Recovering Lost Data from Hard Drive Crashes

If the hard disk is physically intact, the odds are good that your data is still there. April 21, 2007

My worst nightmare just came true and I'm hoping that my IT friend can fix it. I came home last night to discover that my laptop crashed. I have AutoCAD 2006 and Cabinet Vision Solid Manufacturing on it. Every time I turn it on, it keeps going to this screen and giving me an option to start my computer in safe mode, the most recent settings, or start up normally. No matter what I choose, it recycles the Toshiba screen and goes right back to the black and white prompt screen. I can't get to my desktop, or even any blue screen. Thoughts? I keep up with my antivirus software and updates along with spyware and adware all the time.

Forum Responses
(CAD Forum)
From contributor D:
Try holding it a few inches above the table and dropping it. The hard drive may be stuck and a slight shock from the drop may break it loose.

From contributor L:
No, don’t drop computer - that’s bad advice. Use the XP setup disk to get to the recovery console and the repair setup.

From contributor M:
It may be many things - maybe hardware failure or software. It is laptop, so hardware access is limited. If you have backed up recently, try reinstalling XP and rest of software.

From contributor T:
There are services that can help with data recovery, such as Remote Data Recovery.

From contributor S:
Don't drop the PC or start to worry about recovering data that you probably haven't lost. What "black and white prompt screen" are you referring to? The C: prompt? Are you not seeing any error message whatsoever?

You may have a corrupted registry, a damaged boot sector, or some other issue. You can try a repair installation from your Windows CD. You will have to reinstall SP2 and all updates, but you shouldn't lose any programs or data. If this is the only PC you use for your business, then you should create a slipstream CD and have backups on an external drive. If you don't have backups, then the first thing I would do is buy an ex-drive and copy all of your drive to it before trying to repair it. You can try to use FIXBOOT. If you have a C: prompt, then change directory (CD) to WINDOWS. Then enter FIXBOOT. Then press Y. If your IT friend can't advise you, then you should read about FIXBOOT, recovery console, slipstreaming, and repair installations before proceeding.

P.S. If you don't have the option to perform a repair installation, then do not choose the option to perform a new installation (before you backup). It can/will overwrite your data and cause unrecoverable data loss.

From contributor J:
I think FIXBOOT will only run from the Recovery Console, not from the Windows directory.

From contributor C:
Best advice I ever received about computers... "There are only two types of computer users - those that have lost data, and those that will." Save often, and backup daily.

From the original questioner:
Well, so far I'm out of luck and it looks like my hard drive is shot. I'm going to lose everything! I will get the final word tomorrow and see what if anything they were able to pull off the hard drive or even access it.

From contributor D:
If you don't want to drop the whole laptop, pull out the hard drive, drop it, put it back in and see if it works. After all, what have you got to lose now?

By the way, I was in your situation about a year ago. I brought my hard drive in to Kroll. I didn’t live to far from their main office (at the time). They were able to retrieve everything. If it wasn't blown up or in a serious fire, everything is there. They put everything on another hard drive for me and gave back my old one and said it worked but just got stuck. I put it back in my computer and that is what is running it now. It cost 2300 bucks (though insurance covered all but deductible) - it had me worried. I keep two backups now on a rotation basis and only one on site at a time, in case of fire. So if you give the hard drive a drop, it just may come unstuck - after all, it is a machine.

From contributor J:
How have you determined that your hard drive is shot? What steps did you take? Did you try to boot from your Windows XP CD and then try to access the drive? I still would not drop the PC or drive, even though it could be stuck. But you could still do what contributor D did and take it to a shop. If the drive is broken, it's unlikely that you've lost all of your data. But do you have any personal or confidential data on it that you don't want to share?

From contributor M:
If you can open your laptop, reset memory chips by pulling them out of the slots, then put back only one. If there is only one, then replace it and try to reboot - bad memory sometime causes that kind of problem.

From the original questioner:
To give everyone an update... My hard drive had bad sectors on it and that is why it crashed. They were able to recover everything and put it onto an external hard drive.

Here is the funny part. The idiots at " ^&*^%$%^" lost the part that holds the hard drive to the laptop itself and told me they're going to give me a brand new laptop. I decided to go with an HP, since they couldn't find any Toshibas. The HP is a lot better than what I had and I like the screen much better.

The downside is that I have to re-install all of my software:
Cabinet Vision's Solid Manufacturing
AutoCAD 2006
Quick Books Contractor

Office 2003 Professional, since they only give you a 60 day trial version
McAfee protection
Among many other programs….

On top of that, I guess they are staying away from making laptops and/or desktops with parallel ports and my Key for Cabinet Vision was a parallel port, so I had to pay 100.00 to have them burn me a USB key. I had all the bells and whistles CDs, too, that have to be re-loaded. Ugh. I also bought an external hard drive. I finally got smart… Sigh.

From contributor D:
Get Norton Ghost - it automatically backs up to your external hard drive at times you set to do it. It has saved me a few times already. Very easy to restore individual files or whole hard drive.

From contributor J:
Glad to hear that you are back in business. Besides performing backups to your ex-drive, I also suggest that you create a Windows XP slipstream disk. You can also add the Recovery Console to your boot menu.