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Old May 22, 2012, 6:58 PM   #1
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Default Help! My hard drive crashed with all my pictures!

Hello Everyone,
I need some help... I did a big shoot last week of a wedding in Laguna Beach. I've already been paid half for the gig, and when I got back to my studio I emptied my cards to my external USB drive for editing (Western Digital Essential USB 3). I normally load them to the external, then save the finished products to my internal drive after Photoshoping them. Well, I looked at the external USB to verify the files were there then put away my gear.

I shot some pics of the eclipse on Sunday evening (Kodak ND4 Filtering), at which time I cleared off the images from the card knowing I'd already saved them to the USB drive. When I began trying to open my files on Monday to edit the wedding photos the drive would not mount! I called Western Digital and they told me to try different cables and power supply etc., but not much more than that.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm not only out the money for the wedding shoot, but I'm extremely embarassed to tell the newly weds their photos are gone...
Thanks,

Last edited by CasonT; May 22, 2012 at 6:59 PM. Reason: Mistake
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Old May 22, 2012, 7:07 PM   #2
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Don't try to write to the drive in any way, and do not attempt to run anything like chkdsk on it, or you can really reduce your chances of recovering the images if the drive has any physical problems.

How large is this drive? Do you have another unused drive that's just as large that isn't being used for anything?

If not, how much free space do you have on one of your internal drives?

Again, do not attempt to write to it in any way, and don't try to "fix" it using any utilities, or letting Windows attempt to repair it using chkdsk, etc.

What I'd do in that situation is make a copy of the drive using specialized utilities designed specifically for that purpose first (making a copy of failing media). It may not have any physical problems and it could just be file system corruption (especially if you've been doing something like unplugging it without using the "safely remove" features of your operating system to flush any pending writes in cache to it.

Right clicking on a removable drive under "My Computer" and using the "Eject Choice does the same thing -- flushing any pending writes in memory to it and unmounting it so it can be safely removed

So, it may just be a simple file system corruption issue if you haven't been careful about using safely remove features before unplugging it or turning it off.

But, I would not take any chances (do not try to fix it using any utilities that write to it) to be on the safe side, and get a good sector by sector copy of it first.

Then, we can see if the file system is fixable on the copy (since the copy on a different drive won't have any sector problems or similar issues), or recover the images from the copy (either a disk image written to a file, or by cloning it to another drive) if the file system is unusable.

I can talk you through how to do that kind of thing using free utilities for that purpose. But, answer the above questions first and we'll figure out the best way to proceed from there.
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Old May 22, 2012, 7:29 PM   #3
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P.S.

Don't use those cards for anything else either, just in case we need them. In most cases, the images will still be on them (other than ones that you may have overwritten by the new ones you've taken), even if you've deleted them or formatted the cards (the file system just doesn't know where they are).

Personally, I prefer to use a very conservative approach to recovering images when a questionable drive is involved (never writing to the drive with a problem, and only working with a sector by sector copy of it). That way, you have a known starting point you can go back to, without any write activity that could further diminish your chances of recovery (since I've seen utilities like chkdsk really destroy chances of recovering images if a drive really is failing with physical problems continuing as you're trying to fix it).

Let me know more about what you've got to work with (size of that external drive, if you have another drive that's just as large that we can use, how much free space on internal drives), and we can figure out the best approach to getting your images back from there. Just because the file system on the drive won't mount, doesn't mean that it's not readable. ;-)

BTW, Welcome to Steve's as I see this is your first post here.
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Old May 22, 2012, 7:36 PM   #4
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Thanks for the reply Jim. I haven't done much with the drive yet. I've always been told that when files are deleted they're still on the drive until the space gets overwritten, so I know that I shouldn't do much.

The drive is a Western Digital "My Book" Essential, 2 TB, and my internals are Seagate 500 Gig (C and WD 2TB (D. The internal 2TB has about 400 Gigs available and the 500G has about 150 Gigs available.

The Western Digital external drive was connected to the USB port on the back of my computer and I didn't disconnect it often. If I did need to disconnect it I either waited for the computer to power off completely, or I'd eject it. I only used it to copy my SD Card data to, then I'd edit the files with Photoshop and save the finished products to my D: drive. I usually make sure I have the files on the USB Drive before I erase my SD Cards, which I did this time too, but...

I know a little about computers, but this is out of my league I think. I'll look into some utilities and see what I find and what I'm comfortable with. I'll post again when I find some and perhaps you can let me know which ones you recommend or whatever you can offer in the way of pointing me in the right direction.
Thanks so much for your help.
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Old May 22, 2012, 8:06 PM   #5
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That's not good (you don't have anything large enough we could make a copy of the drive to).

For a disk image copy of a 2TB drive, we'd need 2TB of free space, or for a disk to disk copy, we'd need another 2TB or larger drive. The size to get an exact sector by sector copy to work with using utilities designed to ignore the partitions, file systems and work around physical errors (so we know we're really getting an exact sector by sector copy to work with) would need to be the same size or larger compared to source drive, *not* the amount of space used on it.

Personally, if the images are very important, that's the way I'd approach it (start with a good sector by sector copy of it, writing to a drive that's just as large, or to a disk image file that would be the exact size as the source drive, since it would have all of it's sectors included). Then, we'd have a copy of it just as is now, before trying to fix the file system in any way using chkdsk or similar tools (which can cause loss of data if it has physical issues).

Tell me more about what led up to this problem and the exact symptoms you saw when you tried to use it after copying your images to it. Is it showing up as an icon under Computer (or My Computer) now and you just get errors when you try to click on it to mount it, or is it not showing up there at all? How about under Disk Management?

What Operating System are you using (Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, OS X, Linux, etc)?

We could try utilities designed to just read through the drive without regard to the file system and write the recovered images to the free space on your internal drives, depending on what symptoms you're seeing. But, a better approach would be to get a disk image copy of it first.
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Old May 22, 2012, 8:16 PM   #6
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+1 to what JimC said.

If you just have corrupted the table of contents then you can often times recover it using disk management utilities. I had this happen to an external of mine due to a faulty cable which kept cutting in and out while it was trying to finalize writes. I want to say I verified the volume was still there in disk management and then ran check disk against it and was able to get back to normal after that (windows 7)

I have also had good luck using PC Inspector to recover deleted files, as an alternate approach you might try this on the memory cards - it is free can be found on CNET downloads, just make sure to unclick any of the stupid search bars it will try to add to the install.
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Old May 22, 2012, 9:32 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CasonT View Post
I'll look into some utilities and see what I find and what I'm comfortable with. I'll post again when I find some and perhaps you can let me know which ones you recommend or whatever you can offer in the way of pointing me in the right direction.
Thanks so much for your help.
I'd suggest you skip that part (looking into some utilities).

My advise (take it or leave it), is to try and answer my questions versus wasting time trying to find utilities (as there are hundreds if not thousands of them around, and most do the same kinds of things, and many of them are junk).

I'm very familiar with the tools we'd need to use to try and recover your images (and they're all free). It's just a matter of the approach we want to take.

Some of the utilities around (like the PC Inspector programs mentioned) are some of the choices you'll find. PC Inspector File Recover is OK with an intact versus corrupted file system. For example, recovering deleted images from your memory cards. But, it's not very good as trying to recover images without regards to the file system on the media.

A companion product called PC Inspector Smart Recovery (versus File Recovery) is "OK" in that area, depending on what Operating System you have, but there are other tools that are more up to date and recognize more file types and have more options available for more advanced recovery techniques. I quit using those years ago, because they tend to have some issues with later Systems (Vista and Win 7). It depends on what OS you have, what problems you have, and what you are willing to accept for recovered files (with file attributes or not).

Different utilities work in different ways, depending on if they're using data carving techniques without regards to the file system or not.

For example, we could run Photorec against your external drive if it's recognized and write any image files it sees to folders on your internal drives, using options to make sure it works with the entire disk versus the partitions on it.

That's not a big deal. But, because it's ignoring the underlying file system, you're not going to retain the original filenames and attributes.

But, if the drive has physical errors, it's not going to work well.

Also, if the drive doesn't have any physical problems, then something as simple as running chkdsk /r may fix the problems where you can mount it and read your files just fine.

But, if it is failing, that can really mess one up. So, that's the kind of thing you don't want to do unless you know what you're dealing with (unless you want to upset those newlyweds and tell them you don't have photos of their wedding if the drive does have physical issues and you destroyed the chance of recovering them by using those types of solutions trying to "fix" it).

Here's the deal... we can simply read through the drive (if it's still visible as a device and doesn't have too many sector issues) using utilities like photorec (free and open source) that can find files on it and write them to folders on your internal drives for you. But, that approach won't preserve the original file attributes (names, dates, etc.)

So, a better approach is to fix the file system problems so that you retain the original file attributes, which may be as simple as running chkdsk /r on it.

But, for something as important as wedding photos, I would not risk doing that without a copy of it (and I use a utility named ddrescue for that purpose). That utility is specifically designed to make a sector by sector copy of failing media.

It can use a log file so that it can make multiple passes, keeping track of what it's copied OK so far. That lets you do things like let a drive cool off and run it again with the same log file (because if a drive is failing it is usually more readable when it's cool) without it trying to copy areas it already has OK (IOW, filling in the blanks with each additional pass). It's a Linux program and I can talk you through using it (what to download and burn to CD, what commands to type, etc.)

What works best will depend on what symptoms we see (for example, is trying to copy it resulting in sector read errors and timeouts, or did a copy work fine without those types of symptoms indicative of failing media).

Personally, I'd go with a more conservative approach for something as important as wedding photos, making a copy of the drive first. But, you'd need another 2TB drive in your case to copy it to.

Another approach would be to go ahead and use photorec (free) to read through your drive (if it's readable without too many sector read errors), writing the files to folders (and they would not have their original attributes, but at least you'd have the images). Of course, it might not be readable without using specialized utilities first.

Then, run something like chkdsk /r if you didn't see any signs of physical problems like sector read errors and timeouts to fix the file system problems, if photorec ran without those types of errors. Then, you could read the files on it just like you could before the problem started. But, if the disk does have physical problems, you could have a big mess (and then you'd need to fall back to using the images you recovered using photorec (if it could read through the drive with photorec at all), and/or get them from the original cards you used when shooting them

If we went with a copy approach first (my suggestion), if the drive did have physical sector errors when making a disk image copy using utilities designed for that purpose, we'd want to try and fix the file system on a copy versus the original drive (because the copy wouldn't have any physical sector problems and the utilities would only need to worry about fixing the file system problems).

There are a number of approaches, and the best one is a matter of what you consider to be appropriate risk management and what symptoms we see as we go through the recovery steps.

For something as important as wedding photos, there is *no way* I'd take any chances on any approach without making sure I had the best sector by sector copy of the original drive first.

Look... as the old saying goes, "this is not my first rodeo".

I'd be happy to take the time to talk you through this problem and try to save those wedding photos. But, please work with me versus searching for utilities that may do a lot more harm than good. ;-)

Again, please tell me more about what led up to this problem and the exact symptoms you saw when you tried to use it after copying your images to it.

Is it showing up as an icon under Computer (or My Computer) now and you just get errors when you try to click on it to mount it, or is it not showing up there at all? How about under Disk Management?

What Operating System are you using (Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, OS X, Linux, etc)?

Another issue... you don't currently have the resources we'd need to make a full disk image copy or clone of the drive using utilities designed for that purpose that can ignore the file system entirely (we do not want to use the file system for a drive with questionable integrity so we get every sector on it, just as it is now, using utilities that can work around any physical sector problems to make that copy).

So, are you in a big hurry to get these images from the drive? Are you wiling to procure a 2TB drive we can use to store a copy of it to?

But, first things first.. again, let me know more about what you saw when you tried to use it again after you had copied you images to it, if it's showing up under My Computer (or Disk Management if not), etc. If it's not showing up under Disk Management at all, then we're going to need to do some other things first to see if it's still detectable as a block device at all (by downloading the .iso file for a Linux distro and burning it to CD, then booting into it and using a couple of commands from a terminal program).

I can talk you through that if we need to go with that approach (and that's also the approach we'd want to use to make a sector by sector copy of it if you are willing to procure a drive and go that route, using a linux utility called gnu ddrescue). It's not hard (I can tell you exactly what to do and you can copy and paste the needed commands as we work through it). If it's not showing up as a block device, you probably have a defective circuit card in the external enclosure and we'd need to remove the drive from it and insert it into a different enclosure. That can be a good kind of problem versus a failing drive (as moving it to another enclosure is easy, and a USB enclosure with USB 3.0 support is cheap anymore).

IOW, I'm not sure what we're dealing with here yet. So, try to answer the questions as we go along and we can try to work through the steps needed to get those wedding photos back (which may be very simple, or more difficult, depending on what's wrong and what symptoms you're seeing).

Then, we can discuss the pros and cons of different approaches and their risks as we go along (as you'll need to decide if some of the risks to alternative approaches are acceptable or not if you don't want to procure a 2TB drive and make a copy of the one with problems first).

Again, it may be a very simple file system problem that something like running chkdsk /r can fix for you (but, I'd want to get the images from it before doing that, even if they don't have their original file names and attributes, just as a precaution). But, without knowing more about what your symptoms are, it's tough to make any suggestions on the best way to proceed, depending on the risk amount you're willing to accept.
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Old May 23, 2012, 5:18 AM   #8
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Quote:
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...
Some of the utilities around (like the PC Inspector programs mentioned) are some of the choices you'll find. PC Inspector File Recover is OK with an intact versus corrupted file system. For example, recovering deleted images from your memory cards. But, it's not very good as trying to recover images without regards to the file system on the media.
...
just to clarify I was only recommending PC Inspector for trying to recover the deleted images from the memory cards. As JimC points out if the file system is not recognizable on the external hard drive software like PC Inspector will not work. This was a suggestion as a right now thing to try.

As JimC says the big thing is getting the 2TB external back working.

As a tip going forward: always make two copies, three is even better but two is a minimum. An external hard drive should be used to make back up copies of content stored on a local hard drive, it is not a replacement for an internal hard drive. I have a copy of my photos on the local hard drive, one on an external, and one on my home NAS.
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Old May 23, 2012, 6:58 PM   #9
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Thanks for your help JimC and ramcewan. The problem with the drive is physical. It doesn't recognize or anything. The drive makes a terrible grinding sound, clicks 4 or 5 times and stops spinning. Not good.
Something has happened that no one wants to admit to. I think it got knocked off of my desk by my cleaning lady or something. I noticed a small stress crack on one corner of the chassis this morning when I could see it in good light. Needless to say I turned three shades of red. Also, the USB cable has a little bit of a bend... again red in the face.
I called Western Digital tech support and they suggested that I contact one of their authorized data recovery partners. I called Data Mechanix, since they're in Irvine/Orange County (where I am) and they told me they specialize in data recovery and would give me a free evaluation. I did a quick search online and they've got good reviews. I sent it out to them today.
As for the SD Cards, there were 2 with the wedding data, one only had a few photos, which I still have. The other was re-formatted and I took enough photos to cover almost 3/4 of the memory. GRRR. I did get some really good pics of the eclipse though... (trying to keep positive).
I haven't told my client about this problem yet. I should hear something from Data Mechanix by tomorrow evening they said so I'm not going to say anything 'til I know for sure what the deal is. I'll keep you informed.
Thanks again for your help. I'm beside myself. This has revealed a broken link in my "backup" system. I was confident that I had a fool-proof system, first saving to my USB (data in 2 places, card and USB drive) then copy to C: while editing THEN delete from SD cards. Well, even though I verified that the images were on the USB Drive, I shouldn't have deleted them from the SD Card 'til I'd copied them over to the C: Drive.
DOH! Live and learn. Unfortunately, this may be a very expensive lesson, either refunding the client and having my reputation crash with my data, or of course the cost of data recovery pending the evaluation from the DM guys.

Wish me luck...
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Old May 23, 2012, 7:36 PM   #10
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Grinding is not good. Hopefully, you didn't damage the platters too much spinning it up. Yes, a drive with a mechanical problem like that will require more advanced techniques to get anything from it. So, you're better off sending it to a recovery service of the data is important to you.

In the interim, I'd go ahead and get the photos that haven't been overwritten yet from the memory cards you were using. Even though you say you used 3/4 of the main card, you may still have some good captures on the space that wasn't overwritten yet (and formatting usually doesn't overwrite the space and only recreates a new File Allocation Table, because it's too time consuming to overwrite the entire card unless you specifically try to do a full format via menu choices that can overwrite an entire card with some operating systems).

Just follow the instructions in this thread for using photorec (free) to get your photos back (as it can ignore the underlying file system entirely) and let us know if you have an issues or don't understand something, and you may find that you still have some wedding photos on those cards that the bride and groom may cherish later.

Recovering Images or Video from Memory Cards
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