The Prodigal Hard Drive

UPDATED @ 11:23 – see below

I’m typing this from with a Live CD ‘install’ of Ubuntu Linux. Last night my PC went down in a spectacular fashion. While I was deleting one of the partitions (partition G:) on my main hard drive (HD0) the system crashed. I rebooted and discovered that not only had G: gone, but E: (My Pictures), F: (My Documents), H: (Backups), and I: (Installation files) had also disappeared. As you might imagine I began to panic — not least since I hadn’t made a proper backup of My Documents in 6 months and my installation files for over 2 years. I know … I know … !

At the moment I am facing the possibility that I’ve lost everything. And as those who know me well will testify, as I do everything on my computer that’s quite a considerable loss. (At the moment I do feel as though I am experiencing grief.) The installation partition, for example, represents all the software I’ve collected over the last 10 years or so. I feel like such a fool.

I wouldn’t have cared if I’d had a recent backup of those two partitions, I could just have FDISKed the drive again and started afresh. But I foolishly didn’t. I’ve deleted partitions loads of times, again and again, with no problems.

I did manage to boot back into Windows XP — albeit with fewer drives (partitions) than I was used to. I ran an application called TestDisk which confirmed that the partitions were still on the drive (albeit in a rather messed up way), but it wasn’t able to fix the problem … and actually made matters worse. Now I can’t even boot into Windows.

I have no option but to call in the experts. I can’t afford to risk losing this data, if it’s still on the drive. I’m reaching for the Yellow Pages now. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Good people of the internet, please pray for me. I’m still panicking.

UPDATE @ 09:27 I’ve called in the experts: PC Support Services (Scotland) who are sending someone around sometime after 10:00 am. They sounded hopeful that they could recover the data.

UPDATE @ 11:23 The PC Engineer arrived within the hour, had a good look at the drive using his Emergency Boot Disk kit; removed the drive, had a look at it with his Mac G4 iBook; returned it to my PC and had a look at it with the same software that I’d had a look at it with (reassuring me that I’m not a complete idiot); and then said, “Hmmm…”

“Hmmm…?” I echoed.
“It looks as though your Partition Table is corrupt,” he said, “But you knew that already.”
He was right, I did. “Is that something you might be able to fix?” I asked.
He nodded slowly. “I should think so.”

He’s taken my drive away (and I know not where they have laid it) and says that he expects he’ll have it resurrected by tomorrow afternoon. He’ll clone it to another drive and work on the clone, and even if he can’t resurrect the partitions he will be able to recover my data (which is all still on the drive, he said).

“That’s great,” he said as he was packing up to leave, “that gives me a great excuse to go back to the office and do nothing all day … as I sit and watch your drive getting fixed.”

Thanks for your prayers, folks. I’m a lot calmer and more reassured now. But I still have to get my data back. It’s not over yet.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Former Scrum master at Safeguard Global, Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

4 thoughts on “The Prodigal Hard Drive”

  1. Ouch!! For future reference there are a couple of ways *I* would approach this – maybe you tried them so forgive me… If just the partition table is damaged, rather than the actual data, boot using your master Windows XP CD, chose “Recovery Console” rather than to install. Enter your admin p/w when prompted. FIXMBR is the command you might need. If you’ve no WinXP boot CD another useful – but more dangerous tactic – is to use FDISK with it’s secret command-line suffix “/MBR”. Despite what people may say it works with XP (on my PC at least!). If you have Partition Magic then create the rescue disks it prompts you too etc. These are very useful too.
    Sadly I once had a hard drive which was failing due to the surface peeling and the above won’t cure that type of problem!! (Ususal disclaimer – If you try the above it’s at your own risk!!! I know nothing…)

  2. “He’s taken my drive away (and I know not where they have laid it) and says that he expects he’ll have it resurrected by tomorrow afternoon.”

    now that made me laugh!

  3. Hi Nigel, thanks — I tried to boot to the XP disc and it wouldn’t have a bar of it, for some reason. The PC engineer also had trouble booting to a couple of his rescue discs.

    Once (I’m trying to restrain from saying ‘if’) I get my data back I’m going to convert to the religion of Backing-Up. Oh yes. I never, *ever* want to experience the hell that has been the last 24 hours.

    I bought Partition Magic 8 when I got this PC. I knew that it would arrive with a 120GB HDD with a single C: partition, and I wanted six partitions. I installed PM8, booted up, told it what to do, it rebooted, got to 4% and crashed. I then had to boot to the XP disc and FDISK, format and reinstall. From that moment on I vowed to never ever try ‘live’ partitioning. Until last night. I now vow to never ever try ‘live’ partitioning again. Ever. I’ll stick to old school backing up and FDISK from now on.

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