Recovering files from a faulty hard drive

If your hard drive is unable to boot due to a corruption, it still could be possible to recover important files from the hard drive. This article runs through just one example of recovering files. In the example scenario below the hard drive in question is a linux partition, but the instructions below would work for FAT32 and NTFS partitions. In this scenario the boot loader has become faulty and the hard drive owner wishes, rather than repairing the boot loader, to backup all important files and use a new hard drive.

Note: You use any advice contained within this article at your own risk!

Do not access the hard drive unnecessarily!

It is important that when a hard drive issue has occurred and you intend to recover files, you do not unnecessarily access the drive.

The Tools

There are actually many different tools and methods you can use to recover data from a faulty hard drive. In this instance the tools are:

  • A Live CD, such as Ubuntu’s 11.10 Live CD.
  • An external drive connected via USB or a network share.

Step 1 – Connect your USB device to your computer.

This could be a thumb drive or a hard drive in a caddy. You could opt to copy files via a network.

Copying files across a network.

If you don’t have a usb device present, you could try copying the files via a network. The ideal scenario would be to setup a Samba (windows) share on another computer or NAS device. Then you would again run the gksu nautilus command, but then open in a separate window the share location. i.e. smb://

Step 2 – Booting the Live CD.

The Ubuntu 11.10 installation CD can also be used as a live cd, as well as installing a new operating system. This means you can boot from the CD and run a copy of Ubuntu from the CD. It makes it ideal for file recovery.

Step 3 – Copying the files.

When trying to copy files you could end up with a ‘You don’t have permission‘ error message. So what you need to do is the following:

  1. From the dash toolbar option, run a terminal session.
  2. Type gksu nautilus in the terminal window and press enter to give yourself the necessary permissions.

This will grant you the privileges to copy files. Hopefully now you can now rescue the files from your hard drive and copy them over to your USB device or network share.

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