Now here is a dilly of a pickle (in the words of Ned Flanders). I happened upon a hard drive whose partition structure was damaged. Since this was a NTFS formatted partition, it gave Windows fits but not Linux. Try as I might, because of what was corrupted there simply was no to repair the NTFS partition. But all is not lost because the files themselves are undamaged. Here are the steps to recover the data.

  • First, use a program such as Clonezilla to make a copy of the hard drive. Always work with the copy. Clonezilla will also copy the corruption to the NTFS partition data. But since it ignores the errors to the partition data and only cares about file data, the copy will be quick unless the hard drive has bad sectors.
  • Next, use a program such as GParted to delete the damaged NTFS partition.
  • You can also use GParted to create a new NTFS partition, but you might be better off using Windows. In any event, make sure a new NTFS partition is created. It cannot be FAT32 or exFAT or any other file system. (Side point, these steps would apply to the Mac HFS+ file system as well.)
  • Whatever you do from now on, do not use the copied hard drive for anything until the files are recovered. Any action may cause old files to overwritten.
  • Now, use a good undelete program to recover the files. Not a free undelete program. Save all the files to a 3rd hard drive. Once all the files are off, then you may safely move them to the copied hard drive.

You will have to reinstall Windows (or OS X). But at least the majority of the files, if not all of the files, are available. What I  did was to put a copy of pictures into a separate folder, a copy of documents into another, and so on. This allowed the customer to more easily sort through recovered files to find the ones most important to him.