Friday, August 1, 2008

Call me Data Retriever Extraordinaire!

As you probably know from Sarah's last blog, one of the hard drives on my pc totally crapped out yesterday. Completely out of the blue. I hadn't changed anything, hadn't installed anything new....nothing. In fact, we had just been watching videos stored on it the night before with no problems.

So anyway, I had gone out of the office to make lunch for the kids and when I came back I saw that my pc had blue screened. Not the BSOD thankfully, but a message just telling me that a problem had been detected and that my pc needed to reboot. I thought "uh, ok...strange but whatever".

I rebooted and when Windows started to load it stopped and went into a disk check screen. It was saying there was a problem with one of the drives and a disk check needed to be performed. So I let it run and it started scanning my storage drive. So glad it wasn't my primary drive...I totally hate re-installing the OS and then re-installing all my programs.

So the disk check was chugging along nicely and then it started throwing up all these record unreadable errors. Not good. When it was all done I had a ton of unreadable/corrupted/damaged sectors on my storage drive. The first thing I thought of were Sarah's pictures. They are all stored on that drive and if I lost them I better start looking for a boys choir that needs a freshly minted soprano. I still remember the threats I got when Dave lost Amber's pictures, and that didn't even involve us. Sarah made me very aware that nothing like that better happen to us, which was one of the reasons I had moved them all to my pc in the first place.

With a new found fear for my loins I quickly went into disaster recovery mode. The pc was able to boot after the check which is good. I checked out the disk manager and both drives still showed up....still good. The primary drive looked fine, however the secondary drive was not showing as being formatted and was showing 100% free other words it was empty. This is not good.

A small amount of crap may have entered my pants.

So I thought, ok well the check completed and the drive is still visible. I'll try to reboot again and see if it all comes up ok this time. So I did. And it didn't.

Again it went into disk check mode flagging errors on the secondary drive. All the same record unreadable messages came up. And then it finally booted up and started Windows. At the same time I had been scouring message boards and help sites on my laptop to see if there was any avoiding the inevitable outcome....all signs pointed toward the same conclusion I had already arrived at. The drive was completely tits up (technical term...seriously, look it up).

With this in mind and thoughts of ways I could break the news to Sarah that would involve the least amount of bodily harm, I moved back to my pc. Checked the disk manager again and saw a change. Now the secondary drive was no longer visible at all. Ooh boy, that is not good. Not good at all. Considering that all of the possible software options I could use for data recovery needed to be able to access the drive, having it not appear as available anymore put me up that proverbial creek we all love so much.

Now I was starting to sweat a bit. Before I was still in the realm of "ok" as long as the drive was available, but now I was rapidly entering the "soprano zone" yet again. With nothing much else to lose at this point, I just employed the old Microsoft cure all and rebooted. I swear, if Microsoft were around during the days of elixir panhandling, its Reboot product would be touted as a relief for every possible ailment to man, both known and unknown.

This reboot played out much the same as the previous ones...however this time the disk check took a lot longer, flashed up a lot more errors and seemed to be updating several different logs and tables. I had hope, but also fear. I could be fixing things or speeding them even faster toward irrevocable damage. I prayed for the first thing.

Finally it finished and booted me into Windows. When I opened the disk manager there was my beloved secondary drive again. My nether regions did a quick dance for joy as they descended back to their normal position. The drive still showed empty and unformatted but at least it was recognized again. Now to test my software.

I had downloaded a couple of different apps to help with my recovery. The problem is that the makers of these apps know how important your data is to you. And knowing that they have a product that you will require when you find yourself in such a dreary situation as I did, they also know how to exploit it. Nothing is free as we all know. So the "free" demo's I found, while seeming to be quite promising, only hinted at salvation. In fact they are meant to entice you and then force you to pay dearly for their services by first showing you that, yes, they can indeed find every scrap of precious data that you so longingly wish to cradle in your arms again. And after they show you, they hold it for ransom and demand that you pay in order to get it back. They are virtual kidnappers. Or possibly virtual drug dealers...they give you a taste for free but when you want the main course you gots to pay brother. Either scenario applies...but in the end they are still money hungry assmongers preying on those in dire straits. Fortunately, I am not some helpless babe on his first journey to the pc world. I have tricks up my sleeves too.

For legal reasons, and so that you don't think lesser of me, I will spare you all the details. I will simply say that I have ways around this bait and hook stuff these companies try to swing. Bottom line: I obtained working versions of the software and was ready to try the first one.

So, I install the first program with no problem. Start it up, easily traverse the menus and in a few minutes it had read my damaged drive and found a complete list of all the data I needed to get back. SWEET! So I moved onto the recovery phase. My biggest problem was disk space. Since my storage drive was blown, the only other drive available was my primary drive. Typically I avoid storing much data on the drive other than the OS and apps, but in this case it was my Obi-Wan Kenobi (my only hope for all you readers not versed in Star Wars). Since I had a lot more stored data than my primary drive would accomodate, I was forced to pick and chose only the most critical stuff. Sarah's pics were first, followed by all of our tunes. Those together came out to about 40gb and I had about 43gb free space to save it to. Pretty tight fit. The nice thing about this program was that it allowed me to zip all the data to reduce the size. Very handy. I queued it all up and executed. The software took off and the process was underway. And it ran better than I expected it to......for a while.

I left it to run and came back and checked it a bit later. My hopes were quickly dashed as I returned to software errors and found that the program had terminated. It had actually gone through about half of the data and recovered it but since the program terminated abnormally it was all corrupt. I deleted it and tried again. Same thing. So it was either a problem with the software, or a conflict with something else, or both. I didn't really have time to play with it since I was under the gun. I still had not told Sarah anything about this yet. I was trying to determine if I could get the data back or not before I broke the news otherwise she'd just be upset and stress over it. I now had a little over an hour left before she got off work and would be calling me, so I had to rush.

I removed the first program and installed the second. The second was a much more rudimentary program that did the same basic thing, but did it very.....basically. While the first had all the bells and whistles and was the Rolls Royce version, this second one was its poorer cousin....the Pinto on cinder blocks if you will. But it was now my last shot at avoiding the first class seat to unich-ville. After it was loaded, I rescanned and found most of the same data. There were some things that were reporting as too damaged to recover in this version, while they had shown as available in the other version. But I put that on the back burner cuz the meat of what I was after was still there. Pics and tunes.

Now this being the lesser version, I had no option but to direct copy to a new location. That means no zipping. That means no reduced size. I cleared as much junk off my primary drive as I could and was able to free up a couple more gigs. Still it would be a close fit and my drive would be pretty much full afterwards. I kicked it off didn't work. Told me I needed to buy the full version. CRAP!!!!!!!!!

The method through which I obtained this program had included everything I needed to run it with no additional cost. But it seemed that was not working. Images of high pitched singing while adorned in a blue satin robe and attending Christmas concerts flashed through my head. Then I remembered that when I first installed the program, I had gotten a message stating that a newer version was available and I had accepted it. AH HA! The code I had probably only worked with the original version. Quickly I uninstalled and reinstalled the software, this time passing on the update. I set everything up again, started it off and this time it ran flawlessly.


The data was being retrieved from the damaged drive and stored on my primary. I verified that the files were there and were accessible and then breathed a sigh of relief. I tried calling Sarah but didn't get an answer. Tried again, no answer. She must be talking on the phone to someone more important than me (happens more than you'd think). So I left a message. When she called back I told her what had happened but not to fear cuz I was getting it back. Crisis averted. Nuts will remain intact. Sorry choir, I won't be joining you this time.

Now that the immediate dangers were past, I went back to review the data that had reported as too damaged to retrieve. Searching through the folders I saw nothing of much consequence. Some temp files, some old crap I didn't care about, yadda yadda yadda. Until.....I came across one folder that showed a video valentine I had made for Sarah several years ago. Its a basic slideshow put to music and has pictures of us from when we were dating up to current as of when I made it. Wedding, kids, stuff like that. It was one of my first attempts and was pretty rudimentary but it took me a while to get all the photos, find the music, time it all out and all that jazz. It was a labor of love and Sarah totally adores it. Lots of sentimental value. And now its sitting in a possible no man's land never to be seen again. Hello, we're the Vienna Boys Choir and we have an opening in our soprano section, would you be interested?

I left the program running along merrily while we got ready to go to Kailey's party. I filled Sarah in on the day's frustrations and she was relieved that it appeared to be working now. We had to rush to unload and put away groceries when she got home though so I didn't really get too in depth on the details of everything. Once we were in the car and on the road we started talking about it again. She asked if there was anything I wasn't able to get back yet. I told her there was some things I left off for now due to space issues and I would try to get them later once I had someplace to store it all. For the time being, my priority had been the photos and the music. Then I told her about her valentine being in the possibly unrecoverable category. Not good news. She immediately started crying and I promised I would do everything I could to get it back. Suck. I worked so hard all day to prevent her from freaking out or getting upset and here we were with her bawling over her lost valentine. I felt pretty bad and vowed to try my best to save it. After some comforting she pulled it together and we went on to the party.

When we got home I checked the process and it was still chugging along, although much more slowly. I feared that I might be running into disk space issues and that the speed decrease was probably due to the fact that the drive was nearing capacity. But I had already gotten the pictures back and was only working on the music now. That could wait if it had to. I decided to let it run through the night and follow up in the morning.

This morning everything was done and recovered nicely. HOORAY!!! It was a pain in the ass but in the end it was all worth it. Saved the photos and all the music. Still have some extra stuff to get back when I have the space, but it can wait. Now we need to find a new hard drive and replace the old one. I'm thinking of going with an external but we'll have to go out and look around this weekend. Not too happy about having to spend extra money since we're trying to save for school supply shopping, doctor/dental visits, camping and whatnot, but dem's da breaks sometimes. Could have been much worse and it gave me a challenge to overcome. Hopefully I'll be able to get everything moved to a new device and sorted out this weekend. It'll be a nice little project for me and nowhere near as stressful as what led up to it.

Oh and in case you were wondering, I was able to save the valentine video. It still works fine and a copy has been sent to Sarah for safe keeping as well. I'm sure duplicates will find their way onto all of her video/photo storage sites in the near future.

Until next time loyal readers!


Hero For The Day

Almost my peeps.......


  1. Oh my God! And making your wife cry. Have you no shame. I was looking forward to hearing you sing Ave Maria. Whan an ordeal. At least you know how to do all this stuff happens. Can you imagine what I feel like when things like this happen to me. I am a total non geek. Glad things worked out for you. Have fun shopping. I wouldn't know where to start.
    Love you and your stories.

  2. Wow, am I the hugest ragging bitch wife in existance? Hmm. Let's all remember that when he called ME, I just said, "Ok honey". His balls were never in danger. Of course I would have ripped his heart out with my bare hands and then put it in the crockpot for stew..but his BALLS would have been safe. ;)

    I'm just happy everything is safe :) If I can find a way to upload and paste my Valentine's Day video into our blog, I will! That way you can view it and see it's beautifulness.

  3. You just have a very soft and sentimental heart. Maybe you could pop them both in the crock pot and make some "loving stew".

  4. Hey, great idea! Anyone for heart n balls tacos?

  5. I DON'T THINK SO! I never did care for Rocky Mountain Oysters. But, thanks anyway.

  6. Hey son,
    After seeing your creative wonder on the blog today, I have to say that I'm with Sarah on this one. WOW! What a tear jerker. I'm so happy you were able to retrieve it. We enjoyed it so much. Make sure that you save that for future generations. Love you with all my heart. Thanks again.

  7. Finally caught this saga ... WOW! All I can say is Chris you are a wonder and Sarah you are too precious. I am always touched deeply by the lengths you go to show your love for each other.

    No "organ stew" for me - glad all body parts are safe and in their natural habitat!

    Love you all