How to Recover Data from a Failing Hard Disk

One of the many things I dread is losing invaluable photos saved to USB drives. I have had it happen previously but I was lucky that some of the contents were saved to the cloud. This past weekend however, my 160GB USB drive started making a clicking sound and I knew that it was on its way out. I still had access to the contents but it was very slow to copy even a small JPG and AVI file locally. It was going to take days to complete the entire copy so I thought I would reboot the computer to improve performance. To my horror, the USB drive would no longer mount on restart. I tried different the USB drive on my laptop and other computers, with the same result.

I had a bootable utility CD that I use to repair damaged disks by running CHKDSK on them. I did this previously to another USB drive and ended up losing more data so I avoided this. This USB drive is really an IDE drive enclosed in a USB chassis so I took the drive out, changed the jumper to make it a slave, and connected it the IDE cable of another computer. I booted into the utility CD and loaded NTFSDOS Professional to see if it would mount the drive. It did. However, copying the contents also took the same amount of time and if it encountered a file on a bad sector of the drive, it would ABEND or BSOD. This won’t work.

I booted into the utility CD and ran the older Ghost 7 application. I did a partition-to-partition clone using the failing hard disk as the source and an equivalent IDE disk as the target. Before continuing, I made sure to check in the options, to continue with the clone even if it encounters errors along the way. During the process, the following errors would come up but it didn’t interrupt the clone:

“Bad block(s) encountered on read: 0x1, drive:129, 64 sectors starting from absolute sector 160857399”

The throughput was around 60MB/min, sometimes dropping drastically. This continued for 3 days before it finished. After it completed, I removed the drive and placed it back into the USB enclosure and I was again able to access all my invaluable photos and videos. I quickly made a backup of the entire drive up to the cloud.