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Trying to back up a dead hard drive - how to do it?

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#1
Hey all,

I am setting about making a Christmas surprise for my better half - to save the music files he's kept on a hard drive that has died, and wrap up the backup drive as a gift. Although he's very geeky, for some reason he has not tried very hard to save these files as far as I can tell.

I've been looking online and using a boot cd for Ubuntu and Xubuntu, but when the booted OS comes up I do not find the hard drive to copy onto the portable hard drive I've bought for this occasion.

Does anyone have some geeky advice for me? We have several old hard drives in a box and the same thing happens with every attempt to boot, which makes me think operator error is going on.
:cfingers:
 
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Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#2
If the hard drive has died, how can you copy anything from it? Or is that what you're asking? In general, you can't. There are reports of some success in bringing HDs back to life briefly after putting them in a freezer for a few hours. There are data recovery services that will pull an HD apart, remount the platters and attempt data recovery, but it's expensive.
 

Marc

Fully vaccinated are you?
Staff member
Admin
#3
Over the years I've had pretty good recovery results from drive crashes.

First off, I assume this is an internal drive in a tower PC. Is that correct?
I also assume it's a 3.5" ATA drive (or is it a SATA drive?).

No guarantee, but I've done a fair amount of data recovery over the years. I'll try to help. Just 2 weeks ago I saved 2TB of data from a crashed RAID drive set. Tell me some more details and I'll try to help.
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#4
I have three or four hard drives in a box to try, all I have to go on is what's on their labels. I have hooked each up in turn with an old tower we don't care about - it has a working CD ROM, I can't tell much else. So far, each I have hooked up and booted independently but none shows as a drive on the boot OS - this seems unlikely.

I have hooked all this up to an old Dell Dimension 4400 tower using his video, mouse and keyboard, not daring to do this evolution with his regular computer - I don't dare to be hooking up these old and drives and such with anything else but a throwaway machine. Egads, I am not very good at this but I would really like to make a nice go of it. :cfingers:
 

Marc

Fully vaccinated are you?
Staff member
Admin
#5
I've been looking online and using a boot cd for Ubuntu and Xubuntu <snip>
Can't help with Ubuntu and Xubuntu. What file systems do they use? NTSF?

I'm trying to think. On the Mac I have used Data Rescue to get my Mac to recognize crashed drives that would not mount. It's a recovery program so you need a drive to save to, and typically it has to be at least 1.5x larger than the drive to be recovered.

I've gone through this on Windows PCs but it's been several years. Jim is right that many times a drive cannot be recovered, but typically the electronics fail. It's rarely a platter issue.

But back to the issue, essentially you need a data recovery program which will probably involve Windows, which means there is the file system aspect.

The issues as I remember (Windows PC) had mostly to do with cable issues (sequence on the cable and the cable type its self) and the jumper position on the back (Slave vs. Master vs. 'Auto Select'). Now - This was on ATA drives. SATA drives are a different animal - There are no jumpers.

Anyway, if it's happening with several drives, it probably isn't a drive issue or it's a drive header corruption issue. Drive failure to mount is most typically a drive header corruption issue.

What size drives are these?
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#6
I have, according to the labels:

Maxtor - unknown size, with 16383 cylinders, 126 heads, 63 sectors

Western Digital, 60 GB with drive parameters LBA 117187500

Seagate Pin 1 J2TP from BUS

Very confusing - these are old drives.
 

Marc

Fully vaccinated are you?
Staff member
Admin
#7
Were the drives formatted NTSF?

I wish I had a lot of the info files I have on drives and settings (most of that stuff is stored in the barn these days) but the manufacturer sites should have their settings files.

This the business end of an typical ATA drive:


BTW - It's getting late here so I may be 'gone' for a while. If you want to continue on just let me know. It's a real rush when you recover data you thought was "gone forever".
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#8
Hmm, I am just hooking the drives up via a ribbon cable - the only other drive in the tower is a CDRom, from which I boot Ubuntu.

I have hooked up a jumper network cable to a laptop - I also have a USB backup hard drive, new in the box that I do not want to open up and use until I feel like I am actually able to download data.

Unlike with Xubuntu, this time with Ubuntu I can actually find one of these old drives in "places". Maybe I will go ahead and open up that backup hard drive box and give it a whirl - if I can't find a way to just transfer files to my laptop via that network cable.

In any case I feel closer now.
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#9
If the hard drive has died, how can you copy anything from it? Or is that what you're asking? In general, you can't. There are reports of some success in bringing HDs back to life briefly after putting them in a freezer for a few hours. There are data recovery services that will pull an HD apart, remount the platters and attempt data recovery, but it's expensive.
I've heard of that - putting them in the freezer, and I suggested that to Jeff but he seemed disinclined. But what I can't read tonight I will try the freezer with and plug them in tomorrow first thing - what can it hurt?

A young man at work encouraged me to Google the subject and try it myself, saying the methods have come a long way in the past few years. Last year I was prepared to spend a couple $hundred or so to retrieve this data, but based on this young man's encouragement I am giving it a whirl while the guys are off on their hunting trip.
 

howste

Thaumaturge
Super Moderator
#10
I think Marc has the right idea with the jumpers. Can you get into the system settings before the OS loads? If the hardware doesn't recognize the drive before you boot into the OS, then the software will never find it.
 
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