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Restoring a Hard Drive Partition

November 7, 2010

I’m told it’s a law of physics that matter cannot be created nor destroyed. That doesn’t apply to the virtual world of digital files, however. Even files that were once present can suddenly disappear, or at least play hide-and-seek. Maybe this recent experience of mine can help others if they go through the same mess.

Last night I discovered to my displeasure that one of my two partitions on a secondary hard drive had decided to vanish for unknown reasons. There was an E: drive in the Explorer window, but no file size was displayed. Fortunately, that partition only had all my music files and a few other odds and ends; nothing critical. Still, I didn’t want to loose all those MP3s. When I clicked E: it asked if I wanted to format the drive. Nope, so I restarted the system (it’s Windows XP, by the way.)

CHKDSK ran automatically finding and fixing tons of errors on that partition, but when the system came up there was still no data showing on E:. Microsoft advice was to run CHKDSK again, and finally do a low-level format. Ugh. I ran CHKDSK from the CMD prompt (CHSDSK /F E:) and rebooted again. Still had no data showing on E:. That was last night, so I went to bed.

This morning I found a free file recovery and restore program, PC Inspector, made by the same folks who make the Clone-Maxx software I use for backups. I ran that and it found all the files on that partition, thank God. I spent a few hours copying over as much of them as I could (some had read errors,) managing to get most of them, which I then transfered to DVDs. I had some of those MP3s on a portable player, and some of the other files on an older backup drive.

Before I resorted to formatting that partition in order to copy all these files back to it, I thought I’d try CHKDSK again. This time there were fewer repairs listed, which looked promisiong, so I rebooted once more. CHKDSK ran again automatically, and showed no errors or fixes at all this time. That sounded good. When the system came up and I opened Explorer it showed the E: partition this time with actual file size used. I clicked E: and there were all my files, just as if nothing had ever happened. At this point I’m going to defrag the whole drive and do a full backup.

So, what caused the problem in the first place? No idea. At least it got me to make backups of my files and find a recovery program that seems to work well.

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