Recovering from a Windows XP Disk Crash

Yesterday, I had an unfortunate incidence of a disk crash on my Windows XP Pro. The symptom was very weird. Normally a disk crash is preceded by some disk errors and system sluggishness. In my case, the system just froze and refused to reboot afterward. Later I found out that Windows XP just couldn’t find the kernel, probably some bad sectors on the disk where the system files reside or the systems files were corrupted for some reasons. Upon reboot, I noticed that some times the disks didn’t get recognized. I tried to repair the drive using the Windows CD. It didn’t help. Something hideous was going on in my Sun Ultra 20 system and I didn’t know exactly what.

Fortunately, I had a couple of disk back ups (backed up by g4u), which I had backed up verbatim (sector by sector) in August of last year. And II am glad I had two – more on that later.

Well, the question is how I can get all my data for the last 9 months. A couple of ways to retrieve my data files. 1) Restore my files using my regular back up on Mozy server, or 2) Trying to copy the files from the bad disk (perhaps still readable in some areas of the disk). I first tried the Mozy method, but the data transfer took a long time, and I still didn’t get all the files I was looking for. I didn’t know that you need to submit a request to have the Mozy prepare the data files for restore. Also, I think the Mozy client may be outdated. I downloaded a new one. Meanwhile, while trying to restore the files, I damaged one of my verbatim backup disk. I didn’t know why, for some reason, the disk refused to boot Windows, similar to the original disk. Now I began to suspect something is wrong with the SATA port bridge chip (normally called the South Bridge) or I happened to have two consecutive bad disks. That’s very unusual. I decided to switch the boot disk to connect to SATA port 3 instead of SATA port 1. My suspicion was that SATA port 1 may be bad; I tried to avoid using this port.

To make the long story short. Here are the lessons learned:

1. Back up the entire system boot disk once a month. (This effort normally takes 2 hrs or so @ ~40MB/s if I use the the internal SATA ports. It could be days if I had to use USB ports.) Don’t be lazy. My task would have been an easy one if I had done this once a month. Now I need to figure out how to install/uninstall all of the software I installed for the last 9 months.

2. Don’t assume hard drive is the only thing that can go bad. The SATA port or some other chips on the board may. Protecting/backing up the data is a discipline that’s worth the time and efforts. Create a log and use calendar reminder to keep track of and remind yourself of this task.

3. Keep the majority of the data online or on-server with professional backup so the amount of the data doesn’t get too overwhelming, especially with the huge audio/video data size lately.