no FAT32!? Where's my data?

Some of you may remember this PC novice’s trial to install a new hard disk in an IBM Aptiva.

To summarize what course of action I took:
The store where I bought the drive had installed it as the Primary IDE slave. I copied all the data over from the Primary to the slave using the utility that came with the Maxtor drive. Then I switched the drives around so that the new Maxtor drive was the Primary IDE master, re-booted and Jack’s your uncle. I erased the Primary IDE slave and we had a brand-new system drive with an empty “spare” drive. (I told my wife - be sure to copy at least your “My Documents” folder to the “spare” drive once a week or every time you’ve made changes. - Of course I never reminded her and I’m the computer guy anyway so I’m responsible for the computers at home.) I patted myself on the back for a job well down, and the computer was used every day for about a month with no problem (maybe an occasional “freeze” here and there.)

Monday night I shut down the computer normally using the Windows98 shutdown (we’re in the land of rolling blackouts aka California so I shut down computers at night). Tuesday my wife comes home and turns on her computer. She calls me and asks “Why does it say ‘Invalid System Disk’” and after I scratch my head we both ask each other “What did you do with the computer?”

I got Maxtor tech support on the phone. They ask me to run fdisk. (Luckily for me I followed the advice of other posters and created a boot floppy using the instructions at Hardware Central, a site that our friend beatle pointed out to me.) When I run fdisk, it shows System: Unknown on the Display Partition Information screen for the C: drive (but it shows System: FAT32 for the D: drive). At this point here’s my conversation with Tech Support (TS)

TS: OK, reinitialize your hard disk then.
Me: What about my data?
TS: (something about backup)
Me: (laughing hysterically) What’s a backup?
TS: Sorry
Me: How did this happen?
TS: Windows screws up the FAT sometimes. (Note: I know what the FAT is.)
Me: Why would it happen after only a month with the Maxtor drive when the previous Quantum drive never had a problem for almost a year?
TS: Windows does that sometimes.
Me: So you’re telling me it’s Bill Gates’ fault?
TS: Here’s a phone number for Microsoft support
Me: (laughing hysterically again)

Is Tech Support blowing smoke or is it really a coincidence? I’m going to call a data recovery place today (if someone else says the word backup I’ll have to slap them) but it seems strange that it would happen on a brand new drive after only a month.

" brand new drive after only a month."

Not really. I have taken them back to the store sometimes to get a working one. It was always a Maxtor, which is cheaper usually, perhaps because of this? sigh. Western Digitals are better generally.

I would probably have restarted the computer as many times as I could & hope that it would run & then I would back up the data while it was working.

But its under warrentee, so go get another one.

Try one of These Sites for professional recovery of your data :slight_smile: I’ve never needed them, but I know some are excellent technically. Ask around. Good luck- lacking full back up is a nightmare.


<----Just got bitch-slapped by Arnold for saying “Back-Ups” , yet feels good about it :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:


Thank you for the suggestions.
handy, I tried rebooting several times. I’m pretty sure the disk is gone.

Cartooniverse, I called a local data recovery place and they said that for a missing FAT table the recovery price would start at $400 and might go up to $1800. My wife will probably say it’s not worth it (and I’ll agree with her) but she won’t be happy about it. I will check with your links and see if they have better prices.

After some thinking about the situation I have a few questions.[list=A][li]Should I scrap the hard drive, or reformat it and use it again? Right now my inclination is to reformat it and reuse it.[/li][li]Is the FAT(32) disappearing a common occurrence?[/li][li]I’m going to buy Norton Utilities for the PC (I have the Mac version on my system). I’m assuming that Norton Utilities would have prevented this problem or warned me before I lost everything. Correct?[/li][li]Is there any semi-inexpensive program that I can buy for home use that might do for me what a recovery service would do?[/list][/li]
P.S. Hey Cartooniverse your shoelace is untied.

Whatever destroyed the drive’s ability to boot may not have destroyed all the data on it. It isn’t clear from the orginal post whether or not the tech support guy took you thru a full test of the system so, before you do anything, try something else if you haven’t already. It’s by no means guaranteed but I’ve seen it work before.

If you have a Win98 boot floppy, use it to boot to a DOS prompt and then try to access the drive. If you don’t have a bootable floppy, switch the jumpers back on the drives so you can boot from the old one.

If you’re not familiar with DOS, the sequence of commands you’ll need to enter is
If you see a list of files, the data can still be recovered. You’ll still need to reformat it but essential data files can be recovered first. If you don’t see a list, sorry.

Penny loafers, schweethatt, penny loafers :smiley:

As for the nightmare at hand? The most valuable commodity in the world is information. Personally, I’d get the data salvaged into a nice new toasty happy Western Digital 40 Gig HD, and keep the crashed one as a coaster on the desk. Makes for a great conversation piece.

Sorry, though. ( And, your Freemason’s ring left an imprint in my face MUCH like that famous image on the Nazi’s palm from “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”…).


This has me scared – I’m using Windows 2000 with a Maxtor HD, FAT32. Should I use NTFS instead?

Are you sure the FAT is corrupt? It sounds like a problem with the partition table and the FAT may or may not be corrupt. Don’t let anything like Norton Disk Doctor write to the disk until you’ve assessed the damage. If the partition table is corrupt and the FAT is fine, NDD will rewrite the FAT to agree with the incorrect partition table and make recovery much more difficult.

The most useful Norton utility for you would probably be Norton Disk Editor to inspect what’s damaged before attempting any changes. Get DiskEdit to look at the disk in Maintenance Mode:


In the first sector, there should be some code, then some error messages like “Invalid Partition Table”, then some data. Exit without making any changes (Press Escape) and let us know what you saw and we’ll go from there.

I am full of hope this morning fellows. Thanks again for all your pertinent advice. It’s people like you that makes this one of the great MBs.

As I mentioned above, in my first thread in re hard disks beatle had mentioned a site called Hardware Central. I hopped on over there and looked in their FAQs and MB fora. I saw on there someone say “Use Lost&Found, it does miracles!” I went to check out their website and their customer testimonials were pretty good, also the description of the program. So I drove on over to Microcenter last night and bought it (for $65).

It is working wonders! As I type this, the program (a DOS program) is reading the sectors of my drive with the corrupted FAT32 (that’s what Lost & Found said the problem was) and the display right now is “directories found: 1442, Files found: 20912”. Of course, we’ll still have to see if it can restore any of those files to my other disk drive, but progress seems good!

I had to wait until this morning to run it because tech support is only open during daytime hours MDT (US). When I first tried to run it from the floppy I had booted up from the L&F floppy and it wasn’t showing the drives right on one of its screens. The tech support guy told me to boot up from the Windows 98 system floppy and then switch to the L&F floppy and that fixed the problem.

Like I said, right now progress looks very good, so I’m going to put in a little plug for the program (I do not profit in any way from sales of Lost & Found)

company: PowerQuest
The program only reads from the damaged drive and does not write any information, so according to the documentation you can run several recovery scenarios on the drive with different parameters to try to recover all your files. Also it works without you having to have some “protection” software on the drive before the crash like some other utilities do. (e.g. Norton Utilities works better if you have their stuff installed and monitoring your disk before the crash, at least that’s the way I understand it.)

I will report back later on the success/failure of my attempt. One thing, I’ve read that this may take a long time (several hours) and I have to go to work so I may not know for a while.

Now the question facing me - do I go through the trouble of replacing the Maxtor hard drive? Maxtor tech support says “it’s nothing to do with the hard drive”, but they may have a bias.

By the way, funny you should say that. For a long time my coasters in the living room were some hard disk platters (round and very smooth) that a computer tech friend of mine had given me.

Wear your scar like a badge of honour! You can tell the computer gods “see what I suffer for reminding people about backups” and they may take pity on you in your next computer crisis.
(edited to fix vB code error)

[Edited by Arnold Winkelried on 01-26-2001 at 09:30 AM]