I was backing up all the photos from my wife's iPhone today when my 2 year old walked up to the computer and yanked the cable out of it. The drive seemed to be having a hard time getting going after that so I backed it up to a different one and left for work. When I got back home today I had this message waiting for me:

Windows detected a hard disk problem

The drive that I had originally tried to back the photos to was no longer accessible from My Computer. I went to Disk Management and it was showing Not Initialized with 931.51 GB (the disk is 1 TB) unallocated. I tried to initialize the drive but then received this error:

disk io error

(These aren't my screenshots, but they are the errors I am receiving)

Anyhow, I have a feeling that I am really SOL with this drive, but it has some rather important things that I would really, really like to recover if at all possible. What are my options?

  • Do you want to buy software?
    – cybernard
    Jan 23, 2014 at 4:32
  • If I have to, what I have in there is worth it, yes. Ideally I could verify the software works with a free trial first.. Jan 23, 2014 at 4:34
  • I have had excellent luck with RStudio and GetDataBack, but other excellent products exist. PhotoRec is free but you will end up with file00001.jpg, file00002.doc and etc
    – cybernard
    Jan 23, 2014 at 4:37
  • You should be able to get your data back,try the RStudio demo and see if that brings up good results. If the files and folders look intact you will have to buy the software to actually do the recovery. This will take a long time to scan but should start showing results after a short period. Report back if this worked or not.
    – cybernard
    Jan 23, 2014 at 5:08
  • Have you tried looking at the drive under linux? The easiest way would be to boot up a liveCD installation and then evaluate what the system tools can tell you about your disk.
    – Xyon
    Jan 23, 2014 at 9:58

4 Answers 4

 Photorec by cgsecurity  (will butcher the filenames, but not the files)
 RStudio (paid product)
 GetDataBack for NTFS (paid)

The list of file recovery software is so long I couldn't possibly name them all.

  • I suspect my problem is not as easy as your run of the mill deleted file recovery - I just tried Recuva and it is not even down the right track Jan 23, 2014 at 4:38
  • Someone else recommended that on another post I can not vouch for it, but I have personally used the others.
    – cybernard
    Jan 23, 2014 at 4:39
  • RStudio demo will only show you files and let you recover files <63kb, but you can see what it finds. data-recovery-software.net/Data_Recovery_Download.shtml
    – cybernard
    Jan 23, 2014 at 4:40

Software based disk recovery solutions depend on being able to talk to the disk drive so your first step would be verifying the communications to your disk. If you are at all comfortable with Linux I would try booting linux and then using dmesg look at what it tells you about the disk.

It may be that your partition table has been messed up and that is causing windows to get confused.

If you are completely unable to communicate with the disk you will need to replace the daughter card on the disk drive. This involves finding an identical disk drive and literally unscrewing the circuit board on it and then screwing in a new one.

This is pretty easy to mess up so if you really care about the data send it somewhere where they can do this for you.


Do not work on the drive without proper bit-by-bit image! Did your drive hit the ground or fallen of the desk? It could be physical damage - almost impossible to fix. If not, than you should be lucky!

  1. Get something like "ghost4linux" - G4L http://sourceforge.net/projects/g4l/ and try doing image - drive needs to be not mounted. Make sure that you understand SOURCE and DESTINATION. You can use gzip compression but it will not help if you have jpgs.

  2. Try SpinRite from grc.com: https://www.grc.com/sr/spinrite.htm. Steve is know for this software and it should help you a lot! It's not that cheap but it's not really expensive. He has great team to support it as well.

  3. Give us more details. You can try excellent tools on PartedMagic - older versions are free and easy to find. You might need to recover partition table - all tools are within this small, bootable Linux.

  4. If this is out of your depth and you have very important data to recover- leave it alone, you will do more damage than it's worth. I've seen it way too many times in my life.

Good luck!


Can you try imaging the drive first to see if the imaged drive is accessible? Also are you able to run a Chkdsk /r on it?

  • Do not run chkdisk on the drive! It can destroy your data forever!
    – Chris
    Jan 23, 2014 at 9:41

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