A neighbour asked me to look at their PC late last week. Apparently it had stopped working and contained very important data. They also gave me a Seagate external hard disk to put data that I recover from it.
The PC was very dusty – I noticed because my white T-Shirt had a bit of a stain on it after bringing the PC inside. First step was to open it up and vacuum it out. The cpu fan and heatsink was covered in lint and dust – a sure sign of being operated in a home environment – also after a few years this can happen no matter how clean the house is kept.
When I power on the HP dc7700 SFF machine, the fans start up then stop, power goes out, and then it beeps nine times. The power supply does not stay on, but the 5V standby power is still available, hence why it can beep. After searching online for the diagnostic codes for this machine, it turns out that the resolution is to:
1. check the power supply voltage selector – none in this case
2. replace the motherboard – I don’t have a spare
3. replace the power supply – not available, but could be repaired.
Next – to “recover.it” the data, I mean. Removing the hard disk from the machine was quite easy. I connected the hard disk to an external dock on my Linux laptop – it seemed to be visible. First thing now is to make a raw image of the disk drive. It was a Samsung HD082GJ which is 80GB in size. That should fit on my laptop as I have about 140GB free. I run Ubuntu 14.04 on my laptop for recovery operations like this. I use a dd utility to copy the raw disk. Specifically the command I use is
dd if=/dev/sdb of=may-hd082gj.dd bs=1M conv=noerror,sync
The parameters are to use a block size of 1MB, continue even if errors encountered, but the “sync” option means to replace bad sectors with blank sectors. I will end up with an image file that is exactly the same size as the original disk drive. Without sync, the image file will be missing the bad sectors, so the data can be slightly out of line which is not good. Fortunately in this case, the dd utility completed with no errors detected.
Next I copied the image file to a network location, so that I have another copy of it in case it is needed. I then mounted the disk, and browsed the contents – it appears to be Windows XP, therefore the data that should be collected will be files and folders within C:\Documents and Settings\Edwin – Edwin being the user login name. Typically My Documents, Desktop, Pictures etc are what to copy, but other folders on the C: drive were also copied. I did the same for the D: drive – the original disk was partitioned into two drives. There is no point in copying the Windows folders since most of the files are not user files or data. However it is good to have a look in case documents, spreadsheets are stored there.
Ok – job done. I returned the external disk to my neighbour on Tuesday evening. They were happy to get their data, but they mentioned that they use that machine to access their Optus email, and they don’t know the password as it was stored on the machine – ok… If I can’t get the password for them, they could contact Optus to get it reset – so how do I go about this? More on this next.