A friend of mine recently gave me a laptop that wasn't booting past the Windows screen. I replaced the hard drive with a new one and put the old hard drive in my comp. to try and recover the data.

Windows 7 didn't recognise the main OS partition indicating some filesystem corruption (disk manager showed it as a RAW drive instead of NTFS). Incidentally, the hard drive has two other partitions: the small 100 MB one was fine in Windows and the 10 GB Recovery partition was fine after Windows ran a disk check).

Then I booted up with a Linux live CD (Slax) and the filesystem was recognised fine. However, when trying to copy files, many files would cause errors each one holding up the copy process by about a minute. I'm copying about 120 GB of data with thousands of bad files so this means it takes forever to copy.

There are big files (videos and photos) and small files (documents).

What I need is a way to copy files from a dying HD so:

  • if a file is bad, it fails silently (not interactively)
  • it fails quickly (< 1 seconds ideally)
  • it optionally deletes the bad file from the destination (not necessary)

so that the process can be done overnight.

Do you know a live CD where copy behaves like that or parameters to cp I can use or the settings for ddrescue I need to use or some other method to do this (I'm a linux noob)?

Alternatively, do you know a way to mount a broken filesystem in Windows (it looks like there are errors in important locations so Windows doesn't recognise it as NTFS). Then I can try xcopy.

  • I would avoid trying to rebuild the filesystem where possible. You want to limit the number of writes to the drive as much as possible, to avoid further damage.
    – user3463
    Feb 9, 2011 at 0:53
  • Agreed, that's why I preferably just want to be able to copy files. It's just impractical to copy the files when copying pauses every minute.
    – sb3700
    Feb 9, 2011 at 0:57

3 Answers 3


DDrescue or some other recovery oriented dd variant is a good choice.

RIP has ddrescue in it – if you want a distribution with it baked in. The ddrescue manpage should give you an idea of what to look for, it's basically

ddrescue source destination

Then run fsck or some other drive error correction method, or recover files as needed.

  • I'm going to try run ddrescue overnight and then see if I can repair and mount it so Windows can see it.
    – sb3700
    Feb 9, 2011 at 7:59

Possibly recover bad sectors first.


SpinRite is a computer software program for scanning magnetic data storage devices such as hard disks, recovering data from them and refreshing their surfaces.

HDD Regenerator

Program features

  • Fast hard drive problems detection.
  • Ability to detect physical bad sectors on a hard disk drive surface.
  • Ability to repair physical bad sectors (magnetic errors) on a hard disk surface.
  • ...
  • 1
    SpinRite can run for decades (no kidding) on badly damaged drives. Plus, it writes to the partition which I think should be avoided. It does have its place, but I don't think this is it (I am a licenced owner).
    – user3463
    Feb 9, 2011 at 6:22
  • Agreed, particularly as I don't care about the lost files too much - I just want to recover what I can without spending a week of computer time.
    – sb3700
    Feb 9, 2011 at 8:00
  • 1
    @Randolph, you can set dynastat to fewer attempts to recover, default is 1000 I think. I guess it depends on how bad you want that data whether you are willing to wait.
    – Moab
    Feb 9, 2011 at 16:34
  • Didn't know it could be tweaked. I had the default settings telling me over 60 years on one drive.
    – user3463
    Feb 10, 2011 at 4:07
  • 1
    @RandolphWest I think this tweak can only be done when running it in windows to recover a secondary drive, no way to tweak when running from a boot disc that I know of, as a licensed owner send Steve Gibson an email about this tweak, I would be curious to know exactly how. New version of spinrite should be coming later this year, hopefully.
    – Moab
    May 22, 2012 at 16:48

I've had success with this program before:

Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier

Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier is great for recovering files from scratched CD's or defective floppy/hard disks. Normally when your computer is unable to copy a file from a damaged disk it will abort and delete the portition of the file it has copied.

Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier will continue copying the file right to the end; any unrecoverable data after many retries is replaced with blanks. This will allow you to truely recover every byte of information that is available for recovery.

YMMV but it's definitely worth a shot

  • Need something linuxy because Windows can't access the filesystem
    – sb3700
    Feb 9, 2011 at 1:06
  • Wine perhaps? Feb 9, 2011 at 1:14
  • it's a good suggestion, but I think in this case a Linux solution would be preferable. I love Unstoppable Copier (I forgot about it until you mentioned it), so thank you for contributing!
    – user3463
    Feb 9, 2011 at 6:26
  • Would that work? I've never used Wine before but it might be worth trying
    – sb3700
    Feb 9, 2011 at 8:01

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