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The hard drive in my Macbook recently gave up while using it on the plane (dual prop, lots of vibration unfortunately). I have a backup of its contents from a few weeks ago, but there are files that aren't included in it that I would like to recover.

As it stands right now, I have it plugged to my macbook by USB. Snow leopard recognizes it, but can't mount it. Therefore, tools like Diskwarrior and Techtools do not work. I started doing a clone of it with Data Rescue 3, but after 7 hours of activity (20% through the drive), it has copied 130 GB of the drive but reports all of the data as "bad blocks". My question is this:

  • Is any data recoverable if the clone is completely composed of bad blocks?
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One possibility (a bit similar to @KCotreau's suggestion) is to use ddrescue to clone it to either another drive (at least as large as the original) or to a disk image file.

What ddrescue does is to copy the contents of the drive, skipping over any sections that don't read successfully; then it goes back and retries the sections that got errors on the first pass. The longer you leave it running, the more data you'll get (unless the disk is completely unreadable).

You can even let it run for a while, then mount the recovered volume (it must be read-only -- if it's an image file, just lock the file before mounting it) and see if your files are there. If not, dismount it, unlock, and rerun ddrescue to see if it can get any more. You could also run filesystem repair tools on the recovered disk/image, but if you run anything that modifies the volume (at all), you will not be able to continue the recovery (you'd have to restart from the beginning).

Using it will be a bit unintuitive on OS X, since it wants to work with the unix-level device file, not a mounted volume. There's a procedure on for how to use it to recover a Mac's internal drive; in your situation you'd just skip step 1 and use USB instead of FireWire in step 4.

There is ddrescue as a compiled binary for OS X on TinyApps. The important thing is that their download links require an account/password. The account is the first line of text in their logo (case matters!) and the password is the second line of text in their logo (see the FAQ for an explanation).

The Instructions on using ddrescue

(Note: this is a mostly-copy of my answer to this earlier question.)

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Gordon, I just came across this issue... Can you compile ddrescue into an OSX binary for me? – Canadian Luke Jul 5 '12 at 6:50
@slhck: Thanks for the pointer to TinyApps – Gordon Davisson May 12 '13 at 22:56

First, if is highly unlikely that the drive is "completely composed of bad blocks", but if it is, your chances would not be very good.

The reality is that your data may not, and very likely, is not necessarily in the area of the bad blocks base on the laws of probability. If you can finish the clone of the drive, you have a decent shot at getting the data back.

I am not a MAC guy, so I do not know that software Data Rescue 3, but I know that with software like Ghost 2003, you could use switches that would allow it to ignore bad blocks and continue on. Finding such options with your current software, since we know it works with MACs, would be my first choice. If your software does have such an option, you might want to try it since it could take forever to go through those bad blocks.

I suspect that even though it is PC software, that if you could get a copy of Ghost 2003, and run it with the following switches, you might salvage your drive: ghost -ia -fro (the I believe this will work is that it is just copying the disk sector-by-sector with the -ia switch, and the -fro switch tells it to ignore the bad block errors).

You may need other switches if trying to clone to an external drive:

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The answer is obviously, no. Unfortunatly, if data are not backed up correctly, it is not possible to restore sucessfully.

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