How To Recover Data From Crashed Hard Drive Partitions

by Rod Dunne on September 1, 2010

in Data Recovery, Hardware

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This article shows how to recover data from crashed hard drive partitions using five different ways. Each approach can be used for trying to recover hard disk data after a system/software related crash. Crashes due to mechanical/component damage limit your options to using data recovery experts to attempt a lost file retrieval.

Our separate post detailing the seven main issues that crash PC computers also details some of the PC repairs you can attempt (as opposed to the data recovery options details here).

1: Recover lost files using an external case for the hard disk

Recovering data from crashed hard drive partitions can be simply done using a second PC connected to an external case for the internal hard drive. The process goes as follows:

  1. Buy an external case for the internal hard drive. These are cheap enough to buy and convert your internal hard drive into an external drive.
  2. Open up your PC and remove the internal hard disk carefully.
  3. Insert the disk into the external case.
  4. Using a USB cable, connect the case to a second PC.
  5. Copy the disks content over to the second PC.

This works if you have a second PC to borrow/work with. The external drive can be used afterward for data storage. See also our post on HDD repair.

2: Boot the computer from a CD then clone the files

This method can recover data from crashed hard drive partitions without needing to open up the computer. The idea is to boot the computer using the Linux operating system directly from a CD, rather than boot from the Windows operating system. This way you don’t affect Windows and can browse/copy the disk contents.

Here is how to boot from a Linux CD:

  1. Borrow a second computer and download a Linux Live CD (e.g. Puppy Linux). Burn this to CD.
  2. Restart your faulty computer and enter the BIOS menu (hit F2 as Windows is starting).
  3. Change the boot sequence setting so that ‘boot from CD’ is the first option.
  4. Insert the Linux CD into the disk drive.
  5. Save your BIOS settings/changes and restart the computer.
  6. The computer will boot up a temporary Linux OS from the CD instead of Windows. Once started you can browse the file system and copy the hard drive contents over to CD/DVD/external storage.

3: Data recovery software

There are plenty of data recover tools available that can recover lost files by attempting to scan a drive’s partitions looking for data clusters to form into user documents. These tools require the drive to be mechanically sound in order to work.

Each tool will have varying degrees of success based on the cause of the crash so it is worth trying the free/trial scans of a few products to see which one returns the most found files.

Recommended tools: Remo Undelete. These tools can also be used to recover USB flash device data as well as hard drive data.

4: Data recovery services

Data recovery experts make a living from fixing computers and recovering data from crashed hard drive partitions. This is the costliest of the options here and may be the last resort in some cases.

Recovery services will use a combination of specialized data recovery software (forensic level applications) to scan for and recover lost files. If a hard drive crash is due to water/fire damage or a fault with the spindle/heads/bearings then they have the skills to dismantle the disk and the tools to read disk partitions directly. This can cost hundreds to do so always request an estimate/quote before they begin working on your hard drive.

Understanding how to recover data from crashed hard drive sectors/partitions is a key way to salvage lost data. However, for extra safety you should keep up with your regular data backups as crashes due to mechanical problems may cause most of your data to be lost forever.

Related Post:
Our article on external hard drive repair goes into the details of fixing faults specific to external disks.
Hard disk crash data recovery methods revealed.

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