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Old 05-02-2010, 05:54 AM
DWMarch DWMarch is offline
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Any way to reinstall XP without losing data? Need answer fast!

I have a unique XP problem. I'm repairing a friend's computer. She has somehow managed to royally confound her computer. According to her, she had XP on it. It wasn't working right so someone else put XP on it again. Now it won't boot into any kind of Windows.

The problem is she's got her life history on this hard drive so I can't just nuke and pave without costing her years of pictures and songs that she would really like to keep.

The other problem is I don't know where the data is. I thought I had a simple solution: take the hard drive out, put it in my external enclosure, hook it up to my computer, copy all of her data over and then reformat, reinstall, copy data back.

However, when I tried this, I got a drive that had been partitioned into two areas. The first was about 6GB, with about 5GB used. I could only see two files in the root of this drive and they were pictures of her dog. When I tried to view hidden and superhidden files I found tons and tons and tons of Compaq recovery stuff. But no Windows directory. No Documents and Settings. No Program Files. No personal data of any kind.

The other partition of about 60GB refuses to be read by anything I've tried on it so far. As far as XP's install process is concerned it is empty, full or damaged. When installing XP this drive comes up as C: but I am not honestly sure if it is or not. In any case, it is not formatted with a file system (the other 6GB partition comes up as FAT32) and does not appear to contain anything at all. Thus I am fairly certain this is where all her data actually is.

When I tried reinstalling XP (to get to the recovery console) I discovered that it will not install on either disk without insisting on formatting them first. But since I have no idea where the crucial data is I can't format either partition. I don't have any DOS-mode tools I can use to see what is what and even if I did, this machine doesn't have a floppy drive. I don't know if it supports booting from USB but I could try that.

Compaq's recovery tools do not work. When booting, the instructions (from Compaq) say to press F10 repeatedly. I can stand on the F10 until the computer howls in protest but it does not start up a recovery console and just boots as usual. Windows XP's recovery console cannot be started unless you get past the disk partitioning process which will destroy data.

If it helps, the STOP error is 0x000000ED when trying to boot into XP normally. This is UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME and the MS articles on it are no help at all. I have a feeling the reason for this is because MS did not anticipate someone double installing Windows.

I also feel as though there is something relatively simple that I can delete which will allow me to boot into Windows if I can only get a command prompt working on this thing. Can anyone help?
  #2  
Old 05-02-2010, 06:05 AM
ivan astikov ivan astikov is offline
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It sounds like you are saying the drive is being recognised, but can't be accessed?

If you have another hard drive big enough to copy all the damaged drive's files to, you could try using Test Disk and seeing what that manages to rescue. You need to install it on the drive that will be copying the files.
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Old 05-02-2010, 07:05 AM
xash xash is offline
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Looks like a complex case. Would need physical access to fully diagnose, but here are some options you could try:

Try SpinRite first:
http://www.grc.com/sr/spinrite.htm

If the partition is unmountable, try Acronis Disk Director to recover the partition:
http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing.../diskdirector/

If the partition is acessible (or fixed using the above) and the data was overwritten by the second XP install, try Get Data Back:
http://www.runtime.org/data-recovery-software.htm

If you offer an update after trying this stuff, I can think up more stuff for you to try.

ETA: Note that each of the above software is paid software, and if you buy them there's no guarantee that any of them will be useful to this specific case.

Last edited by xash; 05-02-2010 at 07:17 AM.
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Old 05-02-2010, 07:27 AM
xash xash is offline
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Get Data Back has a free demo version, so maybe you can try that first and see what it comes up with.
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Old 05-02-2010, 07:44 AM
BigT BigT is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xash View Post
Get Data Back has a free demo version, so maybe you can try that first and see what it comes up with.
And testdisk is of course the same type of software, and is free. So go with that first. And don't forget to try photorec (also in the testdisk package).
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Old 05-02-2010, 07:45 AM
ivan astikov ivan astikov is offline
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So, what is up with Test Disk, gang? Any particular reason why your suggestions should be followed, rather than mine?

Aha! Thank you, Big T!

Last edited by ivan astikov; 05-02-2010 at 07:46 AM.
  #7  
Old 05-02-2010, 10:59 AM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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Just to be super-duper clear ... do NOT try to boot from that HD or install any software on any part of that HD. Her data life is now hanging by a thread. Don't nick it or all will be lost.

Installing the HD in an enclosure on another PC and poking at it with tools installed on that other PC and running from that PC's HD(s) is safe-ish, provided you are paying careful attention to where any changes are written.

I had a similar problem not too long ago and used the TestDisk tool to fix the MBR & partition table of the damaged HD. After that I was able to mount it normally on my repair system and pull all the data off it. And then nuke & pave that HD & reinstall the data.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 05-02-2010 at 11:00 AM.
  #8  
Old 05-02-2010, 11:47 AM
astro astro is offline
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If it's that valuable to your friend you need to make sure she's crystal clear on not blaming you if the drive gets nuked during your recovery attempts. The drive may well have hardware failure issues which caused the original problems leading to a re-install attempt in the first place. If it tanks completely on your watch CYA.

I'm almost tempted to have you tell her to use a professional data recovery service. This stuff is their bread and butter, but the cost is usually at least several hundred dollars or more (sometimes a lot more) in these cases.

Xash and the others gave you the best recommends on the windows tools. I've never done it myself, but one thing some people have had luck with in recovering windows data from munged drives is booting the machine with a linux CD (if the machine BIOS allows this) and then looking at the munged drive via linux file manager to recover specific files. This blows past a lot of the partion access and permission issues you can encounter in reading a windows boot drive on another windows machine.

Last edited by astro; 05-02-2010 at 11:52 AM.
  #9  
Old 05-02-2010, 12:10 PM
The Tao's Revenge The Tao's Revenge is offline
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Seriously listen to LSLGuy. What it sounds like happened is the file system was corrupted. If XP had installed it would probably over written her data because it wouldn't have known there was data there. The file system is basically a collection of things that say things like "this sector to this here other sector is piece such and such of the file "dog peeing on neighbor's roses.jpg""

Well most of those instructions are gone or damaged so you only see a few files. XP doesn't know what or where the rest of pieces of the file are, or even that they're file pieces at all.

Before you attempt any more recovery options what I recommend you do is make a low level disk image, an image that contains the actual 1's and 0's just as they are on the hard drive, and attempt file recovery from that. That should greatly reduce your chances of accidental data loss.

Prolly the simplest way would be to use DD for windows to make a disk image of the drive while it's in the USB encloser, then disconnect the drive, hook up a different drive with nothing on it, write the DD image to it, then attempt recovery from there.

That way if you mess up you won't destroy your only source of the data. You'll still have both the image and the original hard drive. Also read the DD instructions closely so you don't accidentally write an image to the original hard drive overwriting the data forver!

Last edited by The Tao's Revenge; 05-02-2010 at 12:13 PM.
  #10  
Old 05-02-2010, 12:28 PM
The Tao's Revenge The Tao's Revenge is offline
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oh and ITT: even better advice

Quote:
Originally Posted by astro View Post
If it's that valuable to your friend you need to make sure she's crystal clear on not blaming you if the drive gets nuked during your recovery attempts. The drive may well have hardware failure issues which caused the original problems leading to a re-install attempt in the first place. If it tanks completely on your watch CYA.

I'm almost tempted to have you tell her to use a professional data recovery service. This stuff is their bread and butter, but the cost is usually at least several hundred dollars or more (sometimes a lot more) in these cases.

Xash and the others gave you the best recommends on the windows tools. I've never done it myself, but one thing some people have had luck with in recovering windows data from munged drives is booting the machine with a linux CD (if the machine BIOS allows this) and then looking at the munged drive via linux file manager to recover specific files. This blows past a lot of the partion access and permission issues you can encounter in reading a windows boot drive on another windows machine.
  #11  
Old 05-02-2010, 07:04 PM
xash xash is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ivan astikov View Post
So, what is up with Test Disk, gang? Any particular reason why your suggestions should be followed, rather than mine?
I hadn't known of Test Disk previously, but I'll give it a run next time.
  #12  
Old 05-05-2010, 12:19 AM
DWMarch DWMarch is offline
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Her data is on the NTFS partition according to Test Disk. It looks like the count of heads per cylinder was off and after being changed from 255 to 240 Test Disk sees files. Now I just have to figure out how to get it to poop them out.
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Old 05-05-2010, 12:43 AM
ZipperJJ ZipperJJ is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DWMarch View Post
Her data is on the NTFS partition according to Test Disk. It looks like the count of heads per cylinder was off and after being changed from 255 to 240 Test Disk sees files. Now I just have to figure out how to get it to poop them out.
Google around for some independent user guides. Their support Wiki is like "what?" when I read it, but the couple of times I've used it I was able to find someone else who had made a very nice guide for doing what I needed to do using TestDisk.
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Old 05-05-2010, 12:49 AM
DWMarch DWMarch is offline
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Actually, I'm now using the Photorec software that comes with Test Disk and it's found thousands of files so far. Sorting them out is going to be quite a task, especially with her music because all the files are getting renamed to f******.etc. But at least she hasn't lost everything!

Thanks all, great thread!
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