Gnoppix DataRescue

A student with a borked PC-formatted FireWire drive called – the drive had failed and all of his thesis work was on it — 8.5GB worth of video, ProTools audio projects, images, documents. We have a variety of Mac-based rescue tools, but didn’t have anything but Norton on-hand for PCs. Google turned up ProSoft DataRescue. 40MB download, burned to a CD, which booted… a custom version of Gnoppix(!). Went straight to its own interface, no Linux desktop. DataRescue’s philosophy is that trying to fix drives can cause more damage, so it only scans, builds databases, and offers recovery (but you gotta pay for the recovery part!). Three hours to scan, and it turned up about 95% of the lost data, which it then copied to another drive we plugged into the system. A thing of beauty.

The hardest part was creating a valid destination drive. We only have FireWire drives here, and DataRescue wanted one that was FAT-formatted, not NTFS. But… surprise! WinXP no longer knows how to format drives FAT or FAT32 — NTFS only. That meant we needed a PC with a FireWire port that wasn’t yet on WinXP. We turned up exactly one in the whole school, which saved the day and let us create a valid destination.

Boring yeah, but somehow you end up with this feeling like you’ve just pulled a body from the river, gotten it breathing again.

Music: Doof :: You Never Blow Your Trip Forever

15 Replies to “Gnoppix DataRescue”

  1. wow, that sounded exciting, actually. i don’t have a clue what half the words you used meant, but the fact that you saved the guy’s thesis work was…very awesome.

  2. I hope Mr. Student learned some valuable lessons about backing up in from his near-disaster.

  3. i can remember when i was in final year doing thesis work from home and my hard drive went belly up. 10 or so minutes prior I had ftp’d everything to a friend’s server over at the uni. I bought a cd writer the very next day!

    actually, re xp, you could have formatted to fat or fat32 or whatever – just use the command line tools… they do most everything the gui hides from you :) (i find myself constantly writing little command line scripts to do what the gui can’t – like, and here’s a pretty important problem, you can’t tell ntbackup to eject a tape when done… but you can kinda script it to eject via the command line!)

  4. There are two types of people who don’t back up their data:

    1. People who have lost computer data.
    2. People who will lose computer data.

    I have had one hard disk die so totally on me that even Drive Savers couldn’t rescue the data. I had a very old backup, which ultimately kept me from being suicidal; I only lost one file that was irreplaceable.

    Unfortunately, that was my Quicken data file. A year’s worth of transactions that I would have to re-enter by hand. I kept my old statements and stuff for three years, telling myself I would eventually do it. Finally gave up. Have not used Quicken since that day.

    Back up your data!

  5. I can’t tell from your story, did the student shell out the $250 for ProSoft DataRescue or were you able to avoid that?

  6. Les, we went ahead and bought the unlimited usage license for it. So it wasn’t really a purchase for this student, but for whatever future need we may have for it. Considering that just one usage saves you about 75% over what Drive Savers would charge, it’ll pay for itself many times over, with time.

    As one of my Unix instructors put it, “The failure rate of hard drives is 100%… if you give them long enough.”

  7. Kristan – can you summarize the CLI tools for formatting a FAT32 partition from XP? (Yes, I could google for it, but just thought you might have it on the tip of your nose).

  8. I have it on the tip of my CMD.exe. :) You can run FORMAT /? for the full list of options.

    FORMAT volume /FS:FAT32 [/A:clustersize]

  9. Scot,

    It may or may not be, depending on what you have lying around. A lot of Linux LiveCDs have mkdosfs included, and you could definitely install it on the Fedora Core machine in your office to avoid having to traipse around campus.

    And why use Windows unless you *have* to? ;)

  10. I have never pulled someone out of a river or saved them, yet somehow I suspect you still feel goodness. Its great to help those in life that won’t help themselves.

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