My Hard disk crash: The Resolution

Thank you to those of you that offered such good suggestions on my recent hard disk crash.    My wife and I learned a ton and I wanted to share some of that with you. 


The Problem

On Friday morning we woke up to a bluescreen on our kitchen laptop (which is a Dell Insprion  that is exactly 1 month out of warranty).  We reboot is several times, hoping for different results...  At this point the visions of our unbacked up data dance through our heads.  We went and checked our OneCare backup and the most recent one was 6 weeks old, missing pictures from a trip to the beach, my youngest child's 2nd birthday party and the like.  Panic sets in.

We find the XP CD and boot off it into the recovery console and run chkdsk.  It fails 60% of the way in with an “The volume contains one or more unrecoverable problems”.  We repeat, make it 67% in and the same result.  Now panic really sets in.


The Solutions

1. Call an expert.  I called the nice folks at DriveSavers Data Recovery... The person I spoke with was really pleasant to talk to and clearly sounded like she knew what she was talking about.  She gave me a tip that you should not try to chkdsk more than once as it can eat good data and you should stop immediately if you hear any kind of scrapping or banging sounds (luckily I did not). She also suggested we make an image of the harddrive rather than work off the drive directly.  
We briefly considered this option, but for a few weeks worth of pictures the $500-2700 range was a bit high. She did tell me that if you are referred by a help desk (like and Dell's support center) you can get a10% discount, so it might be worthwhile to get a referral from them if you go this route.   The good news is that you pay nothing if they can get nothing, but if they can get all of what you need it will be in the "top 3rd" of that range.  Well worth it if you are really hosed I am sure, but too steep for my blood!   But if I am ever really stuck, I am going to call these guys. 


2. Get some hardware.  I have been wanting an excuse to buy some new computer toys.  On Saturday morning my wife went to Computer Stop and bought an external hard Drive enclosure.  This allowed us to take the sick drive out of the laptop and work on it from another machine.   We crossed our fingers, plugged the sick disk into the enclosure and tried to access it from another machine.. Nothing.   Next we made the trip down to Fry's and bought a 500GB external hard drive to use to store the recovery images as well as to use with our new found passion for backups 😉    Finally, we got an USB 2.0 card for my wife's desktop computer to speed the process up considerable (USB 2.0 is about 40 times faster than USB 1.1). 

The bill so far:


$37.19    Vantec NexStar 3 3.5" SATA to eSATA / USB 2.0 External hard Drive Enclosure
$169.99  Maxtor U01H500 Basics Personal Storage 3200 500GB External Hard Drive with USB Interface
$17.99     4 Port PCI USB 2.0 Card


3. Get some software.   We downloaded a free trial copy of GetDataBack.  I just love this program!  The pricing model is great.  You get to use the full product, create an image, recover files from that image and inspect the files in their native programs (eg open up excel files in excel).  If you are able to get what you need, then you license it otherwise you own nothing!  what a great system. 


GetDataBack took forever to create an image.. literally 14 hours for a 100GB hard disk.  The next step was to analyze those results, that only took an hour or so 😉    We got almost all of the files but the directory structure was a mess.  We were able to fairly quickly pick through the debris to find just what we were looking for by searching for specific files types (.jpg, .doc, .xls, etc) on just the date range that was not backed up.   We were able to view the files and verify they were all there.  We then gladly paid the $79 for it and exported all our files without a problem. 


4. Get a Fresh start.  Tonight we put the sick hard disk back into the laptop to see if the hardware was salvageable.  We booted off the Vista install disk, formatted the drive and installed Vista.  Ran chkdsk again and so far so good!  I suspect we will be taking another ride down to Fry's soon to buy a new hard drive, but until then, the drive seems to be working just fine.   We also installed OneCare  (or you can get it here for the full packaged product for gifts or what not) and got our backup frequency up to "every night".    Now we are looking for a good offsite backup... any suggestions ???? 😉


Oh, and I know some of you were worried, so here is a picture we recovered of my son's 2nd birthday party that we recovered from the crash... 

Total cost of recovery: $304.17

Pictures from my two year old's birthday:  Priceless



Thanks again for all the help!

Comments (18)

  1. avidgator says:

    Have you considered a good Home Server?  I hear there is one in late beta phases from a company called Microsoft?  Nightly backups, etc.

    More information at:

  2. Jeremy Kane says:

    I have been using Mozy ( for a few months, and became a true believer (and paying customer) after my HD died a few weeks after I had started using the free account.  Because of that free account, I didn’t lose any of the photos we’d taken since my son’s birth 5 years ago (and that is ALL of the photos we’ve taken of 2 of our 3 kids).  Free account is limited to a couple of gigs, and paid (~$60 a year) is unlimited.  My backup is at 12-13 GB right now, and updates any files that change (according to filters and folder selections) minutes after they change.  I’m more than pleased with Mozy!

  3. Check out this gizmo.  It is great to have around.

    It has saved me a time or two.

  4. rickbrew says:

    I also had a hard drive crash, within 2 months ago.

    My new solution? 4 hard drives (yeah, this ain’t no laptop!). 1st to boot off and put apps on, then 1x 500gb for data I want backed up, 1x500gb for the backups, and 1x500gb for data I don’t care about backing up.

    I use the backup center thing that’s built in to Vista to do the nightly backup.

  5. @rickbrew.. If it’s not a laptop:


  6. Hey Brad!

    I’ve been using for a few weeks now and very happy with the setup.  I bought a single 2 year license for about $100 and I just sync all of my files to one shared folder on my desktop and it uploads the differences every night.  

    Good Luck!


  7. Told ya you’d like GetDataBack.  Best disk recovery system there is that’s less than $1,000.

  8. Kyralessa says:

    I had a panic just like this a year or so ago, when I found that my server hard drive was having problems.  It contained tons of pictures of my kid.  As it turned out, I was able to add it as a second hard drive to another system and get them off (and then get it replaced), but it was nerve-wracking.

    Of all people, you’d think us programmers would know better than anybody how important it is to have good backups!  And yet so many of us have stories like this to tell (often with less happy endings)…

  9. JT says:

    Good to hear the software worked for you. My drive crashed a few months ago. Took it to a place called CBL data recovery, only cost me $500 and they got all of my data. Here’s the website in case you’re interested.

  10. Maverick says:

    I would highly recommend Mozy for online backups as well. I’ve got it running on two computers and it works extremely well.

  11. I too can recommend Mozy. Really great.

  12. And solution #5: Never again buy one of Dell’s consumer-grade notebooks.  Saying that they’re garbage is much too kind.

  13. rickbrew says:

    @Brian Hampson — these drives run hot. The longer I can keep one of them powered down the better.

  14. zzz says:

    All serious geeks have WinHex for reasons too many to list here. One of them being recovery/imaging.

  15. Benjamin says:

    Wow first, off sorry to hear about your hard drive woes.  I’ve had the same thing happen to me on one laptop, and two desktops over the last couple of years.

    I have never tried any of the recovery software, out there and preferred to pull the drive out and destroy it with my bare hands out of frustration.  Fortunately for me I found Computer Giants online who basically sell any and all types of media storage for your computer.  I’ve bought a ton of hard drives from them as well as some memory and a few enclosures.   You can check out their site here, if you ever need to.

    I still prefer to just replace failed drives and such since I back up my files every other day that’ much easier for me.

  16. Tenzin says:

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


  17. kelly yo says:

    I just wonder the wonders of science and technology how they have created such a miracle. You know why ? I’m so excited to share with you people . One day when we went to seashore to spent my holiday i brought my Laptop with me where i have stored all my important data since from a long time .Usually i carry it with me wherever i go. So what happen  all of a sudden is a big tragedy come on my way. My laptop drawn in a water and at the end after trying hard with some others help i got my laptop back and when i checked next day when i reached my home i found all my data completely lost due to the water. Can you guys imagine how depressed i was and trying to find every possible solution to get it back but nothing works out. So finally i made up my mind to go Nehru Place ( New Delhi) where i heard that there is so many data recovery centre. Then i saw a HDRC and went straight there.

    Thank god ! HDRC is a place which i never forget in my life coz it saved my life. They got all the quality software there . Services they gave to me was excellent. They gave me a time of five days and within five days i got my hard disk as it is. Everything was as normal as before. I felt so happy and i wish them all the luck to go ahead to help as many as they can. And the price too was very reasonable. Thank god and thank HDRC.

    Note: if you guys face any problem regarding Data recovery hurry up to click  Your solution is right there !


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