Hard Drive Recovery.

So normally I am pretty good about backing things up. You know, burning a CD here and there of important stuff can be all the difference between having what you need and losing something important. Well, about two years ago, I slipped. For about one month, I did not backup. I paid for it dearly. My kids were here visiting for that month, and I had all the digital pictures for that month on my Linspire hard drive. I got distracted, and did not do my backups, or even copy files between me and Emmy which we often do.

One day, as my computer was booting, it told me Smart had detected my hard drive was failing, please replace it as soon as possible. I thought,”Oh crap!” I then proceeded to see if it would boot. It didn’t. It could not mount the partition that had all my data. I was running a Linux distro called Linspire. They use what is called Reiserfs for a file system. At the time, I had No clue on how to go about rescuing anything on the hard drive. So I stuck it away, and every once in awhile look at it and think,”I wish I could rescue my stuff off that drive.” 🙁 I even thought about tossing the drive at one point figuring it was shot.

Recently, I have started playing with other versions of Linux again. Nothing against Linspire, in fact, I really think Linspire is a nice easy version of Linux.. In fact, to easy. I got lazy, and was not learning how to do a lot of the stuff I was once learning so quickly.. In fact, I found myself forgetting a lot of what I had known about linux at one point. You see, I have been using Linux to one extent or another since 94 or 95. My father and I setup a Slackware server that we used at our office, and one that we used at home so Emmy and I could both play our favorite MUD through one dialup internet connection. Anyways, as you can imagine, over the years, I have played with Linux a lot.. but never completely figured it out. So I am learning new and interesting things about it all the time.

Well, recently, I finally stumbled across something mentioning how to go about recovering stuff from a partition that has become corrupted. I thought,”Ah ha! I bet I can use this to save those photos and stuff I lost a couple of years ago!” So I went searching for more info. If you read that other article, you might think,”What else ya need to know? That seems to cover it pretty good!” Well, I have always been the type who would rather be overly informed. With the photos and stuff on that drive, I have always kinda thought, when I try to recover that stuff, I need to get it right the first time, cause that drive will die about the time I plug it back into my computer.

So anyways, I decided to go research a bit, and went looking for more information. I found such articles as this and this. Finally, I stumbled across this blog. At this point, I started feeling like I had a chance of actually rescuing my precious pictures. So I started reading about dd_rescue. I am now running Mepis 6 Linux. Which is based on Ubuntu. So the directions that I found seemed fairly useful and complete.

So I dug out that old drive. It is an old Western Digital 40 Gig drive. Nothing special, and at this time, almost worthless, except for the data on it. The data, like I said before, is priceless to me. Anyways, when it first started failing and I could not get it to boot, I just took it out of the computer and stuck it away in my desk. It has not been fired up since. So I took it out, hooked it up as a slave in line with my main 120gig Mepis Drive. I then ran dd_rescue on it using the command:

dd_rescue /dev/hdb3 /home/mine/Backups/linspire.img

At first, it barely seemed to be doing anything.. Some numbers come up on the screen, but it kept stopping for long periods of time.. At first I thought the drive was so far gone that it was dying in process, after all, that is basically what kept happening when I tried to mount it. So I actually stopped it after about 10 minutes because I was convinced it was not working. Then I checked the linspire.img file, and what do you know, it was over 2 mb big. That does not seem like a big deal, but was 2mb of that stuff I did not have before. It let me know it was doing something! So I reran the same command again, and let it go. I soon came to realize that it was going through sector by sector and writing all the data it could get to the linspire.img file. Everytime it got to an error, it would pause a while and try to read it. As it got further in, it started to speed up a bit. By the time it was done, I think it took like 14-16 hours to recover the 37 gig partition. I had over 4000 errors, and the 37 gig partition was only 36 something now. However, I followed the instructions on the Ubuntu Blog, the only difference being, since I am in Mepis, and not Ubuntu, I was able to just su over to the root account and just run all those commands nice and easy instead of of sudoing them. Not a big deal, but my preference. By the time it was done, I actually recovered the pictures! In fact, the ones I was most worried about was our Canoe Trip down the Weeki Wachee River.

Here is a picture of 3 of my favorite people in the world from that trip!

Picnic Picture.
I am so thrilled I have finally managed to recover the stuff off this drive, and at this point, I have a backup of the entire thing! So even though the drive has now pretty much completely failed, I can pull whatever I want whenever I want from my backup img. I love Linux! I dunno how many times I lost small amounts of data because of MS Windows! Remember, always backup your data regularly, and if you can, use Linux and other MS alternatives. Firefox is a great place to start!