Category Archives: Hard Drive Problems

Crashed Hard Drive? Progressive Data Recovery Steps

This guest post is contributed by Grady Winston. Grady is an avid writer and Internet entrepreneur from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising – implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.

imageTake a deep breath, your computer crashing isn’t the end.

When a computer freezes up, or worse yet crashes, it can send even the most seasoned computer user into a hair-pulling maniacal panic. For many beginner or inexperienced users, a crashed hard drive often means the loss of gigabytes upon gigabytes of music, pictures, movies, videos, documents, and just about any other type of important digital file imaginable.

While the temptation to throw your laptop across the room in frustration is understandable, it may be a tad melodramatic. Why? Because you’d be surprised just how easy it is to recover seemingly lost data yourself. Refrain from catapulting your computer across the room, take a nice deep breath, and let’s take a deeper look into the world of hard drive data recovery.

Recovering Hard Drive Data in Four Steps

1. Purchase a New Hard Drive – Just like when you total your car, when a hard drive crashes, it’s pretty much deemed useless in that it can’t be used again. But, just like you can usually still fish out your CD collection and glove box contents, you can recover the useful parts or data from the drive.

The first step in the “recovery” process requires understanding that you need a new hard drive. Take another deep breath, head to a local computer or electronics store, and pick up a compatible hard drive.

2. Configure a Master and a Slave Drive – Before you even think about recovering your crashed hard drive’s data you must configure both drives for data recovery. This involves installing your new hard drive as the primary (or “master”) hard drive, and the crashed hard drive as the secondary (or “slave”) drive. In a nutshell, setting up your new drive as the master drive tells your computer’s operating system to recognize it as the primary system drive. Keep in mind that this process can vary widely from OS to OS.

3. Recover Your Data – Now that you have correctly configured each hard drive you can recover data from the old drive. Since the crashed drive is the secondary drive, this is pretty much a drag and drop situation. Simply locate the files you want to recover and drag them over to the new hard drive and place them in the appropriate folder.

There are certain files that you may not be able to locate easily. Take Microsoft Outlook tools for example. If you’re looking to recover lots of email conversations you’ll probably need to use an Outlook recovery and repair tool. There are plenty of affordable tools that scan your Outlook files and recover lost or hidden files for you.

4. Hire a Data Recovery Specialist – Finally, if your data recovery efforts leave a lot to be desired, it may be time to call in the big guns. While hiring a data recovery specialist isn’t the cheapest solutions, it may be the fastest way to recover lost data.

Conclusion: A Final Word of Caution

Every time you try to recover data from a crashed hard drive, you run the risk of losing some data completely and forever. This isn’t a great feeling, but it happens to the best of us. This is where safe email and web surfing practices will go a long way to protect your data from being corrupted.

Protecting your data may also mean backing it up. Fortunately, affordable online backup and recovery tools are just a click away. The bottom line is that hard drives are fickle, mechanical devices that can go bad without a moment’s notice. Keep a tight grasp on your data and you can avoid data recovery nightmares like this one.

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Filed under Guest Writers, Hard Drive Problems

Don’t Wait Until Your Hard Drive Goes “Clunk-Clunk” – Check It Out Now With These Two Free Tools

Hard Drive DiagAll modern Hard Drives are equipped with a feature known as S.M.A.R.T. technology that provides real-time hard Drive analysis, including the ability to report on developing problems and potential issues.

The big question is: can you read the warnings S.M.A.R.T. technology provides? If you understand what – Reallocated sector count – Value 200, Threshold 140, Raw Value 0, means – you’ll have no need for either of the following free tools. But, if all that’s gobbledygook to you – you’ll find these tools a great addition to your utilities toolbox.

Your Hard Drive is the workhorse of your computer, and either on of these free tools can make it easier than ever, to diagnose what’s really happening inside it’s complex environment.

DiskCheckup:

PassMark Software, whose applications including BurnInTest 6.0 and PerformanceTest 7.0 , we’ve recommended here previously, offers a well laid out, free hard drive application, that’s worth considering.

DiskCheckup, utilizing S.M.A.R.T technology, will allow you to monitor the SMART attributes of your hard drive. Best of all, if the application detects a potential problem, you’ll get advanced warning through either a standard “warning window”, or (now this is cool), an email message.

Bonus: DiskCheckup can track changes to S.M.A.R.T attributes over time, and make a extrapolated ‘prediction’ as to the failure date of the HDD.

Setup, and application configuration are novice user simple, and the GUI presents an uncomplicated environment.

Everything you might want to know about your HDD – including drive geometry, serial number, model number, media rotation rate, and a broad list of supported features. Click on graphic to expand.

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The configuration window offers very few, but nevertheless, important choices.

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DiskCheckup provides a wealth of information on S.M.A.R.T attributes. Click on graphic to expand.

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If you’re not familiar with interpreting the data  generated by the application – you can relax.  The application includes a well laid out help file.

System requirements: Windows XP, 2003 Server, 2008 Server, Vista and Windows 7.

Download at: PassMark Software

DiskCheckup is free for personal use. Company licenses can be purchased for $15 USD per license.

HD Tune:

HD Tune is no slouch when it comes to analyzing S.M.A.R.T. information from your Hard Drive. The gathered information, which includes data on the Hard Drive’s attributes as well as the Hard Drive’s health, is presented in an easy to understand format.

HD Tune’s additional functionality includes the ability to scan for errors, and a Benchmarking utility which you can use to give your Hard Drive a workout, and then analyze the results.

Drive information screen. Click on graphic to expand.

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The HD Tune Health screen provides a no nonsense assessment of your HD’s S.M.A.R.T attributes. There’s nothing ambiguous here – it’s either OK, or not. Click on graphic to expand.

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If you’ve ever wondered just how well your hard drive performs, then you’ll appreciate the Benchmark test included in HD Tune. Here’s an example of a test I ran for this review. Click on graphic to expand.

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Checking your HD for errors is quick and painless. Click on graphic to expand.

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The available settings are minimal – as they should be. Click on graphic to expand.

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System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7.

Download at: HD Tune – (scroll down for the free version).

HD Tune is free for personal use only.

Note: Hard Drive diagnostic software is offered free from all the major Hard Drive manufacturers. Check out their sites.

Western Digital Support

Samsung

Seagate and Maxtor

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Maintenance, Hard Drive Problems, Hard Drive Tools, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Download Free PC Fixer – Fixes Common PC Problems

imageOften, new and casual computer users get left behind when it comes to PC utility software. Developers of this type of application are prone to designing tools that require more than just a passing knowledge of how computer operating systems really work.

New users are very often unfamiliar with both the technology itself, and the technical terms involved in using this type of application. For many users, a simple set of tools that does not require the user to be geek inclined, is more appropriate than a suite of tools that does everything but clean the kitchen sink.

While it’s generally true that more advanced users want/need much more control than a one click system utility provides, a one click system utility can often be the ideal solution for a new user.

PC Fixer 1

PC Fixer is a relatively simple, but nonetheless, powerful set of tools for new and casual computer users that includes the following comparatively basic modules:

Install – assists in the setup/installation of applications, internet, email, printers, wireless network and more.

Fix – diagnostic applet with comprehensive solutions to common problems.

Optimize – a configuration utility with surprising functionality.

Secure – as well as the ability to remove malware, this module allows the user to configure Windows security settings.

Data Recovery – provides the user with the tools required to recover data in specific applications including MS Word, Excel, Access, and Outlook and so on.

Tune up – this feature is essentially a Registry cleaner.

PC Fixer 2

A sample of repair issues addressed by PC Fixer:

CD or DVD driver is missing.

CD burner does not work.

Printing service is disabled.

Cannot open Task Manager.

Additional functionality included in this neat little application:

Windows XP & Vista – Diagnose and fix common desktop issues, repair corrupt files, and resolve configuration conflicts in Vista and Windows XP.

Microsoft Office – Provide automatic fixes for problems related to Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point, Access, and Outlook for your email.

Security – Improve security and privacy by recognizing and fixing configuration flaws in system/device/software settings and removing virus and malware.

CD/DVD, Printer, or USB – Fix issues related to CD/DVD, Printers, USB, etc. where conflicting device software and configuration make them inaccessible.

Performance Tuning – Improve overall performance by fine tuning various system and network settings, improve startup time by turning off unnecessary programs in your startup and services.

This application is not a panacea for computer problems of course, but for less experienced Windows users, it should prove to a valuable addition to their computer toolbox.

Interestingly, CNET’s (Download.com), editors rated this application as a 4.5 Star, out of 5. This is a significant rating, since the number of applications that have earned a 4 Star rating on CNET, is quite limited.

System requirements: Windows XP/Vista, Windows 7

A note on Windows 7: While the developers site does not make mention of Win 7  compatibility, PC Fixer ran perfectly on my Win 7 test system.

Download at: Download.com

Video Tutorial of how to use PC Fixer

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, computer repair, Computer Tune Up Utilities, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Problems, New Computer User Software Tools, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Download Paragon’s FREE Rescue Kit Express

Popular guest writer Rick Robinette, has a knack for finding great free applications. Paragon Free Rescue Kit, one of Rick’s latest finds, professionally fixes boot problems as well as retrieves your data when your system fails to boot. It even rescues deleted partitions

During my research and testing of Paragon’s FREE edition of Backup and Recovery, I happened to notice that they also have available for FREE, a Rescue Kit.

To use the FREE Rescue Kit, you must acquire a registration (serial # and product key) from  [ HERE ] . This may sound like a hassle to go through, but this disk, once created, may be helpful in recovering data from your PC when disaster occurs.

Key Features

Worry-Free Data Protection with Paragon’s Bootable Recovery CD

Don’t wait for disaster strike before using Rescue Kit. Burn the software on your CD/DVD and be prepared for any situation.

Easily Fix Boot Problems

Boot Corrector option resolves various problems you may encounter during the system boot process. These problems may be caused by program errors, user mistakes, or become the results of boot virus activity. Boot Corrector allows you to cure the majority of boot problems for Windows Operating System and gives you access to your data!

Rescue Your Data

In case of a system malfunction, caused either by a virus attack or file corruption, you can retrieve valuable information from your disks and copy it to another local drive, partition or save the data to CD/DVD. The File Transfer Wizard helps you to export data as easy and convenient as possible.

Undelete Partition

When simply deleting a partition (without additional wiping) disk management software only removes the references to it in the Partition Table, thus leaving the possibility to recover it later. The Undelete Partitions Wizard enables you to find and recover these partitions. A restored partition will be fully functional, as long as other partitions were not created, moved or exceeded the disk space.

System requirements: Windows Me/2000/XP/Vista/7

Download at: Softpedia.com

This is a guest post by Rick Robinette, who brings a background as a security/police officer professional, and as an information technology specialist to the Blogging world.

Why not pay a visit to Rick’s site at What’s On My PC. Like me, you’re sure to become a frequent visitor.

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Filed under downloads, Free File Recovery Applications, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Hard Drive Problems, Hard Drive Tools, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Free License – O&O DriveLED 3 Hard Drive Monitor

Regular reader Kingpin, pointed out this morning that O&O Software is offering a free license (regularly $29.99), for their Hard Drive monitoring application, DriveLED 3.

As we’ve pointed out here in the past, in articles such as “Check, Maintain, and Clean Your Hard Drive With Free Tools”, there’s no question that Hard Drives fail – I’ve had to deal with three failures, personally, in the past two years.

All modern Hard Drives are equipped with a feature known as S.M.A.R.T. that provides real-time analysis and the reporting of any developing problems and potential issues. The big question is: can you read the warnings?

An application like DriveLED 3 can take the guesswork out of the equation, and make it easier for you to diagnose what’s really happening inside the complex environment of your Hard Drive.

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Since this offer is available only through the developer’s site, I have no way of knowing how long this offer will last. If you’re interested in this application, now is the time to download.

From the developer’s site:

Although O&O DriveLED won’t let you avoid a system crash entirely, it can let you know early enough whenever there’s trouble on the horizon. O&O DriveLED 3 is a reliable partner that accurately tells you when it is time to backup your important data with O&O DiskImage, or even to replace the hard disk.

Quietly running in the background, the new O&O DriveLED 3 permanently monitors the status of your hard disks With the help of S.M.A.R.T. (Self Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology), O&O DriveLED 3 analyses the health state of your hard disks and warns you in the event of potential malfunctions.

Immediately after installation O&O DriveLED 3 provides you with the ability to make an intensive analysis of all of your hard disks. Every hard disk that supports S.M.A.R.T. is able to run self tests.

Using O&O DriveLED 3 you can start a self-test of your hard disk with only one click of your mouse. During the tests several parameters and functions are systematically checked, including the interface, the surface and the mechanics, including every read head. In addition, the error log will be analyzed and the S.M.A.R.T. system itself will be tested.

If there were no failures found, the corresponding indicator will be lit up green. If some failures occurred, O&O DriveLED 3 will notify you. In this case, it is recommended to backup your data.

While O&O DriveLED 3 makes it possible for you to see your hard drive‘s built-in LEDs on your computer screen, this is just the beginning. In addition, you now have the possibility of monitoring all of your virtual drives, such as network drives, being able to clearly distinguish between read-access and write-access.

Note: Registration is required.

System requirements: Windows 2K,  XP, 2003, Vista, XP, 2008, Win 7 (64 bit support on Vista and Win 7)

Download at: O&O Software

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Filed under Diagnostic Software, downloads, Free Full Versions, Hard Drive Problems, Hard Drive Tools, Software, Software Giveaways, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Check, Maintain, and Clean Your Hard Drive With Free Tools

Hard Drive DiagThere’s no question that Hard Drives fail – I’ve had to deal with three failures, personally, in the past two years.

Fortunately, today’s Hard Drives rarely fail without a warning of failure given well in advance. All modern Hard Drives are equipped with a feature known as S.M.A.R.T. that provides real-time analysis and the reporting of any developing problems and potential issues. The big question is: can you read the warnings?

The following free applications take the guesswork out of the equation, and they make it easier than ever to diagnose what’s really occurring inside the complex environment of the Hard Drive.

Active Hard Disk Monitor

Active Hard Disk Monitor is a freeware disk utility that checks and monitors the status of your hard drives to help prevent data loss. The system is based on the Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T).

The application can be launched automatically at Windows startup and monitor the system in the background. An icon in the System Tray can display the temperature for selected HDD(s).

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Fast facts:

Hard Disk performance monitoring and control

Based on Self Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology (or S.M.A.R.T.)

Able to scan and display bad sectors on a disk’s surface.

Displays current S.M.A.R.T. attributes

Can be launched automatically at Windows startup and monitor the HDD(s) in the background

Includes System Tray icon temperature status

Can generate event log and S.M.A.R.T reports

Download at: Download.com

Ariolic Disk Scanner

Disk Scanner is a tiny freeware utility to check the hard drive for read errors. Sometimes, you may notice, that some files on the disk cannot be read. This may happen for several reasons, but the most important one is the hard drive degradation, that may be the first typical sign of the disk failure.

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Fast facts:

Read-only test of hard drive volumes for read errors

Scan hard disk, flash drives, USB hard drives, CD/DVD, floppy

Disk Scanner does not require a setup – it’s portable. Run it directly from CD or a Flash drive

See the check result at a glance

Works with hard drives, flash disks, CD, floppy

Simple user interface

Download at: Ariolic Software

Don’t forget, Hard Drive diagnostic software is offered free from all the major Hard Drive manufacturers. Check out their sites.

Western Digital Support

Samsung

Seagate

Please note that since Seagate purchased Maxtor, the download sites are identical.

Maxtor

Hard Drive Maintenance: Repair, Defrag and Disk Cleanup Tools

Fragmentation is caused by creating and deleting files and folders, installing new software, and downloading files from the Internet. When you delete files or folders, the first available empty spaces on the Hard Drive are filled in randomly when you create new files and folders, as you do when you save pics from your camera, install software, save emails, or create documents.

Hard Disk fragmentation makes the disk drive heads move more than necessary when reading files which can degrade performance over time, and can lead to system slowdowns, computer crashes, slow startups and shutdowns.

Auslogics Disk Defrag

The program (updated December, 2009), is extremely easy to use, does not require any analysis phase and is faster than most disk defragmentation software I’ve tested in the past, and it’s free.

In my view, it’s one more maintenance process in helping me get the maximum performance out of my hardware.

auslogics_disk_defrag

Fast facts:

Improve computer performance and stability

Increase your productivity – no more waiting for files to open

Defragment disks in minutes

Disk fragmentation map and detailed fragmentation report

Download at: Download.com

CCleaner

Running a Hard Disk cleaner such as CCleaner (updated January, 2010), can optimize systems by emptying the Recycle Bin, Temporary Setup Files, Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Old Chkdsk Files, Temporary Files, Temporary Offline Files, Offline Files, and more.

ccleaner2

Fast facts:

Frees up valuable hard disk space

Advanced features to remove unused and old entries

Comprehensive backup feature

System tray icon

Privacy tool

Download at: Download.com

Disk Heal

Disk Heal 1.48 (updated August, 2009), is a free Windows NT, 2000, XP and Vista utility that may be able to restore the condition of your Hard Drive, or a USB Flash Drive.

This application is a very useful tool that has a host of additional capabilities, including recovering hidden files and performing system tweaks; all can be accessed with just one click.

disk heal

Fast facts:

Fixes disk problems

Fixes task manager inaccessibility

Fixes folder options inaccessibility

Fixes registry editor inaccessibility

Recovers hidden files and folders

Changes the default icon of any drive, external, internal, or a partition

Security and system tweaks

Download at: Download.com

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, Diagnostic Software, Disk Cleaners, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Maintenance, Hard Drive Problems, Hard Drive Tools, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Fix 50 Windows Problems with One Click – Download Free FixWin

You just have to love Windows as an operating system – it makes it so easy to DO so many things. Often however, Windows does not make it easy to UNDO, or “fix” things. It’s not uncommon that attempting to undo things, does nothing more than create additional problems.

If you are familiar with working with Registry entries, you can fix virtually anything, but…..

So, if you’ve been looking for an easy way to fix issues such as, Win Explorer not starting at boot up, CD drive or DVD drive is missing or not being recognized by Windows, or other programs, or the Device Manager is not functioning correctly (not as uncommon as you might think), then the recently released FixWin freeware application, could be the perfect solution.

It’s important to note however, FixWin does NOT scan for problems. You, have to recognize that you have the problem – the application will then correct the problem, provided of course it is one of the 50 very common problems the application is designed to deal with.

The FixWin interface consists of 5 easy to work with tabs:

Windows Explorer

FixWin 3

Internet & Connectivity

FixWin 5

Windows Media

FixWin 6

System Tools

FixWin 4

Misc. Additional Fixes

FixWin 7

How to use this application (from the developers):

We first suggest that you run the System File Checker Utility. The button provided on the Welcome page, will ‘run sfc /scannow‘ and will check for and replace any corrupted Windows system files. It is expected to take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. If asked to, do reboot.

Next we insist that you create a System Restore Point. The provided button will create one, called Safe Point. We always recommend that you create one before making any changes to your system. Should you wish or need too, you can always go back to this Safe Point.

Having done that, apply at most one fix at a time and restart your computer. Please check if things are to your satisfaction; and if not, you have the option of restoring back immediately.

Since this application does not require installation, it’s a perfect portable application to carry on your “tech tools” flash drive, for the times you get those inevitable calls from family, or friends – “Uh, I don’t know what I did, but….”

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download at: The Windows Club

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Filed under computer repair, flash drive, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Hard Drive Problems, Portable Applications, Software, System Utilities, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista