Saving Data From a Dead Hard Drive

I’d like to give a big shout out to Christophe Grenier & Damien Guibouret; creators of two independent soft-wares TestDisk & Partition Saving; respectively. Two strangers that saved me big time! Well, actually they saved my files. See my laptop drive crashed yesterday evening. Rebooted Windows 7, and it gets stuck at the boot up screen. I ran a few HDD diagnostic tools (boot CD/USB) and they all had bad news: The drive it kaputt!

Now, I usually have an external USB drive, that continuously backs up my data. However, the external USB drive had reached its limit. So, I had disconnected the now-full back-up drive, intending to upgrade to a larger external USB drive. This was two months ago. And now, I feel like crying! I immediately got on the web to find tools & tutorials and how to read data off dead drives; if it’s possible on my dead drive. Just when I was about to give up, and give my dead drive to professionals to attempt to extract the files, I had stumbled upon TestDisk. It’s a DOS based utility that could be booted from a CD or a USB key that will allow you to access a given set of drives. Now, I can actually navigate my dead drive, and try to copy my precious data into USB thumb drives. TestDisk’s interface isn’t very user-friendly, but eventually I managed to find my way through. Also, it appeared to have some limitations (Or I suck!) as I wasn’t able to copy data into another USB drive other than the one TestDisk was running from. Not a big deal though. The software would occasionally hang, as it would try read data for damaged sectors, so I had to rinse and repeat.

The process was slow and tedious. I looked again on the web for other tools, as now I’m armed with hope, I figured there probably would be other similar tools. Then, I found Partition Saving. This has a much more user-friendly interface; with the ability to mount a USB thumb drive, thus making the copy/paste process much more efficient. I would be able to select complete directories, and copy them to my USB thumb drives, 32GB at a time.

It took a while but I did it! Sometimes, I had trouble accessing some files with Partition Saving, so I would go back to TestDisk, and vice-versa. Now, almost a week later, I bought a new larger internal HDD, clean-installed Windows 7, and restored my laptop to its functional state. This is the second HDD that had died on me. The first one being in my desktop, about ten years ago.

I took this opportunity to reorganize my files, removed all the useless junk, and started backing up again! So, once again, thanks to Christophe Grenier & Damien Guibouret!

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