View Full Version : Help recovering harddrive

01-09-2010, 04:14 PM
Hi guys and girls.
I really, really, really, really (you get it by now) need your help.
One night, tired of work, i close my notebook running windows vista and go to sleep.
Next day, i open it up and while listening to a series of beeps coming from the internal soundboard, i see a dreaded message: "Operating system not found".
I go "WTF" and i start to investigate.
Entering BIOS, to my surprise, i discover that the hard drive is no longer detected (every time i open it up, those beeps keep reappearing).
Not knowing what to do, i decide to burn KNOPPIX to a dvd and try to run some recovery programs. Of course i am a total noob and have not succeded at all.
So i really need your input. Here are some small facts:
1) The notebook is in warranty, but i have to travel 1046 km (two way trip) to take it in service.
2) The data on the harddrive is very important as it is work related (and of course i don't have a backup), and the guys at the service will most likely replace it instead of trying to recover it.
3)I tried to mount the hard drive, but it is not detected anywhere.
I used fdisk -l and a grep command i found in the wiki.
4) I do have an external hard drive on which to copy the files, supposing i can somehow mount it.
My skill in unix is close to zero, so please speak in noob-language :)

Thanks for reading this,

Harry Kuhman
01-09-2010, 07:30 PM
Hard drives do fail. If the BIOS can no longer detect a hard drive then it could very well be that the hard drive has failed (or someone wanted your hard drive and opened the little panel on the bottom of the notebook and took it while you were asleep). If the BIOS can't find the hard drive then I don't expect that Knoppix is going to be of much use. If your notebook has a recessed reset button somewhere on the bottom, you might want to try that. It really doesn't seem likely to help, but would not hurt at this point.

It could, of course, be that something in the computer that talks to the hard drive has failed. Before completely giving up I would suggest finding another notebook which uses a similar type drive (IDE or SATA) and seeing if that computer can see the drive. If it can (and I don't have high expectations), then Knoppix may indeed help ypu rescue files. Windows on the disk isn't likely to run on the second computer unless they are very similar hardware.

And you are right, the shop providing you "service" isn't likely to put forth any effort to save your data. Some like Best Buy are known for whiping the disk and reinstalling even when data could be saved, just because it makes their job simple.

You likely don't want to be asked this question right now but, has this experience taught you anything about the importance of backing up your important data?

01-09-2010, 07:38 PM
Yes, i sure did learn my lesson :)
Trouble is overcoming my natural-born laziness to actually start doing backups... that's why i bought a 500gb external drive in the first place, lol.
And the second trouble is if i open the notebook the warranty will be voided, which is also a setback, as i could use a free hard drive, not to mention i do have another problem with the graphics card, which i ignored so far as i am not really into gaming.
Is there any linux-software which could i install and which could work on this?
I just tried a windows software under wine which said it could recover data even if the hdd suffered physical damage, but it gives some kind of error, probably due to wine...

Harry Kuhman
01-09-2010, 08:03 PM
If the hard drive has really failed then there is no Linux software or any other OS that can install on it.

Knoppix does not need a hard drive to run, so you could still run Knoppix or some other Live CD, but that doesn't address your needs.

There is software that can try to recover bad sectors from drives, but even for that the drive has to be talking to the computer. If the BIOS can't find the drive I doubt that it could. And yes, trying such software under Wine seems like it would only introduce additional problems, but Wine is not the main issue here.

The important thing about backups is that they be easy, or even automatic, or they don't happen. Having an external 500 gig drive is nice, but may not be your best choice for day to day backups. I don't know anything about how you use the computer, but if you are like most users then what you consider "important data" is mostly small or reasonable size files that you have input. While it might be handy to have a back-up of your entire system on the 500 gig drive, I would consider having a small flash drive for backups of daily work (or even better, two or more that you rotate between, so that your only backup does not get erased before you discover that there is a problem). A simple script could make the back-up as easy as plugging in the small flash drive and clicking on a "make a back-up" icon. Or, if you are on a network, consider backing up key directories to a different computer. This can even be set up as an automatic process that happens each day while you are not using the computer (assuming that it is left on).

Harry Kuhman
01-09-2010, 08:12 PM
Also, I don't know the particular details of your hardware or service provider, but both of my notebooks have small panels that can be opened for hard drive access without voiding any warranty. If yours has some sort of seal on it then you have an issue, but are you sure that is the case? If you can't access the drive without voiding the warranty then my advice is not to do it, as I think there is better than a 90% chance that it is the drive itself and not the drive interface that has failed. But I would try to get the service people to make the determination and see if the drive is still functional. And if they have made things harder by putting a seal on the drive bay then I think they owe you that.