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Thread: Is it possible to recover data from this very messed up HDD?

  1. #1
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    Default Is it possible to recover data from this very messed up HDD?

    Hello. I was the winner of the Olivetti PCS 286 auction. You can ask me questions about it if you want, but I don't know a lot myself. The PCS 86 and PCS 286 were the first models in the PCS line, Olivetti's new lowest-end lineup of computers. They were released either in late 1989 or early 1990. Either way, they were definitely developed in 1989. They are really small computers, smaller than an IBM PS/2 30. It's definitely one of the smallest desktop chassis Olivetti ever built.
    The motherboard of the PCS 286 is bigger than you'd expect. The components are spaced very far apart from each others. I believe the power supply is Olivetti-made.

    This chassis has the rare distinction of having no HDD indicator. The previous owner thought this was quite annoying, so he added an LED to the front panel. Pretty cool, except unfortunately he soldered the LED to the hard drive. Isn't it weird that this guy was able to find an LED, but not a proper way to wire it?

    And speaking of the HDD, a Conner CP-3044, it's in really bad shape. When I first tried it wouldn't spin, all the motor did was hum. After a few power cycles it started to spin, then it would fail, and then try again.. When it reached proper speed it made an awful sound and shut off. I removed the cover and saw that there was some kind of goop inside and the rubber stops were disintegrating. I removed the goop and moved the actuator arm by hand which helped it initialize, but it still can't be read by DOS or Windows. The platter seems damaged and the heads are probably damaged too. Somehow I'm able to read some sectors with Norton Utilities Disk Editor. What I would need is a program that would read the drive and write its sectors to a file, and very importantly ignore the sectors that can't be read instead of trying to negotiate with the drive, which makes it panic. The drive does not seem to work with my modern computer. This could be for many reasons. Computer is too recent, cheap converter does not like it, or because the drive is damaged. So the best computer I have is an IBM PC 750. There's not much time left for this drive. If some data can be read, then surely it can be retrieved. All I would need is for Disk Editor to print the sectors into a file instead of on the screen, and press abort automatically instead of waiting for my input..

  2. #2
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    Norton disk editor can write sectors to a file. But you need some place to put the file(s), either a larger second hard drive or a network drive. You can specify a sector range, but if any sectors within that range are bad, the save process may fail.

    If the drive "panics" and shuts down while reading, that is going to throw a major monkey wrench in to any attempts to automatically save sectors.

    I'd also suspect that if one or more heads or platter sides is damaged, you would only be able to read so many sectors before encountering a bad group of sectors.

  3. #3

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    Were you using a USB to IDE adapter with your modern computer? Those don’t like really old IDE drives. If you’ve got a connector on the motherboard that might have a better chance of working. But I doubt that’s going to help if the drive won’t stay spinning.

  4. #4
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    I tried a Norton program called NU.EXE from Norton Utilities 4.5 and that's what it did. It was extremely slow if it even did anything at all, hard to tell because the program gives you no signs of progress, and eventually the drive just gave up. It's what I call "negotiating" because what else could it be doing when that happens. With Disk Editor if I press page down to read the next sector and it does not want to, I can just press abort and move on. I don't understand why these other programs try to "negotiate" with the drive instead of just moving on. I think IsoBuster is like that. When it hits a sector it cannot read it asks you what to do, and you can tell it to replace every bad sector it finds with zeroes. I used it in the past with optical discs, maybe it works with hard drives too but it isn't free and I'd need to find a newer computer. Maybe I just cannot do this right now, if no good DOS or old Windows program was ever made.

  5. #5
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    What you're looking for is essentially ddrescue for DOS. I wrote something that follows the same principles for floppy disks, but haven't given any thought to making a hard drive version (yet).

    Mike (Brutman? Chambers?) wrote, or started to write, something that did this, sending the data via TCP to a receiver program running on another system, to eliminate the need to hook up a second drive to store the image contents. I don't recall if that project (projects?) ever completed.
    Offering a bounty for:
    - A working Sanyo MBC-775, Olivetti M24, or Logabax 1600
    - Music Construction Set, IBM Music Feature edition (has red sticker on front stating IBM Music Feature)

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by 6885P5H View Post
    The drive does not seem to work with my modern computer. This could be for many reasons. Computer is too recent, cheap converter does not like it, or because the drive is damaged.
    I had this problem too, with a similar age Conner drive, from another Olivetti. My 15 year old PC did not like it. Even when using the internal IDE controller...

  7. #7
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    I managed to write about half of the sectors of the drive to a file with NU.EXE from Norton Utilities 4.5, the other half seems to be mostly unreadable. I thought that by writing these sectors to a flash drive I could run Recuva on it to recover files but unfortunately this does not work. For some reason even if I create a new, 100% healthy and valid file with Windows it does not show up in Recuva.

    I looked around in the file (the sectors dump) and saw that there remains file and directory listings, with valid sizes and modification dates, but they don't point to the correct data. Each entry appears to be 32-bytes long. I found that the file size is the last 4 bytes, and the 27th and 28th bytes appear to be the pointer, but I don't understand the format. I'm just a fan of old computers, I know nothing about how they actually work, so this stuff is beyond my understanding. I thought that if I found the data for a file listed (which I eventually did, GFLY.MUS), it would be possible to calculate the difference, and shift the pointers to the right place, and rescue files that way.. But no, it wouldn't work. It doesn't make sense when the data is this messed up and many files appear to be truncated, incomplete. Anyway if nothing can be done with it I'll still keep it around. What do you guys think about this?

  8. #8

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    Sounds thoroughly hosed.
    PM me if you're looking for 3½" or 5¼" floppy disks. EMail “ ” For everything else, Take Another Step

  9. #9
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    You might have been able to pull data off prior to powering it up if sent to a data recover company specializing in very old drives. Time to look for a replacement drive, IMHO.
    Crazy old guy with a basement full of Pentium 1 laptops and parts

  10. #10
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    The only sane way to try to perform data recovery of this is to read every single sector, from 0 until the end of the drive, into a file. Then, mount a copy of that file in either Linux and run fsck.vfat on it, or mount it in a VM running DOS so you can run norton disk doctor or chkdsk or something on it. I don't know how to translate a raw image to a VM hard disk image, so the former (linux) is going to be the easier bet. Once you've run some sort of fsck against it, you can then see if the files and directory metadata survived, and try to pull files off, but there's no guarantee the files will be valid; you'll have to spot-check them.

    If you didn't know what was on the drive before, and are not trying to recover something important off of it (the file you found was part of a PGA golf game demo, btw), then just declare the drive a loss and look into a replacement, such as a CF card, or an XT-IDE adapter.
    Offering a bounty for:
    - A working Sanyo MBC-775, Olivetti M24, or Logabax 1600
    - Music Construction Set, IBM Music Feature edition (has red sticker on front stating IBM Music Feature)

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