Help! My hard disk crashed

The kitchen laptop crashed today with a few weeks worth of unbacked up information (including pictures of the kids recent birthday party, and the like…) I tried booting off the XP recovery disk and running chkdsk, but about 60% of the way in I get an error:

“The volume contains one or more unrecoverable problems”

I have looked online and there a several “harddisk recovery programs”, but it is hard to know of any really work…

Any thoughts or advice for me?


Comments (45)

  1. Karl says:

    i would remove the hdd from that laptop, put it into a usb case and plug it into another machine and run Recover My Files (

  2. Wolf Logan says:

    I’ve had good results with GetDataBack ( It’s worked on everything from a SD card in my phone to a RAID volume on a desktop machine.

  3. Dave Dustin says:

    First off, stop trying to boot the disk.  Every boot increases the chance of further damage.

    If you don’t mind spending the money, GetDataBack is my 1st recommendation.  

    Otherwise, Ultimate BootCD for Windows has a number of free tools which appear to do a decent job.  

  4. Jimmy says:

    Wait, you’re not using Windows Home Server? 🙂  It’s already saved me once, but of course it won’t help you if you’re not already using it.

  5. Peter Nordstrom says:

    I would try SpinRite from GRC (

  6. I have heard nothing but good things about spin right from

  7. Srdjan says:

    Off course, it is maybe too late for you, but it should be useful to you or anybody else in similar situation in the future: is company acquired by Microsoft which supports P2P syncronization among several computers — couple a minutes after I dump pictures to my home computer, they are on my server and my dev box in the office, and on the laptop (if connected, otherwise, they will come next time I power it up).

  8. Daniel says:

    Winternals Admin Pack offers recovery (didn’t MSFT get that when you bought Sysinternals?). Just ask Mark Russinovich:-)

  9. koen says:

    Daniel, i second that. winternals wiskcommander is (was) the best way to restore data from really #$%$#% drives. i think it will recove reverything 90% of the time. the only disk i couldn’t recover anything from was my own laptop disk.

    i restored baby pictures of some crying couples

  10. Mihailik says:

    You’ve got to find a company who does the job professionally.

    Never believe the recovery programs — there is a fair 30-60% chances you will lose your data forever.

    When I lived in Ukraine, we had that famous Epos guys, they can recover the data even in HDD thrown off 8th floor (to be clear: floors in Ukraine counts from 1st, not from ground).

    The idea is that when you give the job to professionals, they will statistically overcharge you. But if your HDD is in real trouble, they will effectively undercharge you a fortune.

    Just find real professionals, I’ve heard of students trying to sell such a service — it gonna be nightmare.

  11. Scott Galloway says:

    Freeze it…tried this ( about 3 weeks ago, got enough lifetime to at least get some unbacked up family photos from it…if you can’t or won’t use a professional company it’s a useful method.

  12. Ray says:

    Funny how no one mentions this FIRST make a disk image using ghost (find a lan bootdisk, write image to fileshare should work) or any other disk imaging application and only then mess around with recovery software.

  13. Scottt40 says:

    I had a similar problem some months ago, I bought a new drive, booted windows on it, and connected the old drive as a slave.  I was able to recover all my data.  

  14. Bobby says:

    If this is data you truly need back, go to a professional.

    First, stop powering on the drive. Every time you power it on, you are potentially destroying your ability to recover all the files.

    Second, find a reputable, long history recovery place, like Ontrack ( or DriveSavers (

    Call and get a rough quote from each. Neither is cheap, but if the data is important, it’s money well spent. I prefer Ontrack.

    Doing it yourself could get the same results, but it could also do worse. If you do it yourself, make a ghost or dd image first, and try the recovery on the image.

  15. Don’t try booting your laptop any more.  As others have said you will decrease the chances of a successful file retrieval.

    For about $35 CAD I purchsed a device that had connectors to plug in a IDE, laptop IDE or SATA device at one end and a USB 2.0 interface at the other end.   This also came with a power brick and connectors to feed the voltages to the device.  

    Now just plug your laptop hard drive to another computer, take ownership of the appropriate folders and copy your flies across to the other computer.

    Chances are that, for now, only a few files on the hard drive are toast.

    Now, if desired, you can try making a copy of that hard drive

  16. Erv Walter says:

    I recommend SpinRite (  It does an amazing job of fixing the hard drive automatically.  It repeatedly reads the bad sectors (sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding) until it is staticstically confident that it knows what really is there, then it writes the proper data to a good sector and marks the old one as permentatly bad.

    It will take a long time to run, but in the end I bet you’ll be able to boot fine.  Then backup your files before more of the hard drive fails.

    Afterwards, concider Windows Home Server (the Release Candidate is available now) for automatic nightly backups of all your home’s PCs so that you don’t have to worry about this every again 🙂

  17. Aaron says:

    Tony is right.  Any attempt to recover the data on the disk has to be done from another computer.  More then likely you can just hook it up to usb and copy the files over.  If not you can install one of the better software data recovery programs.  I have a sata/ide to usb adapter from vantec they work great ( about $20-$30)

  18. Josh Laase says:

    Go with SpinRite, it has saved me in the past when I had a hard drive crash with all of our family photos.  I ran SpinRite and then the system booted with no problems.

  19. Chris says:

    I work at a Navy base in IT and my first course of action when chkdsk fails as you describe is to clone the drive using ghost.  You have to run ghost with the switches to ignore ntfs errors.  My typical command line is: ghost.exe -NTIC -NTC- -NTD -NTIL

    See for all the command switches.

    Once you get the drive cloned you can boot it with a linux live cd and copy your important photos to a usb key/drive.  It might even boot normally without any additional work – I’ve had that happen but it’s rare.

  20. xmx says:

    getdataback by works EXTREMELY well, even after 2 formats, you can recover a large portion of your files.

  21. Glen Harness says:

    You don’t really define "crash" that well. If the drive is still recognizable by the BIOS and chkdsk is complaining about sectors that can’t be accessed, then Spinrite is probably the way to go. I’ve got it running on a set of 12  drive at work (that were on a raid array that kept having problems), and it’s already discovered bad sectors on 4 of them. If the bios says you don’t have a drive attached, and, this is important, the drive isn’t making a clicking noise, then you can send it to a place like Data Recovery New Jersy ( I just sent them two drives (a 40 gig my wife never backed up and a 200 gig that was my brother’s drive, which had a ton of his baby pictures). They were able to recover data from both drives. If the drive is making a clicking noise, then as the folks above say, stop trying to access it. You’ll have to send it to a clean-room recovery house like OnTrack.

  22. Tammy says:

    I guess I am confused.  If you run something like GetDataBack, then how do you "fix" your hard drive.  Sounds like something like spinrite helps you be able to use your drive again.

  23. james says:

    remove hard drive and connect up to another computer – hopefully should be able to retrieve contents without any special software

  24. Nate says:

    Spinrite! If that doesn’t fix it no at home product will.

  25. Don Burnett says:

    You need to be running Windows Home Server, I hear the backup is AMAZING!

  26. vasudev says:

    As many have already prescribed various solutions, recently  i came across this article "Recovering data from Windows System by using linux" published by the Open source software at Microsoft.

  27. Davy Landman says:

    Hi Brad,

    I would go with SpinRite, I’ve had a lot of  hdd problems myself.. and tryed different kind of programs.. but the spinrite was the best 🙂

    if you’ve got your hdd repaired you should try BartPE to load a windows xp in your mem and do the file recovery…

    Good luck

  28. Kyralessa says:

    Bizarre as this sounds, I’ve heard of people having success by sticking the hard drive in the freezer for a bit, then trying again.  My best guess is that it makes things contract so that whatever’s rubbing against the platter stops doing so temporarily, long enough to get the data off.  Of course you should put the hard drive in a watertight container before putting it in the freezer.

  29. amcp says:

    Download OpenSuse from, install a put your hard disk in a usb case, then connect to opensuse computer.

  30. Brad Abrams says:

    WOW – thank you so much!  These are amazingly helpful comments… I have been working through a number of different suggestions this weekend.  I expect to post a report on my results Tuesday or Wednesday…

    Thanks Again … I really appreciate it!


  31. raul.igrisan says:

    Firstly remove the disk from the computer.

    Best choice is to go (or deliver it safely) to a professional.

    If you decide to recover the data yourself, have in mind you have to to use the damaged disk as less as possible since if it is a hardware failure there are chances they’ll worsen as the disk is used.

    Use it only to make a verbatim (sector by sector) master copy. Use this master copy to make working copies and try various data recovery products on them.

    Do not use the disks with autorun enabled, don’t try to browse them from explorer-like applications. They are writing temporary files (e.g. thumbnails database) which may overlap your data.

  32. Someone else recommended GetDataBack.  I also heartily recommend it.  I’ve tried others.  It’s the best.

    Painfully slow at times, but if the data is retrievable, it will find it.

  33. Mike Warriner says:

    GetDataBack – recovers the data but won’t recover the disk.  Best tool out there in my opinon too.

  34. Kunal says:

    To prevent this from happening again:

    4.95 a month is so worth it.

  35. Colin says:

    I’ve used FindNTFS from to recover data from a disk, not necessarily better than the others but it is free.

  36. Colin says:

    I’ve used FindNTFS from to recover data from a disk, not necessarily better than the others but it is free.

  37. Programming says:

    Thank you to those of you that offered such good suggestions on my recent hard disk crash . My wife and

  38. zyad says:

    Hi all, please help me my hard drive crashed its goving noice how i can recover data please help me

  39. Eric says:

    Be good to your computer. ‘Cause it may fight you back anytime! ^_^

  40. Tenzin says:

    For physical crash Hard-disk please check the They are having good tools for platter exchange and read write exchange tools.


  41. ale says:

    Try using nationwide data recovery at They are the most reasonably priced $199 for most data recovery and $499 for everything else.  Most other data recovery places are just charging ransom b/c most people desperately want or need their data.  FYI a bigger hard drive does not mean that the data recovery process requires more work. is another reasonably priced data data recovery.  Nationwide recovery has their own clean room and I think Gilware does as well for the more extensive cases.  A lot of data recovery business are a middleman and send the work out.

  42. ale says:

    Besides the data recovery companies I recommended above, if you find a qualified/certified computer technician who has the appropriate programs they should be able to get your data for between $40-$150.  I would use the above listed companies if the qualified technician is unable to pull the data off, Pulling the data off, is different than data migration (simply copying your files). Basically, it seems if you here clicking in your hard drive, and/or are unable to go into safe mode by tapping f8 immediately after powering your computer on, you are having a harddrive-issue, and should shut your computer off and remove the battery if you have a laptop. In other words seize all repair attempts to your harddrive- the harddrive can be easily replaced (new one can cost as little $50 online), so your main concern should be retrieving your data.

  43. Bill Li says:

    This is also one of my half-completed ideas years ago. It was recalled recently by two stories: Stories

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