Glendon Mellow, the Flying Trilobite himself, is having difficulties with his old laptop’s hard drive. Apparently the laptop died an ignominious death, and a good deal of information that was rather important to him is still locked away on it. To make matters worse, the hard drive was removed and attached to another computer, where Chkdsk failed and froze at about 40% done, which tends to happen if there’s serious hard drive corruption or physical media errors. So, while I’m about to post about some ideas I have to get data off it, it would be fantastic if you kind folks could also provide some tips and tricks. Bear in mind that the drive is obviously functioning or it wouldn’t get to 40% to begin with, and also that Chkdsk is most certainly not the be-all and end-all of computer salvage tools.
The first option we have, obviously, is to boot a computer from a live Linux CD, such as Ubuntu, then either run ntfsck to check the drive and hope for the best, or simply start copying the entirety of the hard drive off onto another blank hard drive of equal or greater size using the dd utility. Then whatever is copied, is recoverable and easily readable from Windows. Whatever gets skipped, assme it’s unrecoverable. If it copies the whole hard drive without error, but you can’t get the stuff off it, and chkdsk freezes at 40% on this new hard drive, then the problem is in the NTFS filesystem and not the physical drive. That’s a good and a bad thing — it means your old drive is still usable, but it also means that a surprisingly large amount of your files may end up scrambled (up to and including everything after that 40% mark).
I’ll post a bunch of links in the comments to commercial and non-commercial sites that may have useful Windows-based utilities once I’m done my posting-dump.