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We have a harddisk in a computer that has stopped working. If we plug the harddisk into another computer, we see it in Window's Disk Management. However, Disk Management wants us to initialize the hard disk, which we did not proceed with.

We do not want to mess with the disk further (in case it jeopardizes recovery by a data recovery professional). However, is there anyway to make a full clone of the harddisk (mbr, data, partition tables etc) and perhaps mount it as a virtual disk somewhere so we can work on it?

We are open to both freeware and paid software.

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Yes, ddrescue. Disclaimer: Spinning up the harddrive and attempting to read from it can destroy remaining data. – Bobby Sep 18 '12 at 11:04
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I would definitely attempt to make a bit for bit clone of the drive to retrieve as much data as you can. Assuming the drive hasn't completely been toasted I would use dd_rescue.

Boot to a Linux Live CD like Knoppix and do a fdisk -l to see which drive is which and then something like the following:

dd_rescue /dev/sda /dev/sdb

And let it do its thing because it can take a very long time depending on disk size and how much damage there is. Assuming /dev/sda is the source (bad drive) and /dev/sdb is the destination. Also be sure to triple check that you are copying from the right source because if it is backwards then you will overwrite the data you are attempting to retrieve.

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I highly recommend ddrescue over dd_rescue. – Karan Sep 18 '12 at 22:33
I've never once had a problem in the 5+ years I've been using dd_rescue so I would be interested as to why you would not recommend it. – jmreicha Sep 19 '12 at 23:10
From what I've read (quite some time back when my HDD crashed, so don't remember the links) and my own experiences using/comparing the two, I found ddrescue to be much better than dd_rescue. – Karan Sep 20 '12 at 0:01

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