One of the services I provide is data recovery from failing hard drives. Today I completed the recovery of the hard drive from my own main Windows workstation.
I kept receiving alerts that indicated problems with my Windows 7 ntfs file system. The alerts continued even after repeatedly running chkdsk /f. I next ran SpinRite by Steve Gibson. Sure enough, some failing sectors were found. Two passes with SpinRite level 2, then I moved on to other tools.
The linux dd command and Windows Symantec System Recovery both refused to complete backup jobs. I next used ddrescue, which was able to recover to a new hard disk the damaged partition; my Windows 7 partition, it turns out. In fact, it was able to recover all but one 512 byte sector. Then I recreated the extended partition and began to use dd to copy the other partitions to the new drive.
My first boot after recovery didn’t work too well. That system is dual boot; Windows 7 and Ubuntu 12.04 Desktop. Windows was fine (go figure) but Ubuntu wouldn’t come up at all. After a bit of further study, I recopied the Linux partitions and used the following procedures after each partition was copied. I’ll use only /dev/sda5 in my example, but I did the same with the others, except the swap partition.
e2fsck -f /dev/sda5
Once this was complete for /dev/sda5, I copied /dev/sda6 and ran the two above commands against it, then on to sda7 and sda8. This process checks the file system on the newly copied partitions, then resizes the partition to what the file system expects.
It’s important to note that I created the new partitions manually using gparted, then used dd to copy the partitions. I carefully made sure the partitions were slightly larger than the originals. That’s important; you want to be able to fit all the contents of the old partition into the new partition.
Another important note is that you should boot to a liveCD copy of your favourite Linux version before you start copying partitions. You will get unexpected results if you try to copy a “live” partition.
Both Windows and Ubuntu are working well after all that. Now I’ll update my dd generated backups and hopefully avoid all this unpleasantness next time:) There were important changes on the Windows partition I really did not want to lose, otherwise those existing dd backups would have done the job nicely.
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