How do you recover 10TB worth of data from damaged partitions?

It’s pretty much inevitable that a hard drive is going to crash and take all your precious data with it. It’s also inevitable that you’re going to select the wrong file or folder and click the wrong button which sends your data into a black hole. It’s pretty easy to recover from accidentally deleted files. The Deleted Items folder can save you and programs like Recuva can dig deeper and restore your files. But what happens when the Partition Table is utterly mangled by Windows itself and the drive is no longer seen as readable? What do you do when you plug in that 5TB external drive and Windows sits like a dumb oaf and doesn’t show a single file?

Well, this is what has just happened to me. Windows has corrupted the partition and file table of 10TB worth of hard drives that are now considered unreadable. Tens of thousands of pictures, documents, ISO images and music files have been thrown to the heavens. Windows doesn’t even think the drives are there. What do you do when this much data has been lost?

After the panic attack and a clean pair of shorts, it’s time to get down to business and see how bad the situation really is. Computer Manager shows the drives as unreadable, no help there. Recuva doesn’t see the drive either so it can’t run a file scan. Ok, now what?

I first tried O&O DiskRecovery but it couldn’t restore my files. It could see them, so that was good news, but every file it brought over was corrupted. None of the images would render and none of the documents would open. Ok, the table has been deleted and no new data has been written. I know my files are there, but how do I get them?

I did a quick search and the name GetData Recover My Files struck me. Wait a minute, I know these guys. I’ve used their stuff before. I raced to their site, grabbed the trial download and checked the system for drives. Hey look, my busted drive is listed. It ran the initial phase and found the entire directory structure of the drive. I checked a couple of files and I could see images and open documents. Oh wow, everything seems to be there.

Now, there are two problems at hand. First, this is a 5TB drive which is part of the problem. Some programs can’t see a drive that big and clearly I need another drive capable of receiving that amount of data. Luckily, I actually have a spare 5TB drive still in the box. Coincidentally, another 5TB drive is on the way since this will no longer be a spare. Always have a spare drive as large as the biggest drive you have on hand. Better to have an not need than need and not have.

Second, this is going to take an insane amount of time. The recovery of this drive will take nearly 2 days to complete and that is running 24 hours a day. This will go a little quicker since these are USB 3.0 drives, but the others are USB 2.0 so this won’t be a quick operation.

So, I loaded up Recover My Files and within 20 minutes the first files were being restored. There is an option to scan the entire drive sector by sector to locate files (in case you reformat the drive), but since the partition is broken, not the files, this wasn’t necessary.

Then the slow process started. But it was working. I could see the files showing up on the target and they were readable. Lo and behold, my data will be recovered!

No, there is no "unformat" option. All the files will have to be copied onto the temp drive, the original drive needs to be re-formatted and then all the files copied back. Yes, several days worth of effort. And I have 5 drives that were mangled.

And what caused all this? What stupid trick did I try with the drives that broke everything?

I changed the drive letter using Computer Manager. Yep, I wanted to give them a better label and change the letter. Now I have over 10TB worth of data to recover. Nice job Windows!

Well, regardless of how we got here, I need to recover a huge amount of data and GetData Recover My Files is working perfectly. You get two licenses with your purchase so I have two machines doing the recovery right now. It’s still going to take a week or more to get everything back, but I will get it back.

We don’t normally buy recovery software until we need it. And we don’t make backups until we need them. Not the best plan so I’m going to have to mirror/sync a couple of these drives and make some backups to Blu-Ray discs.

So if you find yourself in dire straights, get Recover My Files and you should be able to get your files back.

And guess what? I even managed to get it for 35% off. That’s a bonus!

35% Off GetData Recover My Files

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