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In my previous post (you don't need to read it, but it is Error “a disk read error occurred” on Windows XP), I said that my hard disk was not booting and is showing "a disk read error occurred". I took it to a recovery professional. A representative responded today told me that the NTFS partitions have an "NTFS partition system crash". I have no idea what that means. The engineer handling my drive will not be available for contact till tomorrow.

Now the company charges me NTD (New Taiwan Dollar) $16,000 to recover lost data. That's kind of a lot considering that my graduate student monthly stipend is currently NTD $32,000 (max. allowed by regulation, may be lower, may change depend on funding).

Now I'm weighting in between the options.

  • Option A: let the professional recover it with the half of my monthly stipend. If file/directories I designated are not recovered I don't pay a penny (other than the initial examination fee of NTD $1000 which I've already paid.)

  • Option B: let me try SpinRite. If it fails, back to Option A.

I spoke to the representative at the company, and they recommended me not to handle it on my own (yeah of course that's what they all want to say, right?), and at the price tag the disk error is probably relatively minor and data recoverable. But the representative really did not have detailed information of the disk failure, so I didn't take her recommendation readily. Though one thing I heed was that she said that what they would do is to duplicate the disk before attempting discovery, so there would be no data loss (Is this true? can't duplicating invoke further data loss?). That sounds very good to me.

Or maybe a third option:

  • Option C: Negotiate with them to pay them to duplicate the disk hopefully for a much smaller price tag. Let me try SpinRite. If it fails, back to Option A.

This is a difficult decision. Ultimately I want my data back, but if a cheaper way is available to achieve the same thing...

Can operating with SpinRite also corrupt data in some way?

I've no idea what happened to my drive. I'll attempt to contact the engineer and hope to get it clarified and make an edit here.


EDIT:

After much negotiating and begging and seeing through promotion smoke screen, thanks to the nice representative who took my case, I now know that the engineer has already fixed my NTFS partition (I guess it might be a bad block in the partition table?). She told me that the problem was considered minor, and I should be able to boot normally and just copy stuff out.

Whew.. I'm glad I didn't agree to the NTD deal.

EDIT 2:

Thanks to all the help. I accepted Console's as it's most directly related to my question. But many suggestions were helpful and informational.

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I have no solution but this is a real superuser question +1 And good luck –  Ivo Flipse Oct 1 '09 at 12:25
    
yeah..hee..guess I've come to the right place. By the way I love these forums(Stackoverflow/serverfault/superuser), the all-platform-all-answer helps one-stop question-asking. :p –  huggie Oct 1 '09 at 12:36
    
What about option D? Forget about the data on that disk by retrieving your last backup? You do have a backup, I hope? Anyway, is your data worth more than NT$16,000? –  Wim ten Brink Oct 1 '09 at 13:20
    
@Workshop Alex: I wish I could say yes to you. But that's why I'm weighting over the options here. I've never suspected a drive could just fail like that without finding a bad block first or hearing any clicks. I've always thought I could mount it to some working system and get most data out. I guess it's the "it can't happen to me" mentality. Yeah some papers I organized/data/master thesis (though I have a hard copy), etc., and some are personal/emotional, etc. –  huggie Oct 1 '09 at 13:41
    
One US$ is worth about TW$ 32.1516. One Euro is worth about TW$ 46.7452. Thus, we're talking about around $500 for having it fixed. Expensive, but if it's a reasonable new computer, you might want to check if the warranty on the hard disk is still valid! But in general, hard disks have a life expectancy of around 3 years so if your disk is older than that then the warranty is most likely void already. (And it probably doesn't cover the data recovery, although you might get your money back for the disk.) –  Wim ten Brink Oct 2 '09 at 7:35
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6 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

A professional data recovery procedure involves opening the drive in a "clean room", mounting the platters in a special machine that can read data that the drive head itself cannot. That way they can copy the drive before attempting any recovery and without risking that a flaw in the drive causes further damage.

Last I heard a quote for such an operation the price was over 10x as much as what your local company demands. (16000 Taiwan dollars seems to be about 350 euros?)

So what could that mean?

1) They will use a software tool of some kind to fix your partition. In this case, the price is understandable, but maybe you can find such a tool (or combination of tools) yourself for less than 16k? Don't know if spinrite can do it but perhaps others.

2) If they can copy the raw data without using special equipment, so can you. Even if the parition can't be mounted, you can use tools that copy the drive contents bit-by-bit, for example using "dd" from linux. That way you least have a copy of all the bits. Figuring out what files they are part of is another task.

3) Taiwan seems to be the promised land of tech, so perhaps they have ways to do professional clean room data recovery without charging arms and legs for it. ;)

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The average monthly income here is lower than $30,000. I think it's closer to $26,000 but I don't have the actual figure. So yeah, naturally everything is cheaper here if you want to compare to the Europe. –  huggie Oct 1 '09 at 15:45
    
The company I took the drive to (linwei.com.tw) does have a clean room. Although I do not know if copying my drive requires the special equipment. And "dd" doesn't require mounting?? I didn't know that. I mounted read-only the one and only time I've used it. –  huggie Oct 1 '09 at 15:50
    
Thanks for your comment. I'll ask about how they're going to copying it, if I could do it myself (well..if they would tell me honestly. :p ) –  huggie Oct 1 '09 at 15:51
    
Oh I forgot to mention. They told me that a drive with lots of bad block may cost NTD $30,000 to recover. While broken RAID disk can cost a lot more. –  huggie Oct 1 '09 at 16:00
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I recommended Spinrite in your previous thread. I've done some research on it before using it for the first time, and I can state that AFAIK it won't destroy your disk, unless the disk is in such a bad shape that just leaving it powered on causes degradation.

Spinrite only operates on bad clusters, so it can't destroy the good ones. I know that Steve Gibson found a unique way to operate on disk controllers, that AFAIK hasn't yet been understood even by the manufacturers themselves. As he keeps it secret, there's no way to know what it is. However, the way he manages to resuscitate hard disks is really magic.

I would recommend using Spinrite first. If it doesn't do anything, just ask for your money back. If the hard disk is mostly readable, except that the ntfs file system is irrecoverably destroyed, there are free tools that can recover files from such disks.

See the following thread : "Free NTFS partition recovery".
These tools will identify files on the damaged disk and will copy them elsewhere, so in no way are you modifying anything on the disk, and the option of using the services of a recovery professional stays viable.

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I've had good luck with Spinrite recovering data for me in the past. However, my concern would be that just attempting to use Spinrite might decrease the probability of a professional shop being able to recover your data. So, you'd be great if Spinrite works, but if it fails, you might be worse off. If your data is truly that irreplaceable, you're probably going to have to spend the big $ and go straight to the shop to get the highest probability of recovery. :-(

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That is my concern, too. Hence option C, a small attempt to have them back it up for me before my own handling. –  huggie Oct 1 '09 at 12:32
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SpinRite will help recover bad sectors, but if a sector is unrecoverable or the partition table is scrambled due to software error, SpinRite will do nothing for you.

Don't get me wrong, I own SpinRite and it is a fabulous tool. You just have to understand what it does and doesn't do.

SpinRite won't corrupt data, but it may get you to the point where you see just how much data you've lost.

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I have confidence in that SpinRite is "correctly programmed". But I don't understand the mechanism behind how bad block happens. Given "bad block" may occur during regular computer usage, quoting from Knoblauch who phrase it better than I did, could it "t decrease the probability of a professional shop being able to recover your data"? –  huggie Oct 1 '09 at 12:58
    
In a few specific cases, where the head is physically scraping the platter or the head mechanism is degrading, running SpinRite can use up the remaining useful life of the drive. In most cases, SpinRite recovers data by forcing the drive to re-read bad sectors repeatedly, until data is recovered and the bad sector remapped. Such a recovered drive should still be retired ASAP. –  kmarsh Oct 1 '09 at 17:53
    
Are there a way to find out if the head is physically scraping the platter? Or the head mechanism is degrading? –  huggie Oct 2 '09 at 2:26
    
Scraping, grinding or clicking noises. –  kmarsh Oct 2 '09 at 11:58
    
.... As opposed to repeated-seek noises, which can sound like grinding. –  kmarsh Oct 2 '09 at 12:13
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Option D: HDD Regenerator. It is much better than SpinRite at half the price and has the same 'money back' policy.

If you mean by 'booting into Windows XP' using this drive actively, I would not recommend it, since it is an NTFS partition: Instead, I recommend a Windows live CD (for example, BartPE) instead of a Linux live CD.

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A quick look at the tool looks very similar to SpinRite. Price tag aside, how are they different? –  huggie Oct 1 '09 at 12:33
    
it saved me a couple of drives where Spinrite failed, i have both utilities in my toolbox, but since i have HDD Regenerator i only use Spinrite if HDD Regenerator doesn't do the trick, needless to say that Spinrite doesn't work its magic on these drives either. HDD Regenerator is definitely my first choice. –  Molly7244 Oct 1 '09 at 13:11
    
I'm not sure i would use this tool as it only does the repair. Irt doesnt mark repaired sectors as ready for use nor does it do anything else spinrite does (can't think of anything it does offhand but i'm sure there's more). Plus spinrite has applications as a maintenance tool, can your program do that? –  RCIX Oct 2 '09 at 4:51
    
"spinrite has applications as a maintenance tool, can your program do that?" huh??? it is not MY program nor am i in any way associated with the author. and of course are repaired sectors ready for use. and you may use it for drive maintenance as it allows to regenerate sectors (all or in a specified range) even if not bad. since you "can't think of anything", how can you be sure HDD Regenerator doesn't do anything that spinrite does. and even if it would ONLY do the repair (which it is NOT limited to), i think this is exactly what this topic is about –  Molly7244 Oct 2 '09 at 11:55
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I'd try SpinRite before an outside service. Remember their satisfaction guarantee, which is a 30 day no questions asked money back guarantee.

If that doesn't work, it's either serious hardware damage or software corruption... So make your choice of services then.

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It's actually "forever" moneyback guarantee. The author has personally stated on the podcast he co-hosts that "he doesn't want the user's money if the user feels it did not work out completely for him" or similar. –  RCIX Oct 2 '09 at 4:41
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