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- laptop hard drive problem
October 10, 2010, 3:07 pm
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System: Sony Vaio notebook VGN-NS150J
OS: Vista Home Premium
Problem: Laptop belongs to my daughter in law. Hard drive seems to be
dead. I was trying to get the data files off onto an external drive. I
booted with Linux (Knoppix). It sees the working partition and the
restore partition, but no files can be seen on the C:\ drive. It was
suggested by Knoppix to run chkdsk /f.
But I don't have a Vista CD. When I tried to boot with a Win XP CD, it
gets to the file copy part, then I get BSOD.
I've ordered the CD from Sony, but I'm wondering if the BSOD is
because of the wrong operating system, or if I'll have the same
problem with the repair cd when it arrives.
Any thoughts greatly appreciated.
Re: laptop hard drive problem
Then the drive isn't dead, if Knoppix sees the C:\ drive.
That is a good sign.
That means the MBR is still valid. You can examine the MBR
in effect, by doing something like
sudo fdisk /dev/hda
sudo fdisk /dev/sda
depending on where the hard drive shows up. You can use
to list the detected devices, and see if you have hda or sda
showing. (The sudo above, is assumed necessary, to allow
you to run as pseudo-root account.)
The fdisk command in Linux, isn't quite the same thing as in
another OS. It supports commands to do things to the primary
partition table. In your case, the most useful command might
be "p" to print the current partition table. And that would
show you the details of the current partitioning scheme. You
might see two or three partitions, if, for example, the computer
has a recovery partition used to return the computer to factory
In any case, you wouldn't use the "w" or write option, unless you
knew what you were doing. Press "q" to quit.
Other interesting utilities, might be to try something like
the "disktype" utility. If you open Synaptic Package Manager in
Knoppix, you can get a list of uninstalled utilities. First,
refresh the list, so it is up to date (might take a 30 second to
60 second download). Then, type "disktype" in the search box, and
mark it for installation. Once it is downloaded and installed
(it's a tiny package", you'll now have the disktype command
at your disposal. You can even run "disktype" against the
CD in the drive, and it'll list the file systems used in
the making of the CD.
If you do
sudo disktype /dev/hda1 (or sda1 as the case may be)
the disktype should look at the block device first partition
/dev/hda1 and try and determine the partition type, by reading
the first megabyte or two of the partition. It should then report
that it sees "NTFS" say. That would tell you the front part
of the file system is present.
Or, alternately, Knoppix will have a copy of "testdisk" already
installed. Testdisk can scan the entire drive, looking for
partitions, determining their type and so on. It may even give
you access to the data, like perhaps the ability to list some
In your case right now, there probably isn't a reason to be
making changes to the disk. Testdisk is good if you need to
rebuild the partition table, but is dangerous to your data
if you haven't made a sector by sector backup of the disk.
To back up the disk, you could connect a larger USB hard
drive externally to the laptop, then do
dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/sdb
where /dev/sdb assumes the USB hard drive shows up in SCSI
space. What that command is attempting to do, is copy all
the sectors. Using the command in a naive manner like that,
assumes there aren't any CRC errors on the disk and that
the disk is perfectly readable. The "Damaged_Hard_Disk" web
page above, gives some hints on a damage-tolerant transfer
method, that will get most of the data, without taking
an eternity to run. If the disk has errors, the regular
"dd" might take hours to run. On a good day, using the syntax
above, without added block size or count parameters, that
command typically achieves 13MB/sec transfer rate. Using
that figure, you can estimate the transfer time, and then
assume trouble if it runs over the suggested time. If
you give a block size and count parameter to the command,
it can run up to three times faster.
If you want to run chkdsk, there are a couple command prompt
CDs available. You're required to use bittorrent to get them.
If you can only afford to download one of them, I'd get the
Windows 7 one. Using Synaptic Package Manager in Knoppix,
you can likely find a torrent client, and do the transfer
that way. Or preferably, do it on some other machine that
has a working burner ready to go. You'll need a burner
software that can handle an ISO9660 file, such as K3B on
your Knoppix CD, or Nero or Imgburn on your Windows system.
The ISO9660 file must be parsed, and turned into a bootable
CD, rather than just burning the file directly to the CD.
Not all burner programs know how to do that.
How those work, for a person working on a WinXP machine, is
they "search" the hard drive, for their own version of OS,
and they'll find none. So the box displaying OSes to "log
into" will be blank. But, why you're there, is to be able
to run the command prompt.
System Recovery Options
Windows Complete PC Restore
Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool
Command Prompt <----
You can run "chkdsk" from there. The Windows 7 version should
support all the normal options, plus be able to do an additional
option, which is to examine marked bad_clusters to see if they're
still bad. Use whatever command you think is prudent on the C:
partition. If C: is not visible as such, the "mountvol" command
on a working system, can give an alternate path specification
to get to C: , so you can run chkdsk on it. So if the drive
letter were to be lost, you can still use chkdsk. But in your
current condition, I don't see a reason for mountvol to
provide the necessary info.
Look for the word "mountvol" on this page. And below, I've shown
examples of a labeled and unlabeled partition. But I doubt
mountvol will give you the info, so if you can't access it
as a drive letter, you might not be able to get there by
the alternate means. I'm showing the alternative, for
the same of completeness. The alternate path specification
might have worked, if you were working on a second, data-only
In any case, there are plenty of experiments to try. The
reason I'm so optimistic, is because you're telling me
Knoppix is reading the MBR and knows of potential partitions.
How recoverable they are, is all a matter of how long
you can keep the drive running before it dies completely.
You could also slave the drive to a desktop PC, using a
2.5" USB drive enclosure, run chkdsk there, do your
backup image there, and so on. Because of some
bad experiences I've had, I always do the backup step
first, so I'm free to use whatever commands I want
after that. If the backup attempt won't work, then
chances are recovery is a waste of time anyway, as
a sector by sector backup is about the simplest thing
you can do. If you're encountering CRC errors, then
the recovery job could be messy.
Since you've run the WinXP installer, that could have
done further damage, so maybe you're not interested
in recovery any more ?
Re: laptop hard drive problem
I actually didn't get that far. I tried to boot with the Win XP CD,
but as soon as it started copying the files, I got the BSOD. Recovery
of the data on the hard drive is actually my primary goal, not
My thought was to get into the repair console and do xcopy for
everything on the boot partition to an external hard drive.
But I thought the BSOD might be because I was trying to boot a Vista
system with Win XP. I'm glad you state that since Knoppix can see the
HD, it may be recoverable. It can't mount it, however. It can mount
the recovery partition, but I can't seem to do much with that from
Paul, thanks so much for the elaborate instructions and links. I've
copied your reply and will try to work on some of those Knoppix
commands over the weekend.
Many thanks again.
(Sorry for delay in reply, my "own" computer was down! Bad week.)
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