Linux Mint – Recovering data

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Recovering data from a failed drive is actually a simpler process than it may seem, assuming that the damage is not so severe that data cannot actually be recovered at all. It’s important to keep in mind that all hard drives break eventually; it’s a matter of when, not if. If a hard drive has gone past the point of no return (for example, you hear a constant audible clicking noise, and the drive isn’t recognized by the computer), then there may not be much you can do aside from sending in the drive to an expensive data recovery firm.

If the drive is at least recognized by your computer (for example, it shows up in the BIOS), then there is still hope. As the Linux Mint installation media doubles as a live operating environment, you can access your hard drive directly from within the live media and attempt data recovery from the GUI that you already know. The first (and perhaps easiest) method is to attach a USB flash drive or external hard drive, and then browse your internal hard drive through the file manager, copying files to your USB drive as you come across them.

In more severe corruption cases, the hard drive may not be accessible even to the live media. If this is the case, you can try more advanced tools, such as SpinRite (a third-party product available for purchase), which includes its own operating system and can aid in data recovery by repeatedly accessing faulty sectors until it is able to read the data and move it to the sectors known to be good. In many cases, you still won’t be able to trust the drive, but SpinRite may be able to allow it to be read one last time, long enough for you to retrieve data.

If you have successfully recovered your data, you can consider running the manufacturer’s diagnostic tools to troubleshoot and check whether the drive is actually defective. If the error seems to be a problem with the partition tables or the installation itself, your drive is likely to be fine, and a reinstallation of Mint may get it up and running again. To be safe, it doesn’t hurt to run the manufacturer’s diagnostic tools to double-check the quality of the drive. Each of the manufacturers (such as Samsung, Seagate, Western Digital, and Toshiba) has their own diagnostic tool available for download on their respective websites. This tool is in an ISO format that you can burn to a disc. With several of these tools, you have to set your hard drive access mode to Legacy (also known as IDE) in the BIOS in order for the tools to be able to access the drive, as most of the tools are based on older technologies and run within an open source DOS clone. If your drive gets a clean bill of health, chances are that it’s fine, but still keep a backup, just in case. Sometimes, a Pass result from a diagnostic tool may not always be reliable.

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