This is truly one of the most apalling situations I have ever seen perpetrated by a (once?) respectable company. It’s as if WD fired all their engineers and hired a bunch of people to read scripts and answer the phone. How the @%^ can anyone at WD not at least try to help us get our data back? Truly appalling.
I had about 10 years of tediously organized files that I had on this drive… in fact I purchased it at Best Buy specifically for this reason. I’ve used WD for over 20 years, and believe it or not I still USE hard-drives over 10 years old, and less than 1 GB! So I figured this would be perfect.
I had already known about the Volume-Policy->Safe Removal vs. Performance setting danger in Windows, so I set it up for safe removal. Right out of the box I zeroed the entire drive and then ran it through SpinRite, followed by creating a partition table, partition, and filesystems, which is my Modus operandi for all new drives. I never install the autorun ■■■■.
One day I had to use XP SP3 for a gotomeeting, and at some point XP bluescreened due to a PAGING fault problem I am still looking into… Upon reboot my whole drive was bricked! WTF! 10 years gone! Not quite. Thank god for my past work in the security field, including data forensics. I’ve totally bricked around 50 hard-drives in my day, all of which I still keep just in case… (bricked means they won’t even power up to spin). So I knew that it was almost impossible that my drive got bricked in this situation… WRONG! First things first I carefully extracted the drive out of its black case so I could feel/hear/see what it was doing, and it was acting like it was bricked. Sometimes after a reboot the blue light would come on, sometimes not. After several soft and then hard reboots and seeing that, I went into panic mode and got serious.
HOW I FIXED IT
Well the easiest way would have been to just directly write the backup of the drives partition table to the disk, which has to be exact match, and then just run a chkdsk, but I hadn’t set up backups yet. Here are a few of the Live Boot CD’s I used (that failed) to fix it. Using anything other than a live os to boot is dangerous as you could bork the filesystem and have to use a tool like ddrescue and go bit x bit.
- Avast Live
- System Restore
- Ultimate Boot CD
- Norton Ghost
- Partition Magic 8
- WinXP Recovery Console.
Finally after all those failed, I booted up the Gparted Live CD, a truly incredibly useful live cd (free), and finally I was able to see the block device of the disk. Gparted uses the ntfsresize utility to do a poor-mans chkdsk, but it atleast made the partition table viewable again. So first step: Run “Check” on the device in Gparted. You could also try resizing the partition just a tad, then reboot.
Windows is so dumb that it can only make it worse, so I stay away from Windows as much as possible until at least the drives are recognized and showing up again. So then I booted up the latest version of Knoppix, which has really nice hardware detection. I just booted into runlevel 2 (non-graphical) and made sure I could see the block device (if not I would just load more modules) then I used the ntfs-3g utils and the ntfsutils progs to see how the ntfs data structure was holding up… First I ran some ntfsfix commands, followed by some reboots, and also ntfsls, ntfsinfo, and had to force them to run.
At this point I could now see the device again, so the only thing left to fix was the filesystem on the device, just 1 giant NTFS partition. Because I really couldn’t afford to lose these files, but I didn’t want to risk/pay to send the drive into a reputable disk-recovery company, I made an exact clone of the drive (which took forever) just in case I lost the filesystem.
Then I finally booted up into Windows once more, using my custom safe mode option from my boot.ini
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS=“XP3 Pro Safe Command Shell” /sos /noguiboot /bootlog /noexecute=optin /safeboot:minimal(alternateshell)
Once logged in as the Admin, I used the runas command to start the registry editor for the user I was logged in as when the problem happened. That let me modify the commands that are set in the registry, in this case I wanted to force chkdsk to run for as many drive letters as possible after rebooting, several times until my lost drive was no longer a “dirty volume”. Then I shutdown and rebooted. After the chkdsk;'s finished, I again go into safe mode, but I replace the chkdsk with chkntfs to force recovery of the filesystem upon a reboot. Then I reboot and run the recovery chkdsk a couple times.until ho errors are produced. Next I disconnect the Failed drive and reboot , logging in this time in order to clean up the device database by hand.
- First I set the global environment debbuging variable DevMgr_Show_NonPresent_Devices to 1
- Then when in devmgt and you show hidden files, you will see hundreds.
- Next I plugin my failed drive and run chkdsk until no errors are produced.
Did that twice and then I had what resembled a working filesystem once again. But every so many boots/hours/days??? my drive would disappear entirely from the device database, and I eventually noticed it was being recognized as the generic “USB Device” or other generic driver. Uninstall that, unplug the drive, and then plug back inand it usually works again.
So it’s not hard to get the data back, if you happen to have over 60 hours of available time to do it that is. What I’m doing as I am writing this, is I have moved the drive to my main linux (archlinux.org) machine and am copying the enitre 700+ GB’s I’m using too a HITACHI drive. Once that 5 hour process is completed I might drive down to best buy and throw this WD hard-drive throught the front glass doors. My reasoning is that if WD employees aren’t even bothered enough by massive customer problems and complaints all over the world to help restore lost data on these drives, it only makes sense the police wouldn’t care either enough to look at it either.
Honestly if WD sent me 3 new better drives for free, that would make me happy again, anything less than that and geez, how will they stay in business losing 20+year loyal customers like this…