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Hard disk disappears before deep scan completes

Posted: 27 Sep 2012, 05:34
by AndyII
I'm having a real difficult time with this one. At first, some programs didn't want to load, then Windows kept crashing, then Windows didn't want to load. Startup repairs sometimes threw errors. The disk itself keeps disappearing from the BIOS after attempting some fixes. I've noticed it twice disappear while it was being accessed by TESTDISK. I have a 500Gb drive with 3 partitions. One partition is the Gateway recovery partition, one is my Windows Vista partition, and the other is a data partition.

The farthest I've gotten with TESTDISK was to find the Vista and Recovery partitions. The quick search finds a data partition but doesn't want to accept it with the Vista Boot partition and the Primary Recovery partition. I tried a deeper scan and it went very slowly. It scanned cylinders one at a time and it took one to three minutes per cylinder up until cylinder seven. Then it flew threw the rest with a read error on every one. When it was done it only found another Recovery partition with invalid files. I backed out of the deeper scan and suddenly there were no partitions. I backed out even further and the drive was not in the list. In fact, when I exited TESTDISK completely to a command prompt, the directory no longer existed. None of the three existed.

I've replaced the SATA cable to the drive as well as the CMOS battery. A few times, after a soft reboot from the Startup Repair, the boot drive was no longer found. I've had to shut down and perform a hard boot for the BIOS to see the drive again. But because of the disappearance I have to reset the BIOS since the drive left the boot order. I've even seen it completely missing from the hardware list. It is a SATA drive and for some reason the BIOS settings keep dropping the drive. Are they saved on this corrupted disk? Could the BIOS be the cause of the corrupted disk?

I have managed to save all the data from the data partition. I was wondering if it's possible to save the Recovery and Vista partitions and leave the data partition out. Could I reclaim that space later if I get the operating system working again?

Re: Hard disk disappears before deep scan completes

Posted: 28 Sep 2012, 15:17
by Lito
You could try changing the power connector to the disk. I don't know how many SATA power conectors your rig has got.
Also you could try moving the SATA data cable position in the motherboard. Normally it would be connected to SATA 0 (zero). Try moving it to SATA 1 or 2. You will have to move any other data cables position for CD/DVD you may have.
Next time you power up, get into the BIOS setup. Look for the option to set everything to the Default values (may be pressing F9), then save the settings (may be pressing F10). Before you quit, set the machine to boot from CD or DVD.
You might need it later. Next in the boot order should be the HDD. Check that your video graphics card is set up correctly, either as Integrated, PCI or PEG. Next go to the Save and Exit option. The machine will reboot.
Check again in the BIOS. Are the drives all accounted for? Is the HDD recognized? Again reboot.
As soon as the machine start to go through the POST process, press PAUSE.
Make a note of the BIOS brand, any numbers in the screen related to the BIOS and/or the version number.

For the next step, you will need access to another machine (a friend, local library or internet cafe). Make a note of all other details about your machine, like serial number, when it was built, purchase, model name, etc. Those are all things that the Gateway web site may ask you, before they allow you to download an update for your machine BIOS. Make a print out of the procedures for a flash update of the BIOS. Obviously you will need something to carry the update to your home. Either a diskette ,a USB pen or drive or even a CD.
Good luck

Re: Hard disk disappears before deep scan completes

Posted: 29 Sep 2012, 07:37
by AndyII
On a friends suggestion and something I found on Google, I got out my multimeter to check the power levels of my PSU. They were all fine. Of course I checked them disconnected from the motherboard. Then that friend said I should have checked them while it was running to get a fairer idea of power levels during actual use. When I tried this, I saw some kind of flicker on the meter but wasn't sure if I had moved a contact. It was too fast to read. What I did next was brilliant, but I don't know if it was conclusive.

I set up my meter and set up a video camera in front of it. I watched the levels of the 5 Volt lead. Of course I have to blink or look at the keyboard once in a while, which is why I set up the camera. I had to do this a few times, but the last time I did this, I noticed the blink and noted the time on the video. At 4 and a half minutes the power went to -23.40 volts. It dropped and came back faster than I can blink. I looked at the other recordings and I had caught it on the first try but didn't know it. Same voltage, -23.40, but at 9 and a half minutes. I know very little about electronics, but I think no matter how fast it was, the BIOS will notice when a drive no longer has power and stops sending data. It will remove it as a valid selection. It won't check that again until a restart, even with quickboot off. I'll probably replace the power supply and then try to recover my partitions. From what I saw when I got in the last time, I may need help getting my information back.

I'll still come back and report my findings.

Re: Hard disk disappears before deep scan completes

Posted: 30 Sep 2012, 08:56
by AndyII
Okay, so I went out and bought a power supply. The problem remained. I tried the hard drive in another computer and the problem happened there too. So now I know I have a bad hard drive.

Occasionally, I can get it to run long enough to see some files. I stuck a fan in front of it and had it running for a couple of hours while it did the deeper scan. But even after that finished, it couldn't find a good third partition. It found the first two. I've already copied the files out of the third. Can I recover the first two partitions and omit the third without causing a problem? I'm letting it cool down before I try again because I'd really like to try and make a disk image but I don't need those files from partition 3 to be on it.

Does anybody have an answer? Can I omit the third partition?

Re: Hard disk disappears before deep scan completes

Posted: 30 Sep 2012, 20:29
by Lito
I do not have an answer to that paricular question. You would need one of the TestDisk experts in this forum.
But i would think that you will be better off, making an image of the Vista partition in another disk. Just in case the disk you are working on packs up altogether. I do not know whether making an image of the Recovery partition would be of benefit. I would have thought that it would be difficult to make a full system recovery from there, without the CDs.
Normally you make the Recovery CDs, when you just got the computer, and you store them for a case like this.
If you never made the Recovery CDs, you do have the option of buying them from Gateway.
The work you did with the video camera, was magic! Also at this rate you will have almost a new computer and enough practice to build one from scratch.

Here you have a few links to ponder about ... su20.shtml

Best of luck

Re: Can I use Testdisk to make an image and how does it work

Posted: 03 Oct 2012, 00:26
by AndyII
Gateway did supply a recovery CD, but also created an encrypted recovery partition that contains the Windows Recovery Environment. So far, I know that the data on the CD is mostly fine. The problem is not on the disks. The controller board has a component that must be overheating. When I blow cold air on it, it will run fine if I don't tax it too much. I was able to use Testdisk to get copy files to an external drive. It copied 231Gb of my 264Gb that was in the partition with the operating system. However, in looking at the files, many have duplicates with an ascii character in the name. I may have retrieved far fewer files than I thought. At least I got the folders so I know what programs were installed.

What I am going to try next, when I have 12 or more contiguous hours to waste, is create an image of the recovery partition and the operating system partitions while ignoring the data partition (I have those files). If I can keep the drive running long enough to complete the image, I should be all set. Otherwise, I can take the Recovery CD supplied by Gateway and use it to configure the new drive as it was when I bought the computer new. Then I'll make a Windows Recovery Environment CD so I have it next time.

Incidentally Lito, I bought this refurbished machine because it came with a motherboard, operating system, and bigger hard drive. Then I loaded all my stuff from my old computer with the toasted motherboard into it. Basically, I did build this computer and my last two from scratch. Assembling hardware is easy. Configuring software to work with each other is the hard part. Thank you for the links you provided. I looked at them but they don't really apply to what I'm trying to do. They cover what I'd have to do if what I'm trying to do fails.

Now I have a new question, but since none of the techsperts have responded to this thread, I'm not sure I shouldn't just make a new thread. I saw in the menus that there was an option to make an image of a drive. I can't find any instructions on the website about how to use it.

Question 1: Can I use Testdisk to make an image of the drive and restore it to another drive?
Question 2: How does Testdisk create an image, file by file or sector or sector or byte by byte?