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Down the ‘recover dead hard drive’ rabbit hole

So I’ve had a friend’s computer for what must be 4 weeks now. Fortunately, he has other computers on which he can do his work. His hard drive failed badly. I said I could work on it in the evenings and weekends. We bought a 1.5TB hard drive and I proceeded to fight to get the data from the old drive to the new. I succeed in recovering most if not all the data by installing Ubuntu 11.04 on the new drive, installing Gnu’s ddrescue, using GParted to resize Ubuntu and create a partition to hold Windows Vista, the used ddrescue to recover the dying drive to the new partition. Data saved!

Unfortunately, GRUB2 detects both operating systems but fails to boot to Vista, ergo, a crazy path of chkdsk and recovery console nonsense that eventually led to GRUB2 not even coming up. So, after 4 weeks or so, I decided this post will chronicle the recovery moving forward.

Sunday, 1:10pm: Grub fails to load. The last repair of Ubuntu says it couldn’t load a boot manager and one will have to be installed manually. fdisk claims "partition[s] do not end on cylinder boundary” but supposedly this doesn’t matter. GParted has been used to resize Ubuntu partition to end on cylinder boundary but Vista partition could not be resized at this time. GParted reports 3 bad sectors on the Vista partition. Running chkdsk again but it looks like I may have to blow away the partition and start again. Fortunately I have a backup on a good drive.

Update Saturday, August 27: My friend has grown irritated at the length of time this has taken. I have grown frustrated at the near pointless hours upon hours put into this machine. However, I have had several near successes. I feel like we are right at the finish line and giving up. I have reformatted the 1500GB hard drive and reinstalled Ubuntu 11.04. I’ve checked the firmware on the hard drive to confirm it is the latest. I’ve checked the motherboard bios to confirm it is the latest. I’m now using GParted to resize Ubuntu so that I can do the final copy of the Windows data so that even if I cannot get the machine to boot to windows, my friend will be able to read his data.

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