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Nightmare Scenario - lost data from 2 drives - primary & backup&#3

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My whole body was shaking when I realized what I had done...I may have now lost 10 years worth of files and data due to my stupidity and a bizarre sequence of events.

Please help by suggesting my best course of action and best data recovery software to try!

Here is the short story and situation:

I have one disk (WD 120GB) with all my data and a WinXP Pro install, This disk went through a defrag process with Norton Speed Disk that was stopped midway - stopped cleanly, but then Windows crashed a short time later (possibly due to a bad memory module). I put the disk through many chkdsk runs resulting in many chkdsk errors found; finally chkdsk gave up saying that the volume had unrecoverable errors. Following this, I did a fixmbr and fixboot on the disk using the WinXP CD Repair option. This disk also possbily got formatted by the WinXP install procedure of using the Quick NTFS Format option.

I have another disk (Maxtor 160GB) which has a bit older data, which also got inadvertently subjected to the WinXP install procedure of using the Quick NTFS format option. This disk had my slightly older data along with a corrupt WinXP installation from long ago.

What are my best options to recover my data? Please provide your suggestions and thoughts! Any suggestions/experience will be welcome.

I have come across the following programs to recover data. Has anyone had good or bad experiences with them? Can anyone suggest the best one of these or any other recovery program?

Runtime Software


Here is the long story with a sequence of events.

I bought a new DDRAM module - Corsair XMS 1GB, to match the 512MB Corsair module that I already had.

Installed the memory module, passed POST check, and booted into Windows without a problem. After about 10 minutes of normal usage, I concluded that the module was working fine! This may have been my most stupid moment! What happened to my skills in putting memory modules through night-long Prime95 tests before belieiving it to be good?!

Decided to get my system to work even better by defragmenting the drive and optimizing the files using Norton Speed Disk. I have always been very careful and conservative in the past with defrag programs, always allowing them to complete and not attempting to pause or stop them. This time I was lured by the Stop Optimization button on Speed Disk, and decided to use it in order to allow my wife to use her account on the computer for a bit. Speed Disk stopped without complaining and also closed without any issues. I was thoroughly impressed!

My wife logged into her account, and was in the middle of a Skype session when the audio went out. I closed Skype and restared it only to get a whole bunch of "access violation" messages. This should have triggered my brain into suspecting the memory module, but in my foolishness, I decided that the best thing to do would be to restart Windows. Windows did not startup. It got to the WinXP logo screen and BSDed with a recommendation to run chkdsk on the next boot.

I assumed that this would be a good course to take, since the last file that Speed Disk was optimizing was probably left hanging, and chkdsk could correct it. So I ran chkdsk on the next boot up in Safe Mode with Command Prompt. Chkdsk informed me that it could not run immediately, and would do so at the next restart. I restarted and it did run. It found a _whole bunch_ of errors, got past checking files and got to checking indexes and then simply hung.

I tried resetting the system and running chkdsk again only to get a hang or a BSD. Same result with using chkdsk from the WinXP CD Reair option.

I could possibly still recover data from a old Maxtor 160GB drive that I had with somewhat dated data. This disk had a corrupt WinXP install along with all my data from a few months ago. It was from this disk that I had recovered from my previous WinXP crash. The files were accessible but Windows was corrupt on this disk. I had about 50 GB of unpartitioned space on this 160GB disk, so I decided to try and format this and install WinXP into it. While attempting to run the WinXP install, and formatting this unpartitioned space, I selected the unpartitioned space shown under F: and chose to format it with the Quick NTFS option. When it started partitioning however, WinXP showed me that it was formatting the C: drive - my primary WD 120GB drive that had just crashed! Very weird. In retrospect I think this was related somehow to WinXP's inability to recognize disks larger than 137GB. I was pretty sure I had selected the upartitioned space, and yet it was reformatting my primary drive on C:! Or at least it was saying so.

I decided that the next best thing to do would be to break my Raid 1 mirrored Maxtor 300GB set and use one of it temporarily to install WinXP and get a bootable system. If I did that, I could then recover data from my Maxtor 160GB though the data was from a few months ago. To be careful, unplugged the power from all other drives but one Maxtor 600 GB. By this time my mind was numb and my eyes were not looking at the screen properly, and I was getting pressed for time, as I had to catch a flight in a couple of hours. Instead of the 300GB I had connected the 160GB. They look so similar on the POST screen that stays up for just a second, and I didn't notice this blunder. Without noticing it, I went ahead into the WinXP Install procedure, and formatted the drive. I used the Quick NTFS format option, and when the format began I saw my blunder as it informed me the progress of formatting my 160GB drive - the drive from which I was hoping to restore my data! I was banging my head against the wall for 2 minutes upon realizing this. I had just lost the backup copy of 10 years worth of files and data! My body was literally shaking for 15 minutes before I could compose myself into thinking about what to do next.

As I retrospect, I am not sure as to whether the problems were caused by the bad memory module or by Norton Speed Disk. Perhaps it was a combination of the two. I am not even 100% sure that the memory module is really bad. Very poor show on my part in not testing hardware out before trusting it; even worse of a show in not backing data up before attempting a defrag using software that I had never used before; and inexcusable stupidity in stopping the defrag process midway, without ever having verified before that it is okay to do so.

I am dearly hoping that one of the data recovery programs can restore some of my data for me. Any thoughts, ideas and advice on the best data recovery programs/procedures would me much, much appreciated!

I write this long post so that at the very my story will lodge in the minds of some readers, and will cause them to be cautious when they do dangerous things like I did. The single most valuable lesson from this was to not embark upon such things when you are pressed for time. Never, never let the clock make you adopt a hurried attitude - this inevitably results in serious errors in judgement.

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Don't have much recent experience with HD recovery software.

However, I have a comment about the cause of the problem. I would definately suspect a ram problem. It was likely that the new piece was defective, that the new piece wasn't compatible with the other piece, or not compatible with the MB.

When you run defrag, I assume that it copies files from the old location on the HD, into ram, and then back to the new location on the HD. That process probably resulted in data corruption, which became apparent when you started running a few things.

Good luck!

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Runtime GetDataBack for NTFS is excellent software, but based on what you've described I don't fancy your chances because it would seem you've overwritten the backup with a fresh XP install. To the extent you've written fresh data on the same disk location as earlier data, the old stuff is pretty much gone AFAIK.

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Sometimes overwritten data can still be recovered. I usually use Ontrack Easy Recovery which has been useful many times the past 2 years.

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Im not sure if its too late to help.

I used all sorts of recovery software and found the runtime get data back would be the best for what you want.

Your old drives should still have recoverable data after fast format. (Not sure if you changed them from Fat32 to NTFS though)

This is what I would recommend:

Go buy a new Hard Drive.

DO NOT use the old hard drives at all!

Put the new drive in the system by itself. (No other drives)

Setup Windows. Install runtime software.

Power down and then put one of the faulty drives in.

Run the Runtime software on the drive and restore found files to the new drive.

Good luck.

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