Data missing from external harddrive?

I just got a call from my girlfriend and she’s freaking out over the fact that all the data on the external hard drive that she’s been using to backup all of her work over the past two years years seems to have suddenly…disappeared.

It sounds like she can still access her the drive but the entire drive shows up as empty even though it has about 150gigs of artwork on it and looking at the properties of the drive even states that only 50/200gigs is free. Any ideas on what could be causing this?

I won’t be able to take a look at the PC myself until this Thursday (the idea of doing tech support on Valentine’s is…unpleasant, to say the least) but I was hoping for some ideas on what angle to approach this.

My first thoughts are :

A)Some weird drive letter clash preventing the contents of the drive being shown. This is unlikely since I walked her through changing the drive letters and this didn’t solve the problem.

B)A corrupt Master Boot Record. How likely is this…and can I fix it without losing all the data?

C)Hard Drive itself is f’ed. Hopefully this isn’t the case since the PC is still recognizing the drive.

Anyway, any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated. I don’t want this to ruin the mood for the night :( (and yes, I realize that she should’ve backed the data up in a bunch of more places…and that I should’ve made sure that she followed through on it)

If she can still access the drive there’s a really big chance that a recovery program can restore all files - just make sure she doesn’t write to the drive before you’ve checked it.

There are two pieces of software in my arsenal for situations like this:

Recovermyfiles and Getdataback.

The former is good for flash drives and simple intelligent file recovery, the latter is good for resurrecting an entire partition that got hosed.

I’d get the latter out in this situation.

Good luck with the recovery. There are also professional services who, for a fee, recover data from dead or dying hard drives.

Also, explain to your girlfriend, parents, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, and whoever else will listen that hard drives are mechanical devices, that 100% of ALL HARD DRIVES will one day die and take all the data with them, and that they need to make backups of stuff they don’t ever want to lose.

There are two types of people in the world. Those who have lost data, and those who will. Make backups.

Has she rebooted her computer yet? Might be one of those things where powering everything off excises the Windows gremlins. Probably not, but hey, it happens.

I’ve looked into those services; they’re not cheap, even the least expensive and slowest options. (The I NEED MY DATA AND I NEED IT NOW options are thousands of dollars.)

Of course, if the data is that important (unfinished doctoral dissertation, life’s amount of work or photos, etc.), I’d bite the bullet and pony up, too.

But yeah, the lesson is that if it’s absolutely, positively mission critical to your life, it needs to be on at least be on two different storage devices, preferably located well apart from one another so a fire doesn’t take them both out. (Fire-damaged drives could also be recovered, too, but why risk it.)

I personally wouldn’t do anything that could/would mess with the partition table, especially the MBR. At least not yet.

It’s possible that the Firewire/USB adapter/controller is screwy. Try popping out the hard drive and connect it directly to IDE/SATA.

Hi guys,

Thanks for the all the suggestions. I ended up trying out Getdataback on her harddrive as Machfive suggested and…it worked like a charm!

I was really impressed by how easy and fast Getdataback was to use. I’m not sure if she’ll be able to recover the whole thing, but we’ve tried recovering some files so far and it looks like nothing’s been damaged so far.

Thanks for the great help! :D

Getdataback is solid because it doesn’t write any data to the drive. I’d slave a large drive to the machine and just copy everything Getdataback sees onto the drive. An external USB or additional internal drive should do the trick. Once you’ve got all the data off, you can spend time safely, leisurely sifting through it.