Last week my lovely computer decided to die on me. No it was nothing to do with Windows 7 it was just your run of the mill hardware failure and at this stage it looks like the MSI X58M motherboard has gone to god. RIP.

Aside from the expense of having to get the unit fixed there is also the down time and that more than anything is probably the worst of it. so rather than lose any more time I popped out and got myself a new dev box with a view to extracting the data I needed from the hard disk on the faulty unit.

However, the new unit had a 14 day warranty seal on the back meaning that if I broke the seal to put the old HDD in and something went wrong with the unit I would have to wait for a repair rather than get a brand new unit swapped over. Bugger, I will have to wait out the 14 days to put my kick ass video card in it.

Here is how I recovered my data from the old HDD.

The first thing I needed to acquire was an HDD docking station. I could have got one of the sealed enclosure types but figured the docking station was a more flexible option should I need to recover data from other SATA drives.

So for $39 aussie pesos I picked myself up a ‘Laser’ HDD Docking Station which takes both 2.5” and 3.5” SATA drives. The unit is shown below.Laser HDD Docking Station

This is a USB unit and just requires you to pop the HDD into the unit, plug the USB connector in to your PC and turn the power on.

But that’s not all unfortunately.

I was hoping that the disk would just show up as an external drive on Windows 7 but alas that was not to be the case.

When looking at disk management the disk was detected but it was showing as Invalid. Right clicking on the disk gave me a few options but non that were suitable. ‘Reactivate Disk’ would not work and ‘Convert to Basic Disk’ would result in data loss so not the root I wanted to follow.

Windows Disk Management

I tried a few other tricks, one of which was running HxD to edit a single bit on the disk which showed promise of working. Although this now made it show up in Windows Explorer it did not give me access to the data, although it would let me format the disk. Not an option.

A little more ferreting around led me to TestDisk an OpenSource utility for recovering data from a HDD.

I won’t go in to the specifics of what is involved as that is all covered on the TestDisk wiki page but needless to say this was just what I needed.

Using the command line interface I was quickly able to see all the partitions on the disk and even navigate the file system restoring (actually copy) just the data I needed.

TestDisk Data Recovery Utility

A big thanks to Christophe Grenier for supplying this utility.

Anyway, I hope my journey helps someone else in a similar predicament that needs to recover data from a SATA HDD.