[SOLVED] Failed HDD. How to recover files?

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Dec 30, 2021
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Background. The problem with my HDD started about 10 years ago. Due to a bad connection to the external HDD caddy, HDD failed, several times. Thanks to R-studio (the best solution for me at the time), I was able to restore data, and after reformatting the drive, I continued using it.
But when it failed again, R-studio was freezing at about 4 percent. Even if it managed to go through 4 percent, it froze at 11 percent.

10 years later I finally got my hands on it again, I really need to try to recover data, because it consists of old photos and videos that are important to me.
New versions of R-studio still freeze at the same percentages. And Victoria HDD's quick smart analysis shows this graph.

It seems as it fails at a specific area on the drive. What are my options for solving this problem?
 

Wu-Zi-Mu

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I think at this point it's way beyond Recuva's help. GNU ddrescue is great because it essentially builds a clone of your drive and tries to fill in the unresponsive sectors. You don't recover the same stuff over and over when rerunning the program, and you don't end up with missing 90% of the drive if all the bad sectors are in the first 10% (if you follow the instructions in the manual). The manual is a must read tho, since it's command line only and there's a lot of useful options that will help you save time & wear on your HDD

You'll also need another HDD of same size or bigger, or enough free space on an already partitioned HDD. Since the drive is >10 years old I'm guessing you probably have that.

However I have to stress that at some point you always start hitting diminishing returns. Meaning if you keep clawing thru the bad sectors you damage more than you can recover, and the drive starts to get bad enough that the professional recovery lab won't be able to do anything. In other words, you kind of only get one shot at the worst sectors. Considering the amount of recovering you've done you might be already past that point. There are also various tricks like putting your HDD in a freezer, I've never had to resort to anything that radical so I can't tell you about that. I think the labs have equipment for that kind of stuff. They can also remove the platters and read them with special tech, again as long as the drive isn't too damaged. Might be worth considering. But if you really can't spare the money or don't value that data at 200-300$+, then yeah ddrescue until nothing more is coming out is the best bet.
 

Lafong

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I assume this drive is over 10 years old.


Are you unwilling to buy another?

Do you currently have ANY other drive (possibly external) to which you can copy whatever is on this failing drive?

I think you have a laptop?

There are tools to recover data, but they have varying success and may cost more than the cost of a new drive to use.

Professional data recovery is likely to cost hundreds of dollars minimum.
 

Wu-Zi-Mu

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The picture you uploaded won't show for me for some reason, but from the sound of it I'd say take it to a data recovery shop.

I would normally suggest gddrescue on Linux, but it sounds like you tried something similar and the tool has done all it can. The more you spinup/spindown the HDD and the more it tries to access the damaged areas, the less chance of recovering these areas. At some point, only professionals can make further headway. If that's too expensive for you, I suggest gddrescue (it's command line only, but there's an excellent manual for using it on the GNU website)
 
Dec 30, 2021
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Are you unwilling to buy another?
I DO have several hard drives. And the storage itself is not a problem for me. Whats I am trying to say is I want to try to restore the data any way I can. It could be a physical way, It could be a software way. But if there is a small chance to recover it without spending hundreds of dollars, I am going to take it.
 
Dec 30, 2021
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The picture you uploaded won't show for me for some reason, but from the sound of it I'd say take it to a data recovery shop.
It is under spoiler. Basically, It shows a "wave function" - it goes up, and then down at roughly the same intervals.

Thank you for the new way. I'll look gddrescue up.
 

Lafong

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I DO have several hard drives. And the storage itself is not a problem for me. Whats I am trying to say is I want to try to restore the data any way I can. It could be a physical way, It could be a software way. But if there is a small chance to recover it without spending hundreds of dollars, I am going to take it.
My first move would be to copy whatever is possible to some other drive.

That might be 1 percent or 99 percent of what is important to you. I have no idea.

Then think about recovering what you can from the failing drive.

The less you write to it, the greater your chance of success.

Photorec, Ontrack Easy Recovery, Recuva, GetDataBack, and Minitool Power Data Recovery are among the decent available tools, but I am not qualified to instruct you on them.
 

Wu-Zi-Mu

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Feb 20, 2016
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I think at this point it's way beyond Recuva's help. GNU ddrescue is great because it essentially builds a clone of your drive and tries to fill in the unresponsive sectors. You don't recover the same stuff over and over when rerunning the program, and you don't end up with missing 90% of the drive if all the bad sectors are in the first 10% (if you follow the instructions in the manual). The manual is a must read tho, since it's command line only and there's a lot of useful options that will help you save time & wear on your HDD

You'll also need another HDD of same size or bigger, or enough free space on an already partitioned HDD. Since the drive is >10 years old I'm guessing you probably have that.

However I have to stress that at some point you always start hitting diminishing returns. Meaning if you keep clawing thru the bad sectors you damage more than you can recover, and the drive starts to get bad enough that the professional recovery lab won't be able to do anything. In other words, you kind of only get one shot at the worst sectors. Considering the amount of recovering you've done you might be already past that point. There are also various tricks like putting your HDD in a freezer, I've never had to resort to anything that radical so I can't tell you about that. I think the labs have equipment for that kind of stuff. They can also remove the platters and read them with special tech, again as long as the drive isn't too damaged. Might be worth considering. But if you really can't spare the money or don't value that data at 200-300$+, then yeah ddrescue until nothing more is coming out is the best bet.
 

Wu-Zi-Mu

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Feb 20, 2016
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Wrote up a big post but it's awaiting moderator approval for some reason.

TL;DR: Don't just try any Windows utility, the more your access the drive, the worse your chances are at recovery with better tools later (including sending it to professionals). Choose your recovery methods wisely
 

crazyal

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Dec 13, 2009
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You're probably better off with a boot time recovery program to stop windows from interfering, however if the drive is too far gone then professional data recovery is probably your best bet.

I've had drives which freeze windows but allowed utilities on hirens boot cd or ultimate boot cd to access them. Just be careful as some of them will overwrite your data especially in testing modes.
 
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