Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How to save data from a damaged or deleted partition; restoring a deleted partition

Last week, I was trying to configure a third hard drive into my computer. I had to try a couple of different configurations with the cables, till I got it right. I eventually did. But to my horror, I discovered that my primary data drive somehow got corrupted. Two of my data partitions were no longer accessible. In fact, they were listed in my partition manager as "unformatted space".

I had a backup of the data, but it was old. There were newer files I wanted on there. I hadn't been worried about the data, because I didn't foresee that adding a third drive would jeopardize any data on other drives. It was as if a power spike had deleted my partitions or something. I'm still not sure how it happened; I only know that it did. The partitions seemed to be gone.

These kinds of stories, in my experience, don't usually have a happy ending. But this story does!

My current partition manager program, Acronis Disk Director 10, has the ability to restore damaged or deleted partitions. However in this case, it could not my data partitions. So I searched the internet, and found a program that I could download for free, called EASUS Partiton Master 5.0.1 Home Edition.

The program was able to scan for, and find, my missing partitions, and let me copy and save data off of them. I was able to save most of the files I wanted, though is seemed that some of them were corrupted and unsalvageable.

The free edition is for 32 bit computers, which mine was. If you have a 64-bit computer, you need to buy the more advanced professional edition, which is reasonably priced at $40.00. My Acronis disk software seems to be quite old now, so I expect my next upgrade will be to the EASUS Partition Manager Professional Edition. The free Edition, while allowing me salvage most of my data, was not able to restore the partitions. Perhaps one of their products for purchase could do that, but I had one other option I wanted to try first.

I had found one other free utility that I wanted to try. It was on my "Ultimate Boot rescue CD" (ver. 4.1.1), a free CD image that you can download from the internet, that's full of useful utilities for troubleshooting Hard Drive boot and partition problems. Under the category "Partition Tools", there was a utility called "TestDisk 6.5" (It's also available for download by itself: TestDisk).

The utility has a rather old style DOS interface. It could see my partitions, and it offered to "re-write" them. It also asked if I wanted to change some partition parameters, which it said could be causing the problems. I could not tell what the end result of that would be; would I lose all my data? So I used EASUS to pluck out what data I could first. Then I went back to TestDisk. I decided to not change the partition parameters, told it to re-write, held my breath and pressed the button.

The result... Oh Joy! It restored ALL the missing partitions on that drive, including some missing Linux partitions that I wasn't really concerned about. And, ALL my data was there, uncorrupted! Everything! It was as if nothing had ever happened to the drive.

What can I say? I love happy endings!

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