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So here is my (kind of) bad situation. I have this ~640GB Seagate 2.5' HDD. It's and old HDD I was using and it has a lot of important personal data. It used to have a MBR and some Linux partitions, maybe also a couple of NTFS parts (as far as I remmember at a given moment I removed the NTFS partitions and added ext3s).

Anyway the disk had some bad sectors and was totally unbootable. Partitions wouldn't detect etc. etc. I used Hiren's BootCD's Seagate tool - the one from the manufacturer. It found some bad sectors and the realy bad thing I saw right there is that one or two were just over the MBR... I fixed the bad sectors with the tool and of course the MBR was lost forever. This is one of the few drives of mine that use MBR now and it was the only one without an adequate backup MBR backup.

So my question now is how should I go about restoring (guessing) the MBR and the partitions? What are my options?

I've already tried gpart on it with no luck.

I am running testdisk on it now.

I also have the ability to run spinrite6 on it.

Also photorec did start recovering some files but the optimal solution for me would be to get back the structure of the files as well. What shall I do? Any guidelines? My last option is to pay a firm that does this do help but I'd rather try alone first since I do not lack the technical skills. What is your experience in this area?

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You've already answered your own question: use testdisk. –  psusi May 22 '13 at 13:16

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First of all: If the MBR sector (sector 0) is BAD you can forget about this.
After all the MBR must reside in sector 0. It can't be anywhere else.

If the bad sectors could be remapped by using the Seagate tool the disk is still bad enough that you must ONLY attempt to copy the data of. Anything else with the disk is sheer folly. A disaster waiting to happen.

The MBR just contains the partition table. You can attempt to recover this using another tool from the Hirens CD. (I forget the name. Partition Recovery I believe...)

After the partitions are back, don't mount them. Just run a FSCK on the partition directly, without repairing.
If they are bad DON'T attempt to repair them directly !!!!
Make a DD-copy of such a partition to a file.
Mount that as a loop-back device and run the FSCK on that. (If this fails and screws things up further you can always make a second attempt.)
When you get to a usable partition (either directly or on loop-back, copy your data someplace else. (Mount the partition read-only to make sure there are NO writes to it anymore.)

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I don't think that the partition table is there anymore. Will get back to you later. Cheers! –  Borislav Sabev May 22 '13 at 13:28

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