A passionate programmer’s findings in the world of internet.

Recover Corrupted Hard Disk

November 8th, 2005

You might not believe it when my 5-year-old Pentium III computer is actually still running smoothly all the while. It runs on Windows XP with 512MB of SDRAM. Just few days ago, my sister told me that the computer was not able to start up. Maybe it's just too old, but I never give up so easily!

It showed:
Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM

Some googling brought me to a Microsoft Knowledge Base page, "How to recover from a corrupted registry that prevents Windows XP from starting". It explained that my registry files are corrupted. Following the instructions, I'm able to bring my computer back to live.

Next, the computer asked for scan disk before windows start up. The scan disk process took a very long time, correcting a lot of files and created a lot of backup files, until my hard disk failed! It stated that my hard disk is full (with those backup files). Then, the computer restarted.

At that time, I thought that other files might be corrupted as well. So, there's no point starting up the windows. I unplugged the hard disk, and hooked it to my PC. I thought copying the important files out of the hard disk would give me a good night sleep. It didn't. As soon as I opened my Windows Explorer to view the partition in that hard disk, I saw weird characters everywhere, especially in document and windows folders.

It made me very sad that all the files in my sister's document folder have gone. I remembered I've asked her to back up her files to my computer few months ago, but she might have some important files that have not been copied to my PC.

Another googling has brought me to Nucleus Technologies Windows Data Recovery Software. I downloaded the demo version of "Kernel for FAT NTFS". The demo version doesn't allow me to recover the files, but it allows me to look at what is recoverable. The program really does what it claims. I saw everything!

Next, I try to open (view) the file with the program. It worked. I'm able to open most (not all) of the image (photo) files and verify that most of the files has already backup-ed.

Here's the part that I don't understand. Since it allows me to open the file, the image file will be available for me to copy from windows temporary folder. Is this a flaw in the demo program? Still, do purchase if you find it useful! Anyhow, it helped my sister to do the verification.

Hope this helps somebody else!

Update: As an alternative data recovery tool, Andy recommends Ontrack EasyRecovery Professional. Just in case you might want to try it.rollover 401k loan taxloan $40,000 studentloan $1500 emergencyloan program alberta studentamc loansjr sloan p alfredfish ak loans packingstudent 2007 loan interest deductionloan 401k minimumsinstallment credit 10000 loans bad

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18 Responses

Andy Choong says:

is it a maxtor (especially the 20gb slimline versions) hard disk? back up fast as the problem spreads like cancer. uhmm..u can get the full version of the recovery program (i’d recommend ontrack easyrecovery pro) off BT.

Leo Kent says:

I too have a 5 year old computer but with a Athlon chip inside rather than an Intel one. I am still using it as my main computer because as a system it runs really smoothly and is still snappy.

I too have had problems with the hard drive becoming corrupt but at the time I didn’t know how to recover the files 🙁 Now I back everything up on to both CD and my USB flash drive incase it goes again!

Aarohi Johal says:

Never faced any harddisk corruptions in all these 10-11 years.

Except that I do have a folder that windows doesn’t allow me to delete. Back when I first noticed, the file names had incredibly gone to being renamed to some piece of text from one of the files in the my documents folder (which is the completely different drive by the way)

EngLee says:

Andy Choong,

No. It’s a old IDE 20GB Western Digital. All brands have problems, I guess. It should depend on your luck. 😉 I’ll take a look at the program you recommend. Thanks.

Leo Kent,

Always remember the power of search engine! 🙂 You can always expect solutions for everything you encounter. Actually that hard disk corrupted once earlier. I also didn’t actually look for data recovery last time. Anyway, I learned. Hope you too.

Aarohi Johal,

You are in luck, man! 🙂 Anyhow, backup is always important. I’m going to burn everything on my own PC to avoid unneccesary data lost.

Anurag Bhandari says:

I too had the same problem of Windows not allowing a selected file to be deleted and believe me that it was really important for me to delete that file as it was a leftover dll of a spyware removal software I tried. The software was a mess but on uninstalling it, it took the revenge by letting its dll active/running and it was consuming the memory resources too( as far as I remember, it was using the DMA resource which you know well allows any file requesting the direct access to be active). I restarted my computer, but all in vein. The dll was still active and it wasn’t getting out of the task bar list either. Then came the turn of the ultimate soluiton : The Google search( as Englee has mentioned).
on the search, I came to knoe about the software UNLOCKER which indeed helped me to remove the dll from the task bar list and ultimately delete it.
My recommendation : just try it!
check it out here

Keith says:

I too have a windows XP folder on my desktop that can be renamed or deleted. This was following some type of file corruption in which I lost a bunch of photo files.

Anyway, I’d like to know if this problem is indicative of something worse. The link from file folder icon works (it takes me to desktop), but shows no files in desktop when there really are many! I can’t delete or reaname the folder icon on my desktop.

Suggestions? (did virus scan, registry clean up and file recovery).


EngLee says:

I’m sure there’s problem with the file structure caused by the file corruption earlier.

For some case, there can be operating system fault or probably you didn’t shutdown properly. Else, it might be some problems with hardware – your hard disk.

What I would suggest you to do is to use file recovery programs to find the files at other location, not the desktop folder, till you found the files. Like my problem, the files doesn’t appear at the old location after my hard disk got corrupted. I’ll have to search around the folders to recover the files one by one. After that, format the hard disk and reinstall OS.

It’s best you store your sensitive data at another hard disk if possible. I wouldn’t trust a hard disk that had corrupted before.

iwebcreate says:


I am a satisfied user of Kernel Recovery for FAT + NTFS from http://www.nucleustechnologies.com.

The software is really a master piece and it really works !!!

I recommend it to many friends, and they all have good taste. Support of Nucleus Data Recovery is also excellent and in case if you require any assistance do amil them and you will expect a reply within 10 minutes.

Go for it the tool is excellent. Atleast it works for me.

athan dela cruz says:

hi, i want to ask about corrupted hard disk of mine..its 80gb hard disk..its maxtor..how can i recover it or re use it??…is there any software to use so that my hard disk will function again???…or recover my files in my hard disk??…thanks…

EngLee says:

You will need to plug the hard disk into another computer. Then install the program that I recommended and do as I mentioned above.

Rahul says:

I’ve got a had disk crashed and all my office files and related projets and correspondence filings are in it… can i know how to retrive my databack

Perry says:

I also have a 80 GB Maxtor Harddisk and it was corrupted.. All of my movie collections are in it and I am really worried… I am trying to get information over the internet regarding data retrieval from corrupted HDD and I will also try all your suggestions… thanks and hope it would help….. ciao

frances says:

your ril cute. much luv.

Laxman says:

i am a normal user of system.i have some problem of hardisk because of some virus and bad sector.
Speed is very slow of operating system in hardisk.
so i want to remove bad sector and virus too.
so i want help from anyone…….

vhiznu says:

The easiest way for the problem is of course to delete, recreate and then re-format all the partition on the disk!
but since that you have some data on it…thats why you need to do a backup first…or if its corrupt like the writer case…then you need the recovery software to save your corrupted data!
After that…just install the OS as usual =)

vishnu says:

I have a 80 GB sata Harddisk and all drives are corrupted..except’c’ drive. All of my movie collections,imp files are in another drive and I am really worried… I am trying to get information over the internet regarding data recovery from corrupted HDD. plese give me suggestions…through my E-mail.

Drew says:

I have a Mac and randomly it wouldn’t boot up. It stayed in a loading loop. I tried to reboot it with the operating CD reinstalling Leopard it said my hard drive has failed and is possibly corrupted. Can anyone help me to try to retrieve my files?

Drew says:

Is there anyway to get any of my files back??