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DarknessWithin's avatar

Is This a Lost Cause?

Asked by DarknessWithin (814points) 2 months ago

I apologize, there’s a bit of a long story to tell here.

Since around 2005 when I had an HP desktop that crashed and I came dangerously close to losing all my stuff on it, I’d maintain all my computer data on a flash drive because portable storage seemed like the safest thing at the time.

It was sufficient up until a few years ago when the last flash drive I was using suddenly corrupted and most of the files couldn’t be opened, copied, moved or even deleted and I was only able to recover a small fraction after my stepdad fiddled with it.

Well, being something of a romanticizer, I could never bring myself to throw the thing out. I tried once but ended up fishing it back out of the trash. I still long for some of the files I could not recover.

Over time, however, it’s gotten worse. My Acer now barely reads it, my Macbook doesn’t at all.
On the Acer, the drive is recognized but is shown as empty and requests to format which I never allow because it informed me that it would have to erase the entire drive to do so.

The other day I decided to once again attempt to fiddle with it and discovered file recovery software.
I tried one called Data Recovery Wizard which I’d seen used in a Youtube video and it confirmed for me that at least a fraction of the data is still there.
It found up to 140+ files after three or so scans. What I care most about recovering are my word documents/fanfics of which it found just three.
They, however, are mince meat, nothing but pages of blocks of symbols.
I also tried to open a PSD it found but Adobe Photoshop called it “not a valid photoshop file”.

I decided to try a different software to see if it would get me different results and chose one called Recuva. Well, it wouldn’t even read the drive at first and then said it couldn’t perform the scan because it’s: “Unable to determine file system type”.

I’m not sure what that means but is this confirmation of what I’ve always known in the back of my mind, that I’m trying to milk a dead—hell decomposed cow? Is this a lost cause?

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6 Answers

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Pretty much, there is one more thing left to try that I know of short of sending it off to a specialist: try opening it with linux, I have had luck this way before and cannot offer a logical explanation why.
Thumb drives get smaller because memory locations in them actually die. The drives page table keeps track of this. If memory locations die in page table or you pull the drive out improperly then it can get corrupted and this is the usual result. Your data is mostly or all there but your computer has no “map” to look it up. You can sometimes reformat the whole drive and make it usable again but they’re so cheap I would not risk it.

DarknessWithin's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me
Alright, can you please take me step by step through how to use Linux?

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Oh, man. I’ve had to go through this. I had a stack of crashed laptops dating back to 1998. I couldn’t let go of them. My life was inside those damn things. Finally, when terrabyte external drives became affordable, I began backing up regularly. LOL. When I bought my first one, I thought with that much storage, I’ll never need to buy another piece of storage equipment ever again. I filled it in about six months. I now have a stack of them sitting on my desk with about 250 gigs to spare. LOL.

Anyway, what you’re talking about is cyber forensics and data storage retrieval. If you live in a small city or larger, there are likely a few data retrieval people in your area. There are data retrieval services, but I prefer to deal with retired professionals, individuals. They are cheaper and much more concerned about their reps and return customers.

Many of the ones I talked to were retired forensic specialists from one police agency or another now doing contract work out of their homes. They have the professional level software and equipment to retrieve data that people have tried to destroy in order for said data to be used as evidence against them in very serious crimes such as fraud and trading in child pornography. If they can’t get your data back, nobody can.

So, that’s who you need to retrieve your data. You find them online and either deliver your harddrive to them yourself, or send it via UPS, etc. If you aren’t confident that you can safely remove the harddrive, send them your complete laptop. My forensics person is a really nice old lady who retired from the FBI about a couple of years ago and she did each of my harddrives for $45. She wasn’t able to get everything, but she got a lot more than I could with my mensch software.

Software degrades over time. Sometimes my laptop won’t open a certain image or text file, usually really old ones. I have recovered some of them by simply clicking Rename, then replacing the file designation to something common, like .jpg or .docx, then Save, Open, and they open right up. Then, just to make sure, I’ll save a fresh copy, or in the case of a text file, I’ll copy and paste the text into a new doc, Save, Close, Open, inspect it, then delete the old one.

Then, go out and get a large capacity external harddrive. You can get a two terabyte Toshiba for about 90 bucks at Walmart if you wait for a sale—and they have sales all the time. Then use it to back up regularly.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Go to ubuntu.com you’ll find step by step instructions for making a live disk or a bootable thumb drive

DarknessWithin's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus

Wow. A cyber forensics specialist huh? I don’t know if there are any around here. I’ll keep that in mind.

A stack of terabyte drives, ha ha, that takes me back to my teens. I had a stack of floppies. That’s right floppies. I’m getting old. Never had corruption problems with those.

I now use a 1TB external drive as well to keep my Macbook backed up. I presume they last longer/better than USBs?

@ARE_you_kidding_me
Thanx, I’ll take a look at that.

CA0180's avatar

This has happened to me so many times! Really inspires me to print photos & documents.

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