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Logger: jake
Date: February 23rd, 2011
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How to Image a Damaged Drive with dd-rescue

The Problem

My hard drive has damaged sectors and blocks.  How do I image my drive and recover my data?

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Tags: hard drive, ddrescue, BootMed, dd_rescue, corrupt, damaged

The Fix

Summary: You can do this with just a few clicks using BootMed Plus, for only $3.99.

This tutorial will take you through imaging a damaged hard drive, using the Ubuntu based BootMed Live CD. Making an image won't fix your drive; it will simply make an exact copy of your disk, copying good as well as corrupt data. Damaged hard drives usually only get progressively worse the more they are used, so to cut your losses you should make an image.  Damaged hard drives also seem to "confuse" computers, making it difficult to read information.  When you make the image, it copies the drive to a more stable enviroment.

You then will recover your data from a different computer, using the image, while leaving the damaged hard drive alone - protecting it from further damage. To do this you will need an external hard drive that is larger than your hard drive and the BootMed Live CD. Tip:  The external hard drive does not need to be empty, though it is a good idea to back up the contents.

Also, I cannot stress the importance of making regular back ups.  I suggest usingMyPCBackup, an online back up utility.  MyPCBackup is easy to use and comes with a free version. 

Step 1 - Booting up BootMed

First, plug in an external hard drive, then, before you boot your computer, I suggest that you plug it into a wired network connection.  The tutorials that load with BootMed are on the internet, not on the cd (that way they can be easily updated and improved).  Wireless network connections are more complex and may require downloading drivers, which requires a network connection...

On most computers all you will need to do is put the BootMed cd in your cd-rom, then turn your computer on.  If you cannot put a cd in while you computer is off, you will need to turn your computer on, open the cd tray, put the cd in and then reboot your computer.  You computer should then check the cd-rom for a boot disk and automatically load it. If your computer does not automatically load the boot cd you will need to change BIOS settings.  Follow this tutorial to see how that is done. BootMed will load a webpage with a list of what you can do with the live cd.  Just scroll down to "Image a Damaged Drive," there you will find a link to this page.

Step 2 - Finding your Hard Drive's Address

Image 3

Image 2

Image 1

In order to copy your drive you must first find its address.  The way that Ubuntu gives addresses to hard drives is very different from the way that Windows gives addresses (C:, D: etc). To complicate things even more, there are 2 addresses that a drive can have, a /dev and a /media address (the first is the device's address the other is the mount point, the place where you can access the files).  We are interested in the /dev address of your damaged hard drive and the /media address of your external hard drive.

On the BootMed desktop you will see an icon called GParted, double-click it.  (Image 1)  It may take a few seconds for GParted to open. In the window that opens, click on the drop down box in the upper right portion of the window.  In the drop down box you will see a list of drives (hard drives, external hard drives, pen drives) and their sizes.  If you know the size of your hard drive, identifying it will be easy, if not, it will most likely be the second largest drive listed (Your external hard drive being the largest.)  (Image 2)

Once you have selected your hard drive from the drop down box, you will see a 'horizontal bar' appear that represents your hard drive and its partitions.  (Image 3)  The address will be inside the bar, above the size of the drive (ex: /dev/sdb5.)

Make a note of the address and be sure to copy it exactly, these addresses are case sensitive.

Step 3 - Finding your External Hard Drive's Address

Image 1

Once you have found your hard drive's address, you will need to find your external hard drive's address (mount point).  To do so, click on the drop down box and select the largest drive, this should be your external hard drive.  This time you should see a column for Mount Point below the horizontal bar.  (Image 1)  Under the Mount Point column you will see the address for your external hard drive.  It will looking something like /media/Elements

Make a note of the address and be sure to copy it exactly, remember - these addresses are case sensitive.

Step 4 - Imaging Your Drive

Image 3

Image 2

Image 1

Now that you have your two addresses you can create the image of your damaged hard drive.

To do so, double click on the Terminal Icon on the desktop.  (Image 1) This will open a window with something that looks like a DOS prompt.  In this window you need to type:

sudo(space)dd_rescue(space)(type hard drive's address here)(space)(type external hard drive's address here)/image.dd

Example: sudo dd_rescue /dev/sdb5 /media/Elements/image.dd

This will tell dd_rescue to create an image file called image.dd on your external hard drive. (Image 2) Once you have typed it in, hit enter.

dd_rescue will now begin imaging your hard drive (Image 3).  This may take a few hours, depending on the extent of the damage.

Once dd_rescue is finished you can turn your computer off and move on to the next step.

Step 5 - What to do Next

Now that you have made an image there are a few things you can do with it:

I would suggest that you follow the first option and try to browse the image for files.  From there you can copy the the files to another computer.  If when you try to browse the image, you cannot see any files, move on the the second option and try to recover them using Recuva. The last option, creating a virtual machine, is a good option for advanced users.  When a hard drive is corrupted, there is no way to repair Windows.  As you try to repair the Windows, other parts of the disk are damaged.  However, now that the disk image is in a stable enviroment, it is possible to repair Windows and boot up your old computer (get Itunes running again and make a backup and retrieve your music library...)  You can do this by booting up your computer as a virtual computer using VMWare.

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