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I had a workstation running XP. Filesystem was NTFS, single partition over the entire drive. After an attempted XP repair install, suddenly the NTFS filesystem is just gone and the drive is showing up with a single 10Mb FAT32 partition with virtually nothing on it, except a directory with a smiley-face character (e.g. not good).

I've run all the tools I could find on the UBCD and nothing is able to detect the missing NTFS partition. I've run some low-level tools on the drive and it checks out ok. I'm not ruling out hardware, but that's not really my question.

What are my options here for recovery?

Update: I was never able to recover the partition, but I did recover a lot of data using PhotoRec (from the same guys who do TestDisk, recommended in the answers below). The name is misleading as it doesn't only recover "photos", as I had originally thought. It does some 180 file formats.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The one, the only. TestDisk. Here's a rundown of the entire process.

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Yeah I tried TestDisk last night, but without any success. Seems like a good tool though, thanks! – Boden Jun 19 '09 at 15:59
Updated my question to reflect that I was able to use PhotoRec (from the same people who do TestDisk) to recover a lot of data. It actually worked better than some of the demo commercial solutions I tried. – Boden Jun 24 '09 at 20:56
I used testdisk to successfully recover a NTFS partition. I had used photorec first, it found a lot of files, but obviously cannot find the disk directory layout or the filenames. N.B. you cannot put more than 65536 files in a FAT32 directory. – codeDr Oct 14 '09 at 18:48

Gpart (not gparted) can recover missing partitions, by guessing where they are. It's a Linux tool, so it's on some of the recovery liveCDs.

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I very recently had a similar issue, but i have been saved by Partition Find and Mount.
There's a free version, although it has a speed limit (512Kb/sec). But that didn't keep me from copying 60 gig off a lost partition (it took more than a day though).

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The first thing you need to do is to make an image of the drive, so you do not ruin it more while attempting to recover it. Boot any live linux CD (Knoppix, Ubuntu, whatever), and use dd to dump the disk data on another storage.

dd if=/dev/sda of=/mnt/myexternaldrive/olddrive.img

where /dev/sda is the old (broken) drive, and /mnt/myexternaldrive is the mount point where you mount your external (or secondary) drive.

Then, you can use fdisk (or parted, or gparted), and just create an NTFS partition, which occupies the whole drive, and try to mount it.

If this mounts, but there are no files, you can try running some file recovery software line ntfsundelete.

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Interesting, I hadn't thought to create a new partition and then try to recover files...I'll give that a try if a couple of the tools mentioned in this thread don't turn anything up with the drive as it is. THanks! – Boden Jun 19 '09 at 17:18

Check out easy recovery professional

I believe you can scan to see what it will pick up before you need to buy to recover.

Sounds like a virus, so be careful what you recover it to.

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I've used ontrack software in the past with good success. However, I don't have access to a copy of Easy Recover right now...and $500 is a bit steep. – Boden Jun 19 '09 at 15:27
WOW. It was cheaper the last time I checked it out. Sorry dude. – MathewC Jun 19 '09 at 15:40

one way if have any livecd like ubuntu or kubuntu u can boot a system dont install once desktop screen come u can mount u r hdd and try copy to other hdd external or over the network.

second way of doing is u need have recovert tool like setter software which recover software.

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The problem isn't with mounting the drive, it's that the filesystem on the drive no longer exists. – Boden Jun 19 '09 at 15:29

Ubuntu includes some tools that can find files on the drive directly.

I've used photorec on deleted image files (not sure how it does on bad/missing partitions.)

Here's an Ubuntu howto on Data Recovery.

Make sure you output the recovered data to a different drive to avoid killing what you are trying to recover.

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Probably your best choice would be to try TestDisk.

Depending on your comfort with linux/bsd you can try the combination of fdisk or gpart. Also, the FreeBSD setup disk has some interesting tools you might try.

To play with this, go into the installer and select 'upgrade system.' This will show you what partitions it knows about on the disk and allow you to configure a new layout. As the instruction say, this is not going to write the layout to disk, but needs to be done to proceed with the upgrade process. After that, you'll be given a terminal on vty4. Switch to this term and see if you can see your files. This could get you back to a bootable state, but will most certainly help you see and interact with the partition.

Best of luck.

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