Partition Table Doctor – Lifesaver

Rating - 9.5/10.0 - 9.5

Just thought I’d write a quick post about an incredibly useful tool I discovered whilst in a panic striken mess trying to recover from a hard drive problem on Spirit’s machine.

The problem started as a simple CRC error on a couple of sectors on one hard drive in her machine. She has two hard drives. A 40GB Seagate unit that provides drive C: and a 120GB Samsung unit that provides drives D:, E: and K:. Drive C: began reporting a problem and was bringing the whole system to a crawl while the OS was trying to read the bad block. The solution… SpinRite 6.

SpinRite was able to recover most of the data in the two (yes, only two) sectors that were bad. Problem Solved :-) Or so we thought.

Obviously given that the unit just appeared to have developed a faulty sector or two, I figured I would transfer the data from one unit to another, so out came an old Maxtor drive and DriveCopy… no joy. It just wouldn’t copy the whole thing, so I figured that maybe the destination drive was screwed (it was one half of a mirrored partition in our database server that failed earlier in the year… one unit was OK and the other just died). New drive (The smallest I could buy from PCWorld… 160GB… SMALL????) and it still wouldn’t work… several different programs later and still no joy.

So, I figured on a different approach and thats when it all seemed to go to the dogs.

We fired up with all three drives connected with the intention of booting in to the OS and copying the data from C: to the new drive. The OS fired up great and then came the first indication that something was wrong… ‘Your machine doesn’t have a paging file…’ *EEP* I had moved it onto drive K: so that could only mean one thing… K: had disappeared. A quick tour around My Computer revealed E: and K: were gone.

*EEP* suddenly became *EEEEEEEEP*

Fire up the MMC and into disk management revealed the awful truth… Drive 0 (C:) was there and was reporting the correct size although the file system was apparently unknown, but it was readable. Drive 1 was now magically 30GB bigger at 150GB and contained D: (at roughly the right size). But the partition that was supposed to be E: was showing as healthy but unformatted and the partition that was K: was showing as unallocated.

A quick scan with a trial data recovery tool showed the files were still intact along with their directory structure so we could make an attempt to recover. A new plan was called for…. find a tool that could recover the partition table. And find one I did.

Enter ‘Partition Table Doctor’.

This software comes in at around $39 and is available here. The demo version found the three partitions… they were the correct size, properly labelled and most importantly, a quick look at the root showed the directory structure appeared to be intact.

So the new plan… copy D: to the new drive and recover the partition table with Partition Table Doctor.

What can I say… this software should ship with Windows. Its worked a treat. A quick check of the key things she didn’t want to lose has revealed they are all present and correct. I can’t tell you what a relief it was.

I don’t know why this should have happened… I can’t even think of anything I may have done in the process of trying to recover the other drive that could have caused it since the unit wasn’t even connected for the majority of the time. Its just completely weird… especially as it thought the first partition was a Linux Ext3 file system that overlapped the second partition which was an AIX file system.

If you work in IT in a tech or support role, then I would strongly suggest you invest in Partition Table Doctor. Its worth the purchase price without any shadow of a doubt. The only thing that let it down was the manual… whilst pretty clear, some sections needed two or three reads just to be absolutely sure that my understanding was correct… of course that could have been me being a little unsure, but some of the english wasn’t great. That said, if your drive has lost its partition table then I would recommend trying this excellent tool. The demo version will check things out and will tell you what it will do… it just won’t save the changes.

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