Recover data from a hard drive with massive uncorrectable bad sectors. v1.6
It’s your worst fear. Your PC won’t boot and you have no backups and all you hear coming out of your computer is the repetitive sound of your PC trying to read a bad sector from your hard drive.
This guide is not for a hard drive with just a few bad sectors, but one with so many uncorrectable ones you are willing to try anything.
Most of the time, if a hard drive has bad sectors, you can use tools like Spinrite, or Hard drive Re-generator, to fix the few bad sectors that are found and pull your data off the drive. Other times there are so many bad sectors it seems like all hope is lost.
A customer recently brought in an OLD Gateway desktop with a 50GB hard drive that wouldn’t boot. Upon scanning it with Hard Drive Re-generator, it found and fixed over 60,000 bad sectors. When running it again it said it found only 200. So while some bad sector immediately returned or some didn’t get fixed at all, it did seem like the majority weren’t there anymore.
I then booted off a BartPE cd and thought I would try a chkdsk /f c: to repair the file system . It got about 75% thru and stopped. This was expected.
So now we have a drive that has so many bad sectors they can never all get fixed, we can’t repair the file system because of them and with a corrupt file system, Windows can’t read the data on it.
At this point the hope of getting all the data off the drive is gone, now we just want to see what things we actually retrieve off the drive. With the following method you COULD get all of your files back, but it is most unlikely.
The following is done as a last resort, when all hope is lost.
First, I hook a spare hard drive up to one of my repair workstations as well as the bad drive. I boot a copy of True image off a USB stick and tell it to make a sector by sector copy image file of the bad drive. We use the sector by sector image mode instead of the clone option because the clone option hates corrupt partitions and dirty NTFS file systems and would almost instantly fail. Once you start the sector by sector copy it should get just a little ways (depending on were the bad sectors are located) in and for obvious reasons says it cannot read X sector, this is expected. It gives us the option to ignore all bad sectors. Obviously if we ignore sectors some of the stuff won’t get copied, which is ok because at this point we are just trying to get anything off the drive.
Depending on the size of the drive, this will take some time. Once it’s done, remove the bad drive and hook up another good drive. Then restore the image back onto the good drive. Now go back into Bartpe and do a chkdsk /f c: .In the case of the image copy of the 50GB hard drive, the chkdsk took 3 hours to complete. The NTFS file system of the drive was HIGHLY corrupted. This time the chkdsk should complete without issue and most of the file system should be accessible for data recovery.
In the case of the 50GB hard drive, even after the 3 hour chkdsk completed the hard drive was still inaccessible. I then used data recovery software on the drive.
Using this method I was successfully able to retrieve his WAB Address Book file containing 703 contacts.
Hope this helps!