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Corrupt Boot Sectors & MBR repair


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#1
maersk

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I hope you can help me with a perplexing issue,
My problem computer is an IBM Thinkpad with winXP pro (it has a "recovery partition" formatted as FAT32) main partition is NTFS.

Attempting to boot the computer normally returns a black screen with the text: "error loading operating system"
I have tried to use the Windows Recovery console but it is of no use, it gives me the message: "Setup did not find any hard disk drives installed on your computer"

on to TESTDISK....the Analysis lists the first partition [NTFS] twice which which according to the testdisk wiki "points to a corrupted partition or an invalid partition table entry"
It also lists a second partition [FAT32] (the factory installed IBM recovery partition)

proceeding to the next step with TestDisk "Quick Search" it only Lists the IBM service recovery partition - no more mention of the main NTFS partition. "deeper search" produces the same result... I can only see the 5gb recovery partition. What can I do?
My best guess here is that the MBR is messed up and i probably have corrupted boot sectors, does that sound about right? incorrect partition table geometry??

any advice? I desperately would like to recover the data on my main NTFS partition, I'm convinced the data is still there...

Please let me know if you need any more information/screenshots...

Thanks in Advance!
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#2
The Skeptic

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To backup your data try to use Linux to keep away from Windows environement. Please do the following:

Download Puppy Linux from my list of links below. Download "puppy 2.16.1 seamonkey fulldrivers.ISO". Burn the ISO file to create a bootable CD. For this purpose you can download BurnCDCC from the links below. It's a very simple tool, used exclusively to burn ISO files.

Insert the disk into the CD/DVD drive and boot the computer. Use the default setting except for choosing screen resolution of 600x800 when given the option to do so. After the program is loaded click the icon that looks like flash disk. This will open the file system and will enable browsing your folders. Find the folders that you want to backup, copy and paste them to another storage device.

If the computer doesn't boot, please set boot order in the BIOS so that the CD drive is first priority boot device.

If you succeeded in backing up the data then use the recovery partition to format and start afresh.
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#3
maersk

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To backup your data try to use Linux to keep away from Windows environement. Please do the following:

Download Puppy Linux from my list of links below. Download "puppy 2.16.1 seamonkey fulldrivers.ISO". Burn the ISO file to create a bootable CD. For this purpose you can download BurnCDCC from the links below. It's a very simple tool, used exclusively to burn ISO files.

Insert the disk into the CD/DVD drive and boot the computer. Use the default setting except for choosing screen resolution of 600x800 when given the option to do so. After the program is loaded click the icon that looks like flash disk. This will open the file system and will enable browsing your folders. Find the folders that you want to backup, copy and paste them to another storage device.

If the computer doesn't boot, please set boot order in the BIOS so that the CD drive is first priority boot device.

If you succeeded in backing up the data then use the recovery partition to format and start afresh.



Thanks for your reply - I am burning the ISO now. How will Puppy Linux just auto-magically allow me to view the contents of this up until now un-viewable partition? Nothing else I have tried has been able to "see" the filesystem - I will report back soon - Hopefully it will work!
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#4
maersk

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To backup your data try to use Linux to keep away from Windows environement. Please do the following:

Download Puppy Linux from my list of links below. Download "puppy 2.16.1 seamonkey fulldrivers.ISO". Burn the ISO file to create a bootable CD. For this purpose you can download BurnCDCC from the links below. It's a very simple tool, used exclusively to burn ISO files.

Insert the disk into the CD/DVD drive and boot the computer. Use the default setting except for choosing screen resolution of 600x800 when given the option to do so. After the program is loaded click the icon that looks like flash disk. This will open the file system and will enable browsing your folders. Find the folders that you want to backup, copy and paste them to another storage device.

If the computer doesn't boot, please set boot order in the BIOS so that the CD drive is first priority boot device.

If you succeeded in backing up the data then use the recovery partition to format and start afresh.


The computer booted Puppy fine but I was unable to view the file system on the main NTFS partition - the specific error was this:

dialogue box with the title: "Puppy drive mounter: ERROR"
content of dialogue box: " FAILURE! In the case of removable media, the most common reason is the media is not currently inserted. Or, you forgot to unmount the previously inserted media. If so, please remedy."

It does successfully view the contents of the 5GB IBM "service partition" (the same way every other method or app i have tried has been able to).

*note* it Does correctly identify the main partitions Size and file system (NTFS)...

what next?
Thanks for your help!
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#5
hawklord

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i don't want to confuse things but maybe trying another linux distro may help,

SystemRescueCd

this has full ntfs support, gparted (a partition manager), partimage (a partition imager) and testdisk

testdisk
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#6
The Skeptic

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When windows cannot be used, not even to run recovery console,I go to Linux. Many times it's helpful, apparently not in this case. I don't think that another version will be more helpful. I think that your best option is to use one of those file recovery programs (some of which are free) or to buy one of these programs that can repair broken partitions (I don't know of any such free tool).
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#7
hawklord

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one reason why i suggested systemrescuecd

it has testdisk

TestDisk is a powerful free data recovery software! It was primarily designed to help recover lost partitions and/or make non-booting disks bootable again when these symptoms are caused by faulty software, certain types of viruses or human error (such as accidentally deleting a Partition Table). Partition table recovery using TestDisk is really easy.


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#8
The Skeptic

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I agree with what you say, hawklowd, but two notes: first, testdisk is not simple to use (in my opinion). Second, when it comes to MBRs and partitions I do everything possible (almost) to save the data first. I had some rough experiences in the past. That depends on how important the data is. If the OP is desperate to recover it, as stated in his first post, then I assume it's very important and would try other options first.
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#9
maersk

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I agree with what you say, hawklowd, but two notes: first, testdisk is not simple to use (in my opinion). Second, when it comes to MBRs and partitions I do everything possible (almost) to save the data first. I had some rough experiences in the past. That depends on how important the data is. If the OP is desperate to recover it, as stated in his first post, then I assume it's very important and would try other options first.


Skeptic - you are correct, I have tried other linux distros (gparted included) and always end with the same result: They correctly identify the existence (and size) of both the main (NTFS) partition and the thinkpads FAT32 "recovery partition" but the main partitions file structure can never be viewed. I have tried a quite a few file recovery applications (GetDataBack, Zero Assumption Recovery, DIY Datarecovery's DiskPatch, R-Studio, EasyRecovery Professional, Easeus Data Recovery Pro, Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery...)

Basically, the partition I would like to get my data back from is identified as RAW or unformatted when viewed/mounted through a GUI. I have a good feeling that what is preventing me from viewing the file structure (and recovering my files) is a corrupted boot sector and possibly also a hosed MBR in addition.

That's my theory after well over 100 hours of research. I do believe the data is there and can be retrieved!

This is definitely one for the adults in the room... any suggestions?

TestDisk seems like it could do the job in the hands of a grizzled pro, but as Skeptic said - it's not the easiest (or safest) thing to just monkey around with. I dont want to make matters worse.

I believe if I could somehow restore the default, factory partition table geometry (or at least get the numbers) we could be on the road to somewhere...

thanks for all your help and suggestions
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#10
hawklord

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a way of fixing corrupt boot and mbr is the commands of fixboot and fixmbr from the recovery console - but this may not be applicable as your whole file system seems to have gone
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#11
maersk

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a way of fixing corrupt boot and mbr is the commands of fixboot and fixmbr from the recovery console - but this may not be applicable as your whole file system seems to have gone


i believe it *might* do more damage than good, in any case the recovery console is inaccessible (see my original post for the error message)....

***EDIT*** - I was able to access Recovery Console after changing the SATA controller from AHCI to Compatibility Mode. But it still only gave me one option for which "windows installation to log into, it was "D:\miniNT" (i.e. the recovery partition...)

Edited by maersk, 12 May 2009 - 03:52 PM.

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#12
The Skeptic

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If you tried to run data recovery programs unsuccessfuly then I see two options left:

1: If the data is very important then you may use the services of data recovery specialists. This can cost good money, depending on disk condition and volume, but you may ask for a price quotation first.

2: If you can start the recovery console then try to run FIXMBR and FIXBOOT. Even if it fails the situation will not be worse then it is now.
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#13
admin

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FIXMBR is probably worth a shot, but my money is on hardware failure (harddisk). :)
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#14
maersk

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FIXMBR is probably worth a shot, but my money is on hardware failure (harddisk). :)


I don't believe it's a hardware failure - I have run a number of hard disk tests and all of them come back reporting good health of the actual hardware. There are also no telltale signs of hardware problems (no odd noises, no clicking...) I have been able to successfully clone the disk with no trouble (twice actually).

In regards to FIXMBR... due to the fact that Recovery Console is only reporting the existence of the 5gb IBM Recovery Partition and not the main partition, would running FIXMBR simply rewrite the MBR for only that partition? and if so, of what use would that be?

**EDIT** I have just run FIXBOOT then FIXMBR - here are the results:
In Recovery Console I only had one option for which "windows installation to log into", it was "D:\minint" (i.e. the IBM recovery partition...)

I selected my only option (D:\minint) and was presented with a prompt.

at the prompt D"\minint> i typed "fixboot"
i was presented with this message: "The target partition is C:. Are you sure you want to write a new bootsector to the partition C:?
i then typed "y" for yes and was presented with this:

"the file system on the startup partition is unknown."
"FIXBOOT is attempting to detect the file system type."
"The bootsector is corrupt."
"FIXBOOT is checking the file system type..."
"The partition is using the FAT file system"
"FIXBOOT is writing a new boot sector."

"The new bootsector was successfully written."
D:\minint.

I then typed "fixmbr" and was simply returned to the prompt.

The only thing i believe happened was that a new bootsector (and possibly MBR) was written to the Recovery Partition and not to C:/

Edited by maersk, 13 May 2009 - 07:11 AM.

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#15
The Skeptic

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It's possible that the hard disk has failed, as suggested by Admin but my feeling is that if formatted it will work well. Could you run the commands again, this time moving to C: before? If that doesn't work then I am afraid you need to approach a data recovery specialist or format the disk and lose your data.
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