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One of my coworkers dropped a laptop about 5 feet onto a hard surface. Miraculously, nothing appears to be damaged except the hard disk, and even that isn't a total loss. It is still recognized by the BIOS, and still capable of getting to the Windows 7 Startup Repair's command prompt.

Most of the data has previously been transferred off, but at the time of the damage data was being acquired and stored in CSV text files. These files are quite large and I believe that only a few of the sectors containing the file content are actually bad. And text files are still quite useful even with chunks missing. Robocopy got some files, but if there's any inaccessible blocks it skips the entire file.

In these questions, I found a recommendation for "Roadkil Unstoppable Copy":

However, this tool won't run inside Startup Repair. The exact error message is "the subsystem needed to support the image type is not present." Any suggestions of a console subsystem tool?

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Spinrite 6 is about your only chance to recover those sectors or recover all possible data in those damaged sectors, run it at level – Moab May 18 '12 at 17:11
@Moab: I'm not trying to recover the damaged sectors at this time. I want the other 500 MB of the same text file that is stored in readable sectors. – Ben Voigt May 18 '12 at 19:35

Photorec is an open source utility that could possibly recover the CSV files. Place the drive in a USB enclosure, boot off an Ubuntu Linux cd, download Photorec/testdisk , run a recovery on the disk with CSV as the only file type to look for.

It will spit out a mountain of data. Run a grep on the recovery folder for a unique text string.

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I'm looking for a tool that works in Windows 7 Startup Repair. Already tried the drive in another machine and it wasn't recognized. Not sure if that's a result of the damage or some special HP-specific firmware. But in the original laptop it still is somewhat accessible. Besides, the filesystem appears intact, I don't want something to scan the entire disk the way photorec does (this will take weeks, literally, on a failed disk, and possibly spread damage), I just want to copy every readable block of the files I specify. – Ben Voigt May 18 '12 at 16:00
@BenVoigt - What you want will not be possible. You need a tool that will boot before anything else. SpinRite 6 is one such program. If any sector can be recovered it will recover it. You might even be able to boot into Windows. In the end you still need a tool that will sector by sector copy the files, ignoring errors, so no further degredation to your files will happen. – Ramhound May 18 '12 at 17:39
I should add the sooner you simply try SpinRite 6 before additional attempts the better. To make a very complex program simple, it uses the HDD's own ability to determine if a sector is bad, and attempts to allow that ability to determine if the missing data is a 1 or a 0. I hate to suggest a paid product but SpinRite 6 really can recover data that no other program can recover. As I already need a tool before the Startup Repair Tool is ran. – Ramhound May 18 '12 at 17:42
@Ramhound: The only reason "Unstoppable Copy" doesn't function is because it is marked with the wrong subsystem. However, I now see that the console subsystem isn't enough either. What's strange is that robocopy is running just fine (inside the Startup Repair advanced options Command Prompt). I need a tool built for the same environment. Maybe I'll make a copy of robocopy.exe and inspect it with dumpbin to see what those requirements are actually. – Ben Voigt May 18 '12 at 18:01
@Ramhound: The error message is not in fact a wrong subsystem (console vs GUI vs native), but a wrong architecture. I'm able to run code compiled for console subsystem, x64 architecture just fine. – Ben Voigt May 18 '12 at 18:12

Boot a Linux live or 32 bit Windows PE system from CD/DVD. Running the software you prefer should work in these environments.

Moving the disk to another system should also work. Since in your case it obviously did not, you might have to remove any ATA password, that is asked when booting the laptop. There should be no specific firmware and damage is also an unlikely cause, if the drive is working again after putting it back into the laptop.

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