Equipment: Drive recovery software for MacOS X

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As readers of my blog know, my Powerbook harddrive crashed right on the eve of my trip to the United States -- and right during a backup session. This meant that less than half of my data was properly backed up, including my most recent ethnographic fieldnotes, interview recordings, and digital photographs. Not good.

Apple's DiskUtility warned of a S.M.A.R.T. diagonistic failure indicating a hardware failure and could not repair it. My usual disk utility program, DiskWarrior, could also not scan the disk because of the hardware failure. I thought I was @(*@*@.....

I had thought that my only remaining option was DriveSavers in California. They gave me an online estimate of $2000 to recover the missing data. Yes, two big ones. They'd take the drive into a clean room and read the data off the raw platters just like the latest episode of CSI New York.

I had almost packed the computer away to send to them when I tried an absolutely new program that's on the market called VirtualLab. It's for both the PC and Mac. Unlike Norton or DiskWarrior, the neat thing about it is that it works with a data analysis server over the internet. Also, you don't buy the program but you buy blocks of data recovery. I needed about 8 gigabytes recovered, which cost me about $140.*

* The program does have some negatives. You have to guesstimate ahead of time how much data you want to recover. If you guess wrong, they charge you more if you want to bump it up later. And if I wanted to recover another drive in the future, it'd cost me over a $100 again. This is aggravating. They should charge either a flat rate or a simple scaled rate and not penalize customers who are bad at math.

The program works fantastic. You do need some way to boot it up separate from the broken drive, I bought an external firewire harddrive (300 gigs for Y30,000) which is now serving as my backup drive. I loaded MacOS X 10.3 on it, then launched VirtualLab. Unlike Norton, DiskUtility, or DiskWarrior, the Virtuallab software was able to workaround the hardware failure (somehow, I'm not sure).

I recovered all of my data. Phew.

I can't praise VirtualLab enough. Give it a try. It's expensive, but a great last resort. They note that it can also be used to recover accidentally formatted or repartitioned drives too. I'll give a report on how Apple Japan fixes my PowerBook later on.

Fine print: Like all of the reviews on my site, I of course received nothing from BinaryBiz for recommending them. I am entirely vendor kickback free.

9 Comments

My Powerbook G4 Toshiba hard drive failed last week after 1 year 2 months. Same problem. Replaced w/ a Seagate 100 gig and my whole computer works much smoother than ever. The drive sounded funny, so I backed everything up before the crash

Take your drive to a computer expert to have it changed. I guess I didn't secure it properly in the computer b/c it was rattling. A bad sound then another dead drive. At this point, my mac is struggling, but i put another drive in and hopefully will get another 18 months out of it. Plus, I take my laptop to school everyday, so that might have played a part. Make backups.

I tried to post earlier. I just wanted to give the heads up to have your drive professionally installed. I guess it my new drive wasn't secured and it rattled for a while then poped. Dead. Really sucks b/c I am on a tight student budget. I put a new one in and things are ok. Hopefully the laptop will last another 18 months. Make backups.

One of my grad student's PowerBook drives just failed this week. Apple replaced it and he had backups, but I'm beginning to think that there must have been a bad batch of drives. Not good.

I also suffered an unannounced and catastrophic hard drive failure during a recent business trip. PB 15 1.25 the drive was a Toshiba MK8025GAS and was 1 year and 10 months old. I have been using computers intensively for the last 25 years and never had a hard drive failure. I have known hard drives work for a very long time while putting out horrifying noises without failure. I am bitterly disappointed in Apple for this poor reliability. My local Apple store replaced the drive for $100 but my data they claim was not recoverable. My business trip was a total loss as a result of this failure. I switched from Windows in the belief that I would get more reliability from Apple, WHAT A MISTAKE!

I definitely think there is something wrong with the batch of TOSHIBA drives that Apple was putting in their PowerBooks for the past few years. Definitely avoid any PowerBooks with this hard drive! And if you have one, replace it with a Hitachi or other type.

I have the same problem as you have with the TOSHIBA MK8025GAS. It crashed two times already and once I could recover the data, now I do backup almost everydays on a 200g external drive and have ordered and Hitachi.

The first time I told my Apple shop that Techtool pro warned me of a smart failure they told me that if a native mac soft doesn't say it, you don't have to worry. What a mistake to trust them. Now that I have installed tiger I can't use my disk utilitary anymore....

Be careful with your drive...

Just to follow up, I've been using SuperDuper! to clone my laptop drive occasionally to an external drive. It takes about 30 minutes, but it yields a bootable backup drive.

I first did this when my laptop started freezing up and I had to send it in (bad memory slot). I cloned the drive and then realized that having a bootable clone was a Very Good Thing. So I've kept at this, cloning/backing up every week or so.

Now cloning won't help you restore data that you accidentally deleted a month or two ago (unlike an incremental backup), but that's rarely a problem for me.

For my windows XP , to recover my lost partition loss , I used Stellar phoenix windows data recovery software. Its output are very much satisfying.

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on February 2, 2005 2:48 PM.

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