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I left my computer (running XP) copying files to an external drive. After returning a few hours later, the laptop was pretty hot and had frozen.

I forced a reboot, and the laptop HDD hasn't worked since. I've set it up in an external enclosure, but XP can't mount the HDD to a drive letter, but is able to recognize the manufacturer and drive size (Hitachi, 320GB). There is no noise or rattling when the drive is spinning, but I can't get anything off of it since it can't be mounted, or see much of anything.

A computer repair shop ran some software tests and says that it came back with a "Zero Sector bad" message, and I need to send it to a professional data recovery service.

Are there any other options or ideas, before I have to spend thousands of dollars to recover my data?

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Do you have access to, and experience with a Linux (or other Unix) computer that you could put the drive into temporarily? If so, the dd tool can be quite useful for recovering data from damaged disks... –  Flimzy Jun 17 '11 at 7:18
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3 Answers

If the drive doesn't show up in Windows explorer, the partition table might be corrupted. You can use TestDisk (free, cross-platform, and open source) to repair/overwrite them (it can find corrupted or missing partitions and rewrite the partition table).

Alternatively, you can also use TestDisk to simply recover the files (if you just want to format and start from scratch). TestDisk can also overwrite/recover the MBR or boot sector if that's corrupted as well. I've had success using it to copy files off of corrupted partitons/drives, since Windows Explorer would often hang when copying from bad sectors.

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Here are two things you can try before data recovery, but keep in mind that the more you try to use the drive, the less chance you have of getting a successful recovery, so you'll need to think carefully about this before proceeding...

Use Drive Snapshot to get a snapshot image of your entire hard drive. If it can't recognize the partition, you can at least get a copy of all sectors which you could later try to mount (sometimes this actually works) or at least run a disk editor over (either the virtually mounted volume, or a new hard drive that you write the image on to).

  Drive Snapshot (free 30-day trial)
  http://www.drivesnapshot.de/

Run SpinRite to recover bad sectors from your hard drive. This is a tool made by the famous Steve Gibson, and the techniques he uses have recovered data from bad sectors on drives that other tools just couldn't do anything with back in the days when XT (4.77 MHz 8088 CPU) computers were the newest technology available.

  SpinRite
  http://www.grc.com/sr/spinrite.htm

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I agree with what's above: right now you probably have a straightforward case for a data recovery lab. But depending on what steps you take to get the data back yourself, you risk permanent loss.

I'd at least call some data recovery labs like Gillware and Drivesavers to see what their price estimate is before going further with anything else yourself. If you're expecting thousands, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised.

This is probably a $400 to $600 case. Then you can weigh that against the value of your data and see what you want to do. A good data recovery lab won't charge you if they can't get your data back.

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