Recovering HDD Data and Repairing Windows 7


Apr 28, 2014
I have a Windows 7 Acer Aspire 8735G-6502 that started going into start-up boot repair mode and refused to complete the boot sequence anymore. My Restore disks failed to remedy the problem.

To troubleshoot the issue and recover a few lost files (about 2 -3 weeks of picture are missing from my backup), I bought a HDD case and mounted the WD 500 gb drive from the Acer into it. When I plug it in to my desktop I see it labeled as System Reserve and only the Boot and System Volume folders are showing.

I went to Computer Management using Windows XP on my desktop and can see that there are three partitions of this drive and all are listed as healthy. The System Reserve is the active partition.

1. Are there any issues making the large unlabeled partition where my data files (pics, music, office, etc.) are most likely located as the active partition?
2. Once that is the active partition, would I likely be able to retrieve the files I want simply by navigating to them using Explorer?
3. Is there anything I could/should do with this drive while in the external case to repair it so it would boot up in my laptop if I reinstall it?
4. Any other risks or watch-outs I should be aware of with the path I am on?


I strongly advise you to test for physical damage before doing file recovery
Western digital data life guard software is not limited to WD drives
(For testing but only use to repair WD drives)

You should look at partition sizes
Under 1 GB boot partition
4 to 16 GB recovery partition
Used to run repairs or re install windows

Big partitions several hundred GB. C: with you windows and your data
Sometimes there is a D: about the same size as C:

(With windows 8 , Uefi bios and big hard disks (> 2TB) and gpt partitions my previous info does not apply)

Do not change which partition is active ?
The boot manager partition is the active one

Once recovering any files & determining there is no physical damage
Run chkdsk on the c: (while in USB tray)
This may fix some problems with corrupt file systems
Try again the recovery system again using a optical disk (cd or DVD )

Use a windows 7 DVD or system recovery cd to repair the boot system in its original hard disk in its original PC

Mike Barnes


Apr 28, 2014
Thanks Mike Barnes!

I ran the WD diagnostic tool Quick Test and got a couple Unknown Errors, Raw Read Error Rate, and ECC on the Fly Count error. Most other attributes passed. The question is back to "should I make the partition that has the files I want to save as active and then try to navigate to and save them"? Then I could run chkdsk as you suggest.

What else could I do? I am not going to send this out for any expensive data recovery by a company. Any fixes have to be free or fairly inexpensive. Should I run the WD Extended Test first?


Which partition is active does not affect you being able to read the data on the partition. Do not change it from what it was.
Active partition is the one which the MBR boot loader hands over to to start loading the operating system.
(Active partition Usually not C: for vista onwards although usually C: for XP)


Clone bad hard disk using ddrescue or similar
programs which can copy a hard disk with faults by reading good sections then going back for bad sections of disk

Or try Testdisk / PhotoRec suit from
Recover to different disk .
usefull if partition configuration is damaged or corrupted

Since you have a WD hard disk the data life guard full scan may be able to do a temporary repair mapping out bad sectors, but if bad sectors affect partition data, directory structure $mft etc reading disk will require Testdisk

After repair or cloning of disk try
Booting from a live Linux rescue cd or USB or Hirens which has XP PE but may struggle with latest motherboard chipsets

This may be able to let you browse to c:\users\username\..... And your files
Usually there is a file browser/ manager which looks & works like Windows Explorer

Mike Barnes