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I know there are many restoration-related articles (read through some of them), however my scenario seems to be less generalizeable and the data is critical, so any serious recommendation will be much appreciated:

  1. I've extracted a regular 3.5 Seagate 1Tb SATA HDD from its USB box and plugged it into my desktop (unfortunately, there were reasons to do it, can elaborate on request, but those are not-related to the question). The disk has only data, no software installations.

  2. I've plugged it to power and SATA and put it on the bottom of the tower. Fixed, not moving. The disk was recognized and worked properly for two days.

  3. I've got a message from Win7 that something is wrong with the disk and that I am required to backup the data asap. Unfortunately, by that time I had no other free place on HDD. Everything still worked fine.

  4. I've tried to share the HDD and suddenly got a message that HDD is not accessible. No files, nothing.

  5. Downloaded Ubunty on CD and burned it on the other computer. Could see the entire directory structure along with the red message "disk failure is imminent". Tried to press some "fix" and got no actions, they seemed to do nothing.

  6. Tried to copy at least some of the files to the other disk - it started very fast, but then got too slow so, I've aborted the process by soft shutdown.

Now I have unplugged the hard disk in my hands. I guess the problem (worst case) might be in bad sectors, which might be both in some bootstrap data (kinda FAT but I am not an expert in NTFS terminology) and in files' data.

I know (from my previous experience) that if I continue to read/write a damaged drive - the damage might increase (meaning that with each subsequent read more and more data can be damaged). So, is going to a "big bucks specialist" is my only option or there can be other solution I can try at home? I know, the situation is delicate, and nothing can be promised. I will appreciate your comments/thoughts/advices. Recommending "to see a specialist" is a valid one as well, but do I have other relatively reliable choices?

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None of that really helps understand what's wrong with it, but I'm betting it's mechanically botched (they all die like this in the end). There is specialized software for these cases that tries to recover as much of the data as it can, and then repeatedly tries to read whatever it could not. You would leave a thing like that running for weeks.

But if that data is of real importance to you, I wouldn't. I'd get the drive to a data recovery shop, and pay them to do it. They can freeze the drive, they can mess with the heads mechanically to increase your chances, they could replace the support board entirely if it is faulty and so on. They can do much more in the lab than you could at home.

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Would you recommend still try one of the restoration programs at home first? Or not to take the risk where every subsequent read may cause a future data loss and just go to the recovery shop? Or... I guess that as you've mentioned - the scenario ain't precise enough for the full picture... –  BreakPhreak May 20 '11 at 22:49
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You were right. I'll just mention a few more points after the long saga. First: DONT MESS WITH YOUR ILL DRIVE and bring it ASAP to the lab. In my sad case it was too late to restore some precious data, they've even tried to deconstruct the HD in the clean room (not cheap). Too late. If the data is really important - my advice is - just try to copy it (maybe only once) or simply bring it to the lab. The risk is too high to try to "solve" it by the means of the "regular" user. –  BreakPhreak Jul 1 '11 at 6:50

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