even show up. And the pci_us_smartrecovery.exe for photos, but most of the BMPs and JPEGs recovered aren't viewable and they both run so slowly that I was only at 10 percent after three full days of running.

She's a college student and can't afford hefty professional recovery labs. Is there any good, reasonably priced software or process that will reliably recover Word documents and photos? Please help.

--Submitted by Chuck

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but
please read up on all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this member's question.

Hard drive recovery --Submitted by waytron

Corrupt Hard Drive --Submitted by Zouch

50 ways to leave your lover... --Submitted by Gerdd

If you have the any additional advice or recommendations for Chuck, please click on the reply link and submit it. Please be as detailed as possible in your answers and if you have links even better. Thanks!
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Recover data from hard drive
by dbrisendine / October 3, 2008 12:39 PM PDT

Try the following softwares: SpinRite ( or GetDataBack ( Both are great. SpinRite is best for non technical people but can take a while to run. GetDataBack works best if you have anew drive to put recovered data on.

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Try Using Acronis
by nress / October 3, 2008 1:57 PM PDT


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Not so fast
by jsm55555 / October 11, 2008 7:04 AM PDT
In reply to: Try Using Acronis

Terrible support - I gave up on these guys last year, took them a month to answer my technical inquiry and even then the response was impertinent. Don't wait till you really need these guys to see how bad the support is like I did...

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Free Software that worked for me.
by DVDmaker / October 3, 2008 1:59 PM PDT
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recovering data from a corrupt hard drive
by s_kmed / June 30, 2011 5:24 AM PDT

This worked beautifully for me. I had spent $50 on software that claimed to recover data from a crashed hard drive but it would only recover previously deleted files. I bought a USB to SATA adapter from Tiger Direct, took my hard drive out of my laptop and hooked it to another computer as an external drive and CG Security test disk worked, I couldn't believe it! And best of all it was free! They ask for donations on the download page to keep it free and you can bet I'll donate. Thanks to CNET, DVDMaker for the recommendation and to CG Security.

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recovering data from a corrupt hard drive
by pluto168 / August 18, 2011 2:54 AM PDT

@s_kmed, I'm trying to use the TestDisk to recover a corrupt HD using your method (USB to SATA adapter), but when I run the application, all I got is a "Please wait..." message in the command window. I use the 64-bit version. What did I do wrong?

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Getting "please wait" too with TestDisk
by Cindy62707 / October 5, 2011 11:00 PM PDT

Did you find a way to make testdisk work? All I get is the "please wait" screen too.

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bad disk recover
by kleejm / October 3, 2008 2:09 PM PDT

this is happend a coppele of times to me
i have te program (get data back) i have lost all my photos end i have all back

greetz jos

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yes very very bad
by m.estrada / October 10, 2008 4:29 PM PDT
In reply to: bad disk recover

this program is bad very bad

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Bad Disk Recover
by RLABruce / December 19, 2010 7:54 AM PST
In reply to: bad disk recover

If you have a good drive exactly identical to your bad drive, you can try swapping the controller boards on the drives (the electronics of the drives). If your problem is on the controller you can swap it long enough to retrieve your data, then swap back and chunk it. If it's not a bad controller, you are s.o.l.

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Easiest way to avoid this problem
by lhodges-iowa / October 3, 2008 2:21 PM PDT

I have no suggestion for recovering the hard disk files. But here's how I operate, and have for many years, since the first small USB portable hard drives appeared. I bought one (I think it might have been only 20 GB at the time) and used it exclusively as my working drive for all files, carrying it back and forth between my university and home desktops, and also on my laptop computer; I could also use it on PCs I found in other places. All the files were in subfolders to a folder named "LH" and I could easily copy all the new or modified files onto my university and home desktop and laptop computers using the XCOPY command. This worked beautifully, and I never lost a file because I would backup in this fashion at the end of each workday and every evening. Today I still do this, but now with a 250GB portable drive (WD Passport), which I slip into my camera case every time I leave home: You never know when something might happen to your home!

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the hard drive
by pun!$h,er28 / October 3, 2008 2:21 PM PDT

connect everything up both hard drives new and old then just plug the power lead out of the old hd then switch on your pc then when its load everything go into your pc and plug just the power lead in on your old hd the ide lead should be in at all times /sata then go my computer then rigth clike properties then hardware then devicemanager then rigth clike disc drive then clike scan for hard ware changes and your other old hard drive shoul come on if it dosnt try bying an identical hd and change the mother borb on the hd because that what would have gone but i dont think you should do this on a regulare basis and i recomend 1f you have done this and it works chuck the old hd thanks 4 your time and let me no how it goes thanks

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recovering data
by withak / October 3, 2008 2:27 PM PDT

I tried a trick that didn't work for me but may for you. The "techy dude" at the Staples where I shop the most had me wrap mine in a zip lock bagf and freeze for 6 hours. Once you take out you have a short amount of time before it "thaws" so to speak. he said ity has worked for him a couple of times, but it didn't for me.....if you come up waith any ideas I would LOVE to know. Mine crashe 3 months ago and I am still suffering the consquences!

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recoverying a crashed hard drive by freezing your drive
by agtuaz94 / October 10, 2008 12:08 PM PDT
In reply to: recovering data

Just commenting on recovering a crashed hard drive and hearing that often but not always to freeze the hard drive in your freezer and reconnect and cross your is worth a try since it does not cost any money

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Didn't work for me
by jsm55555 / October 11, 2008 7:05 AM PDT
In reply to: recovering data

I'd heard of this remedy, but it did nothing for me -

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chuck in the past this happened and I found a tip to..;
by cvw666 / October 3, 2008 2:31 PM PDT

freeze the hard drive in the freezer of the fridge and then plug it in and plug it in as a worked for me...I added "blue ice' packs and got most of the data back...chiefly text and jpg files...this was some time ago and the drive was an IDE...c

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lost data
by edjsmesd2 / October 3, 2008 2:43 PM PDT

I recently made a mistake of hitting my system restore button while on my computer. I lost a lot of data and pictures in the process because I installed Office 2004 but the old office files are not readable. Whenever I try to open up the document, I get a message that says this doc cannot be open. I also lost my hot sync for my treo telephone. Can anyone help me with this problem. I am hoping that the data is still on my hard drive.

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by inventivemind / October 15, 2008 8:56 PM PDT
In reply to: lost data

if you do a system restore you shouldn't lose your data files like jpeg, or.doc Im sure all your stuff is in a folder somewhere.. do a search on the entire c:\drive for .jpeg or .doc and see if you recover your stuff.. The only way to lose data is if you do a format and complete reinstallation of your operating system.. not if u do a sys restore. About the office files.. if they won't open it's prob because your using an incompatible new application.. go to the old ones right click on them go to properties and in there you should be able to change the application that opens that document.. just change it to word doc or notepad if just need to view a file but if you need work on a file and edit it reinstall the original application you were using when it workedd fine. Hope that helps.

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Undo last system restore operation performed
by aijlf / October 21, 2008 10:07 PM PDT
In reply to: lost data


I believe that there would be an option for you to 'undo the last system restore' operation performed. Also, try restoring your system to the date on which you know your system was functioning well. The system restore wizard would give you a calendar option window from where you can navigate forward or backward.
Also, pray!

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Oldy, but it has worked for me
by halff / October 3, 2008 2:52 PM PDT

I have had the same problem

What I did was remove the drive,put a new one in its place and put the old one in a ziplock bag. Take as much air out as possible, and freeze it overnight. This takes up the wear by shrinking the clearances in the main bearing.
Just put it back in the morning, plugged into the cables ,not installed in the box, and transfer the data as required to the new drive, If it works it may take a couple of trips to the freezer to recover all you want as it heats up and fails again.
Worth a try, and its free

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I'm confident this will Work...
by benbois / October 3, 2008 3:04 PM PDT

This Will Work- Someday <:(

With my first, and second and third HD Crash, I tried all of the usual, the free- even took it to both the Fire Dogs and the Geek Squad- where they wanted a lot of money per gig recovered, with no quaranty that anything would be usable or Recovered! Not to mention the base fee (Pre-Recovery, set fee) of nearly $100 (Then the Per GB fee kicj=ks in).

I simply bought a new, larger HD- I'm now up to a 500GB internal- and gently placed the old HD in the New One's box.

You see, my idea is that someday- sooner maybe- there will be a program for complete recovery from a "bustit" HD. And you can bet I did not have EVERYthing backed up- including the last GB or so of my recentist photos. So relief better be here sooner.

Be sure to keep your old HD's in the box, in a cool dry place. And wait for the Cure!

Honestly, I was stunned when hearing the costs involved- with Nary a Promise of 1mb recovered!

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disc data recovery
by nmharleyrider / October 3, 2008 3:05 PM PDT

I used the Gillware Company to recover my hard drive. They were very reasonable compared to most companies which wanted fees up in the thousands of dollars. The cost depends on the problem with the drive. In my case they fixed an electric component on the drive and were able to fire it up from there. If they have to open it up and take it into their clean room, the price goes up. They recovered my entire disc since it was an electrical componenet and there had been no head crash or other physical damage done to the discs. It did cost me around $300 thought and that may be prohibitive for the college student mentioned.

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Corruption recovery
by PC Friendly / October 3, 2008 3:12 PM PDT


I'm an old school tech and the way I've found that is most succesful would be to wrap the drive in plastic wrap, stick in a ziplock freezer bag and put it in your freezer for about six hours. Pull it out (removing the plastic wrap, etc.) and hook it up externally to another system (or as a slave on a desktop). You will have a good chance of recovering the data if it is a physical crash. If it is due to data corruption, there are numerous utilities that can attempt to recover wiped drives or partial recovery of data from corrupt sectors.

PC Friendly, Inc.

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SpinRite is your answer
by Milestone / October 3, 2008 3:24 PM PDT

Go to, and buy SpinRite 6.0. As long as there is no major damage to the drive SpinRite will probably fix it!

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Spinrite, no question
by letmegopleez / October 4, 2008 4:37 AM PDT

Whenever you think your hard drive is whacked, here is what you do:

1. *Immediately* stop using it -- minimize (preferably eliminate) additional writes.

2. Use Spinrite, as others said. It's worth every penny.

Any fooling around on your part potentially decreases the amount of data that Spinrite will recover. It's absolutely critical that you avoid additional writes (aka additional corruption).

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by JohnKZ / October 3, 2008 3:25 PM PDT

It's not particularly cheap but it's effective - SpinRite ( The current version costs $89 US. I had a problem identical to your daughter's and it salvaged the hard drive and all info. I am still using the old drive as a "slaved spare." No, I don't trust it one hundred percent but it does well as redundant storage bin and page file drive.

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One option - ask a tech to buy a similar HDD and swap parts
by Fredxxxxx / October 3, 2008 3:43 PM PDT

I had the same problem after an electrical storm knocked out my computer.
It was an oldish HDD, and a tech guy bought a second hand HDD that was the same (on Ebay) and swapped some parts over. That got everything back.
The point was that the disc was not damaged - it was the electronics, which were replaceable. He did the work for nix. Cost me AU$60 all up.
You might check to see (or feel) if the disc spins when you boot the computer - I'm betting it doesn't. If it does, you may have less success with this solution. I had had some quotes on file recovery that were frightening, to say the least.

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I can't say why but this worked for me
by jpool--2008 / October 3, 2008 3:59 PM PDT

I also had a 120GB hard drive that just became absolutely unreadable. It was a drive from an older PC that I was using as a slave in my next one after that. One day when I tried to access it, the PC told me the drive was not formatted, and asked if I would I like to do so. Of course I said no. I tried accessing it as a slave in another computer with the same results. I had one other computer to try it on, my newest, but it was SATA and the 120GB drive was IDE. I bought a $20 USB SATA/IDE combo adapter and temporarily attached it externally through a USB port. Presto! it showed up as a drive that I could read! I got my important info off of it and then ran a scandisk repair on it as well, and the data was still intact! I won't be saving anything important to it, just in case, but that worked for me.

P.S. - Just in case no one else says it - I have also heard you can literally freeze a bad hard drive (protecting it in a ziploc or similar bag), and it will become readable until it warms up too much, but it can give you time to get your data. That is all about the mechanics and the read/write heads drifting, or "getting out of tune", if you will. Freezing the drive temporarily brings the heads back closer to the hard disk, I believe.

- Jim

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Where is my stuff! Hard Drive Recovery.
by JeffBRD / October 3, 2008 4:03 PM PDT

Try Bootmaster. This program was able to restore the MBR (Master Boot Record)on my external drive. The drive was visible in disk management as healthy but it did not have a drive letter. Bootmaster took about 5 minutes to fix the MBR. The drive was assigned a drive letter and I had access to all the data on the drive.

The evaluation is free so you can see if it will work for you before you buy it ($30)

Do not despair (and do not reformat the drive)

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i need help
by kellywilliams0448 / February 26, 2012 1:20 PM PST

Please i got these two notebook hard drive (Samsung and Sony). the issue is that i want to transfer all the information stored in the Sony brand hard drive to that of Samsung, but i'm finding it difficult and the notebook am using now is the Samsung brand. Is there any way i can do this without consulting the a/s center?

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