During merging two 200-gig partitions (one full and the other one unallocated), Windows crashed.

Now the system and every hard disk utility (defrag program) shows that the drive is full of files, but no files appear when exploring the drive. It shows that 190 gigabyte of the drive is taken, but shows 0% of its files need defragment!

I scandisked the drive, and it found no errors (plus no bad sectors). But still, when I want to merge it again (in the hope that the lost files come back), the partition manager says the disk has errors and asks me to check the disk for errors (errors that are never detected).

The problem is that these files are not deleted, so I cannot undelete them. When I opt for file recovery, it searches the white space for the deleted files, but my deleted files are not in the white space.

I guess the FAT table is damaged. Is it the end for this drive? :-(

Currently I am running MiniTool Power Data Recovery to (hopefully) retrieve the FAT and thus my files. However, I wonder if it failed, is there another more professional way to retrieve them?

I mean perhaps I might somehow convert those invisible files to white space, and run a simple data recovery?

Any suggestions? :(

Programs like MiniTool Power Data Recovery can deep-scan the drive and recognize (read guess) many of the lost files (incorrectly for many files though, although still valuable).

However, that's not what I look for. My case is a strange case not seen or heard of before. In my case, the DEFRAGMENT programs succeed to show the white space and the filled space. So there must be some FAT there, that allows such programs to identify the filled space and distinguish it from the white space, right?

So why the same cannot work for data recovery?


This answer was kindly sent to me from the support team of runtime.org. (So the website mentioned does support you even if you don't have their software. Although they might still introduce their software to you, but still, their advice is professional and might help).

"The FAT is still accessible, so used and unused areas can be calculated. However, the directory structure appears to be broken, preventing you from accessing the drive. "

They then introduced their software to me.

However, I used different programs (including their introduced one) and all of them had similar results. In my case, none of the programs was able to relocate the files by looking at FAT structure and possibly repairing it. The only option of them that worked fine was their deep scan. This feature searches the drive bit by bit, looking for signatures of registered files. Then tries to identify the files based on the ways it interprets the signatures. This way, MANY files were revived but still some remain broken (revived but incorrectly revived).

I tried so many programs that don't remember any more. The only programs that were awesome and really helped me were the following three. And their efficacies were quite similar: EaseUs partition recovery MiniTool Power Data Recovery GetDataBack

The best of these three was "MiniTool". EasUs was good in action, but its GUI quite limited the user. A very naive and primitive GUI which did not allow to choose between so many options. MiniTool and GetDataBack provided a lot of options, but MiniTool was more user friendly.

The only point I learned regarding the advantages of these programs was the number of "file signatures" they might have. So it is important to use the program that claims to be able to recognize more formats. This means that the software has a bigger database of binary (hex) signatures to identify files that are wiped from the allocation table (eg, FAT).

Another good point was that if one of these programs could revive a file successfully, the other ones could do it successfully as well. And if one of them could not extract a file successfully, the others would be unsuccessful as well. I mean there was no file that could be revived by one of the programs, but not by other ones (at least between these three programs, that appear to be the best to me).

A good way to make sure the program is powerful with a sufficiently large database of file signatures is to use its final version.

  • This seems like an ad for the software. Unless it actually helped you do what you want posting this mail here helps no-one in the same boat as you. Read How do I recommend software in my answers? for further guidance. – Karan Jun 4 '15 at 0:52
  • I disagree. First of all, my account throughout all different stack overflow websites shows I am not a spammer at all. Secondly, this post completely helps people by saying that it is possible that "FAT can be damaged in a way that it is still accessible but the DIRECTORY STRUCTURE is damaged". – Vic Jun 5 '15 at 5:56
  • The above thing is not mentioned in any place on the web, as long as a frustrated me could find on the net, through hours and hours of searching. – Vic Jun 5 '15 at 5:58
  • 2
    I never said you were a spammer. All I'm saying is that copy pasting a mail from some company doesn't qualify as a good answer. If that software helped you actually recover your data, you should document the procedure and settings and write up a great answer with screenshots. Now that will be worth upvoting because it'll no doubt be helpful to lots of people. – Karan Jun 5 '15 at 7:18
  • You are right :) I will do that [by editing my post] – Vic Jun 5 '15 at 20:27
  1. Your very first step needs to be to stop trying to write to the disk.

  2. Your very next step needs to be to try to get a backup of the disk(s), in their current state. Make a "bit-for-bit" image, sometimes called a "forensic copy". This can be done with "dd" which is absolutely not the only way to do such a thing.

Every attempt to repair things involves some software trying to make changes, hoping to improve things. However, the attempted changes might not work, and might overwrite data that could be useful for retrieving the files that you seek.

If you cannot afford the disk space, or time, to do the above, then accept the loss of the data. You can still make attempts, but realize that there is a high probability of entirely losing the software.

  1. I suspect that a program called "Testdisk" might be useful for retrieving files, even if the directory structure isn't very fully in tact. However, I really don't recommend working with such data before accomplishing the second step.

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