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  1. #1
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    Data recovery before and after a hard-disk crash




    BEST PRACTICES

    Data recovery before and after a hard-disk crash

    By Michael Lasky

    Even the best backup plan can be undone by unexpected hardware failures, resulting in lost data or a sizable drive-recovery bill.
    Here are lessons learned when an important file goes missing and the backup drive suddenly fails.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/best-practices/data-recovery-before-and-after-a-hard-disk-crash/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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    The problem with online file storage services

    In your article you mentioned Mediafire, so I added it to my other five online file storage accounts to try it out. (I'm an IT guy so I try them all). The problem I find with all of these services is that they are not geared to being used as backup, but more as a primary storage or sharing service.

    All of these services require that you move your files into a folder they create on your computer. This forces you to completely reorganize your PC file structure. I don't want to move all my photos and documents into the Mediafire folder (or Dropbox, Amazon, Skydrive, etc.), or worse to duplicate them. A backup solution should simply let you pick what you want copied to the cloud and leave your files located where you want them.

    Online backup services are great but go to opposite extreme. I can't share files, and it is not easy to download or view individual files.

    I would suggest to Mediafire that they allow for shortcuts to be placed in their folders. If I could put shortcuts in the Mediafire folder to the folders that I want backed up or shared it would save me a lot of time, and allow me to keep my files organized on my PC the way I want. It would be the best of both worlds.

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    jwburley posted -- I would suggest to Mediafire that they allow for shortcuts to be placed in their folders. If I could put shortcuts in the Mediafire folder to the folders that I want backed up or shared it would save me a lot of time, and allow me to keep my files organized on my PC the way I want. It would be the best of both worlds.
    It would indeed be nice to be able to treat the Cloud Service Folder on my desktop as I would treat a Windows 7 Library. It could contain only the links to the actual files, and I could upload the files when I wnat to, but leave them as merely shortcuts in the Cloud Service Library Folder on my local machine or device.

    This should accomplish most of what you are suggesting, wouldn't it?

    Of course, in the Cloud Service itself, all files being accessed must be present as copies on the Cloud Server, which does take up space there.

    A Windows Library type of paradigm would not seriously add to used disk space or filesystem complexity on a local drive or device, I would think. Yet, it would allow specific Cloud synchronization of the files to which its contents refer on the PC or device.

    Is this the desired solution?
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2014-09-04 at 15:26.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    It would indeed be nice to be able to treat the Cloud Service Folder on my desktop as I would treat a Windows 7 Library. It could contain only the links to the actual files, and I could upload the files when I wnat to, but leave them as merely shortcuts in the Cloud Service Library Folder on my local machine or device.

    This should accomplish most of what you are suggesting, wouldn't it?

    Of course, in the Cloud Service itself, all files being accessed must be present as copies on the Cloud Server, which does take up space there.

    A Windows Library type of paradigm would not seriously add to used disk space or filesystem complexity on a local drive or device, I would think. Yet, it would allow specific Cloud synchronization of the files to which its contents refer on the PC or device.

    Is this the desired solution?
    Yes. For example I would place a shortcut to my Documents folder in the Cloud Service and the could service would back up my Documents folder without there being a copy of the files in the could folder.

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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwburley View Post
    Yes. For example I would place a shortcut to my Documents folder in the Cloud Service and the could service would back up my Documents folder without there being a copy of the files in the could folder.
    Making shortcuts to Windows Libraries (MyDocuments, MyMusic, MyVideos, etc.) can cause additional issues. When setting aside a Library for Cloud Storage, I would be reluctant to link to a local Library, which is itself only a set of links. Best to use direct links to actual file locations. All of this is theoretical for most Cloud Storage vendors, as they don't use the Libraries paradigm for the local Cloud-linked Folder.

    But it is a nice concept. Maybe some service could implement it.

    By the way, in Windows 8, there is an option to sync local storage with OneDrive Cloud Storage (formerly SkyDrive). The disadvantage there is that then Office and other Apps will save current work to OneDrive first. You then are responsible for making sure your local copies are up to date.

    OneDrive does sync Libraries as well as ordinary Folders, and Libraries can link to other Libraries. Trouble is, once you are syncing a Library, the entire contents of that Library will be synced to OneDrive. Individual files don't get individual treatment, at least not by default.

    The whole point for Microsoft seems to be to upload as much stuff as possible, so that we must buy more Cloud Storage space. Oh well, everybody has to make a living somehow!
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2014-09-04 at 16:49.
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    ".... unusual sounds typically indicate that the drive has either already failed or a failure is imminent. You should shut down the drive or your PC immediately to avoid further damage. ..."

    I agree any drive that starts making an atypical drive noises (meaning anything out of the user's experience) should immediately be backed up (hopefully it already was on a daily differential basis), immediately shutting down is bad advice IMHO.

    If it truly is failing the odds of getting a backup off of it are greater than if you shut down and reboot to backup. Admittedly IF a decision has already been made as standard practice to send a drive to a recovery service then an immediate shutdown is best to prevent possible surface damage of a platter (which is rather uncommon these days). BUT most people/users/companies are going to try and see what is wrong first. And evaluate if it is worth sending a drive in for recovery.

    Additionally, if a backup is not possible or the system was shut down, moving the drive to a new system with new data cable, power cable and supply, and controller and trying to back it up as a secondary drive may allow such a backup to occur.

    While in addition to free file recovery apps there are some pretty powerful recovery apps that can be tried for free and will show you what they can recover. Then you pay a credit card for an unlock. Most of the time free apps recover just fine. And in lieu of that and a paid app not givng me any joy I usually try a final method though I have never had it recover more than directory structure after hours of cranking:

    ddrescue (Linux)

    Found on SystemRescueCD (sudo or ./ not needed, just the command)

    ddrescue [-options] bad_disk good_disk (should be equal or greater size) log_file

    logfile should be used as it checks log file for already recovered files and goes from there...saves time which will already be hours

    example:

    fdisk -l [list hard drives detected and names... sd_ for SATA drives, hd_ for IDE drives]

    ddrescue -n -f /dev/sdb /dev/sdc resq.log

    This will retrieve all non-damaged files and file structures first from sdb and transfer to sdc and note them in the log file. I recommend trying to transfer (backup) all files rescued at this point to another drive. Then,

    ddrescue -r3 -f /dev/sdb /dev/sdc resq.log

    This will attempt to recover the damaged files three times before moving on and use the resq.log to find their location and not waste time looking.

    ------------------------------

    Another last shot (h/t Scott Mueller): Plug in just the power cable with the data cable disconnected. Does the drive spin up? If no, it is DOA. If yes, then while the drive is spinning plug in the data cable and then see if you can access the drive. If yes, do not turn off, immediately start to copy the drive.

    -----------------------------

    Came across this link via a poster on another web site. Seemed like a really good service to me for those drives that have bit the dust and you want to get your data off without paying a black land farm to do it...of course if it isn't the PCB board....

    Basically you send them your drive info and the PCB board. They transfer the firmware to a working board and send it back out for a $50 plus your handling expense cost in getting it to them.

    AGAIN: If it is worth it to pay many hundreds to a few thousand dollars to have a recovery service get your stuff (they rarely cannot) go for it: Shut down immediately. Make no further evaluation attempts. Contact the recovery service for shipping instructions. But if you can't afford that like most people then trying to recover on your own makes sense.

    If a backup succeeds then the drive maker's diagnostic app should be run, any error message written down, log files maintain of results if possible, and possible warranty remaining evaluated. Zeroing out the platters (wiping the drive) if possible if the drive is determined to be defective.
    Last edited by Fascist Nation; 2014-09-04 at 17:40.

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    My problems with the cloud are: slow, limited data backup..not so much a problem these days. Poor security if files are out there (just ask Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton). US Gov't says your 4th & 5th Amendment Rights don't apply (god bless em). Uncertainty over who owns control the files once out there (especially if your cloud provider gets bought out or goes bankrupt).

    The advantage is an off site backup likely not located in your city.

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    In the spirit of avoiding this problem rather than having to deal with data recovery, I have a recommendation.

    For years I have had Hard Disk Sentinel running in the background of my PC, with 4 internal and 1 external HD's.
    3 drives were classic WD Caviar Black 750 GB from the old WD I loved. The system drive was a WD Blue installed by the shop that built the PC.
    The external drive was a new Seagate 2 TB running on a SATA bridge port.

    Having scar tissue from an older HD failure that lost about 3 GB of valuable photo files, I run backups of backups now.
    Last December, after years of Swiss Watch performance, I got an alert from Hard Disk Sentinel.
    My WD Blue system drive was generating some weak sectors. Not a lot, but some.
    I ran a couple of HDS diagnostic options and decided it was time to replace the drive before things got worse.

    I managed to find a new WD Caviar Black 500 GB on Newegg and ordered it.
    Copying the latest Acronis system image was easy and transferring the data partition was slow but easy as well.

    I went back and looked at all the history data HDS collected on the old drive and gained a new respect for this tool.
    Along the way I sent a log file to the software producer (in Hungary) and got a quick but comprehensive response.

    For $35, I got a lifetime license and technical support - probably the best money I've ever spent on software.

    In any case, if you haven't heard of it, take a look at http://www.hdsentinel.com/ and I think you'll be impressed.

    No, I'm not connected to them in any way - just gratified about the quality of the tool and grateful I never had to face this kind of catastrophe again.

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    This is a very helpful article; thanks. I've run into similar failure issues with both WD and Seagate external drives. My data is critical and I feel strongly that I can not depend on a single device as backup. My approach is to run three independent 2 - 3 TB external USB3 drives that provide continuous backup service using Seagate Replica. At any given time, two of the devices are online on my PC and the other one is at my Bank in a safe deposit box. I recently had one device fail, but the other two continued to run, so I just replaced the failed unit under warranty from Seagate and continued to operate normally. With each device costing on the order of $100.00 to $150.00 -- this seems like very inexpensive insurance. And, thanks to DrRon, I'll soon have HD Sentinel running to keep continuous track of HD health across the 14 HD drives I have running in my various systems.

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    Just a note about mirrored drives. Many NAS units have the option of mirroring the drives. Thus you copy to the NAS and it automatically mirrors everything to a second drive. They're on the network so can be used by all devices on the network, including wireless devices.

    NAS units also often have a cloud feature that turns them into personal cloud storage. You can thus access your files remotely via smart phone or whatever, or back up remotely, and so forth.

    Host it elsewhere and you get off-site backup with no monthly fees and personal control and security.

    I've not done the later but I got a nice Shuttle NAS and 2 Seagates on sale a few months back. Easy setup with a web interface.

    If you want to get more geeky, you can use OwnCloud with backup, share, calendar, and more.
    http://owncloud.org/

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    Yes DrRon, I remember somewhere on the Seagate forum a tech was saying one of the big tip offs to a drive going bad is it starts puling sectors out of reserve. He was essentially saying if it even happens once time to cease trusting the drive.

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    A simpler way!

    I am a bit of a backup nut -so I run my daily data backups alternately to two different external drives. These go to differing folders for each day of the week, and then on sunday get copied to weekly folders - on alternating drives - etc. Of course in case of fire I also back up to the cloud. However for system backups I alternate acronis bu with MS backup every couple of weeks - to alternating drives of course.

    OK?

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    Cool Recover when you need to, but prevention is better

    Too bad that Michael doesn't know about Gibson Research's SpinRite HDD maintenance and data recovery utility. If he'd be using it for regular maintenance, he'd have never have had the problem get so far. If he'd used it as soon as he noticed a problem, there's a very good chance that he would have gotten all of his data back without spending $499.

    And yes, I read what he quoted from the Seagate and DriveSavers sites about DIY solutions. Given the hundreds of cases I'm aware of where SpinRite has successfully recovered all data from a "dead" drive (even non-booting and invisible-to-Windows drives), their contention that you should never use a DIY solution instead of their services is a mite suspect, IMO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fascist Nation View Post
    My problems with the cloud are: slow, limited data backup..not so much a problem these days. Poor security if files are out there (just ask Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton). US Gov't says your 4th & 5th Amendment Rights don't apply (god bless em). Uncertainty over who owns control the files once out there (especially if your cloud provider gets bought out or goes bankrupt).

    The advantage is an off site backup likely not located in your city.
    Not to argue with your premise, but...
    Just a note on the Apple iCloud issue. It was not a security breach in their system as first reported. Apple says they think it was a brute-force password guessing attack on the logins to Apple Accounts. Apple has since tightened up on notifications, but they did not say you don't still get unlimited guesses.

    The point seems to be to prevent people from trying to contact Apple Support (what's that?) about getting locked out of iCloud for making too many incorrect password guesses on their own accounts. Well, Apple has never been known for their brains, since Steve Wozniak left the Company. Apple Corporate Motto -- It's better to look cool than to be competent.

    Who other than Apple would allow unlimited guesses at passwords without issuing an alert to the account owner?
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