MacInTouch Reader Reports

Hard Drives: Recovery

Jan. 2, 2009
Jan. 7, 2009
Jan. 9, 2009
Jan. 10, 2009
Jan. 12, 2009
Jan. 16, 2009
Jan. 17, 2009
Jan. 19, 2009
Jan. 28, 2009
Feb. 17, 2009
Feb. 18, 2009
Feb. 19, 2009
Feb. 20, 2009
Feb. 21, 2009
Mar. 16, 2009
Mar. 17, 2009
Mar. 24, 2009
Sep. 8, 2009
Sep. 9, 2009
Sep. 10, 2009
Nov. 16, 2009
Apr. 27, 2010
Aug. 9, 2010
Aug. 10, 2010
Aug. 12, 2010
Aug. 13, 2010
Aug. 16, 2010
Aug. 17, 2010
Aug. 18, 2010

Newer entries...
Jan. 2, 2009


Michael Pearce

Jon Ubertech writes,

The problem is that the Disk Utility on your Install disc is older than the operating system on the hard drive.

How much older? I find it difficult (but certainly not impossible) to believe that Apple would never update a version in such a manner that the DVD version of Disk Utility would cause damage to an updated system. Obviously one should not run the Panther version on a Tiger drive, but is the 10.4.3 DVD capable of fixing a 10.4.11 Mac?

[Apple may or may not update Disk Utility when it updates Mac OS X, but there have been some *very* nasty bugs over the years with the company's hard drive software (in various forms) which have permanently ruined customer data files in some cases. Given this history, we would second Jon Ubertech's advice of always using the most up-to-date possible Disk Utility and add that we would *never* update Apple software or disk drivers without first making and archiving separately a complete, reliable clone backup of all important files attached to the system. -MacInTouch]

Jan. 7, 2009


Robert Rosenberg

To insure you are using the latest version of Disk Utility when booted off of the Install Disk, why not just use a Thumb Drive with a copy made from your Hard Drive whenever the utility is updated? Or is there a problem with this idea because the install disk does not allow access to the Disk Top so you can select the Thumb Drive (I have not booted my Install disk to check)?

Jan. 9, 2009


Andrew Smith

I have a problem that maybe someone has seen already.

I have a 1TB Studio Book on my MacBook Pro.

Usually this is connected via a eSata PCI Express card, but has at times been connected via F800 & USB.

Today, the MBP got a hard reboot due to a hang, so the Studio Book was not dismounted/ejected cleanly.

This has occurred previously, but usually after a bit of futzing around, things are ok.

However, now, when the Studio Book starts up, it gets about 30 seconds in and then seems to hang (the white 'Knight Rider' light stops moving).

I have tried each connection method (esata, F800, usb) but get the same behavior.

I have also tried another external (ITB Lacie) on F800 and this is fine so i know the ports on the MBP are ok.

The lack of connectivity means I can't try the firmware update.

I have also tried connecting the actual drive via another disk enclosure, but the disk shows as a 2TB drive (so I think this will not work anyway), and Disk Rescue tells me it is going to take 1060 hours to do a full scan (as a quick scan produces nothing). I suspect this is a limitation of this other enclosure or maybe the jumpers on the disk need setting...

My suspicion is that controller has gone, rather than the disk itself, as the disk seems to spin up and is not clicking etc.

The Studio Book is about year old, and is almost full (with home video, mostly not backed up)

I'm really just wondering if this rings any bells with someone. I know it should be backup up, but backing up 1TB is expensive - of course, nowhere near as expensive as recovery :/

Jan. 10, 2009


Chris Minnella

Andrew, the first thing I'd do is hit it with DiskWarrior. It sounds like the problem is software related, and not hardware. It may not be mounting because of corruption in the directory, which may have been caused during the incident you described.


Rich Cruse

Sometimes, it's not the drive at all, but the enclosure. If your drive refuses to mount or is working sporadically, try a few things before taking it back or sending it in for repair.

First, try using a different cable. Cables go bad from time to time. Try a different port as well. Try using a different interface. If you are using Firewire, try USB or eSATA, etc. I always buy multiple interface if the price difference is $20 or so. Check the power supply! LaCie drives have had issues with power supplies in the past. If you have a spare, try that. Restart the computer without the drive attached. Power on the drive then plug it in to the computer.

Still no luck? Try using Disk Utility to see if it even "sees" the drive. If it does, try the Repair Utility. Even if it says the drive is unreadable, DO NOT reformat the drive if you want to salvage anything off of it. Disk Warrior and other similar programs can be used to fix any directory problems and restore your drive's data.

You might want to remove the drive from its case and hook it up internally or by using an external docking device like the: [Thermaltake BlacX]

You simply remove the drive from the case and insert the drive into the dock then plug it into the USB 2.0 port of your computer. In a pinch, this could save your bacon. It certainly will help you determine if the drive is faulty or it is the case.

Removing the drive from the case will most likely void the warranty so it would depend on the situation and importance of the data. If you send the drive in for warranty, they will most likely replace it. They will never offer recovery of any data.

Jan. 12, 2009


Colleen Thompson

Andrew, I would try Disk Warrior first.

Jan. 16, 2009


Andrew Smith

Thanks for responses guys.

I got hold of another desktop cradle (different brand to the BlacX, but the same thing) but still no joy. Disk Utility cannot see the drive on the MBP or on my iMac.

I don't own Disk Warrior, but presumably if Disk Utility cannot see the drive then neither will Disk Warrior - is that a correct?

I'm fairly certain the drive has gone south :(


Jan. 17, 2009


Bruce Young

re. drive recovery on device that Apple Disk Utility does not see:

Does the drive spin up? Can you hear it spinning smoothly? then there may be hope for a software solution.

My experience has been that I have had several 'bad' drives that refused to mount or be seen by Disk Utility, but they HAVE been visible and accessible by either Data Rescue (ProSoft) or FileSalvage (Subrosasoft) and sometimes by DiskWarrior (Alsoft).

I've had greater success recovering data off such drives with Data Rescue and FileSalvage than DiskWarrior. Probably because the bad drives structure was so toasted (so to speak) that only the deep searching for data blocks of Data Rescue and FileSalvage could find and pull data.

Note that, in those cases it takes a LOT of time, and spare disk space, to pull files off, which then must be reviewed. But at least if that works, then one has their data on a separate HD.

If the drive is only marginally bad, DiskWarrior may be able to reconstruct so it resembles original structure, or not. But if it does, then best to get everything off it.

These are just my experiences, and may, or not, be helpful in deciding what apps and measures to try next. Each of the three apps I mention is in the $75 to 100 price range, depending on seller.

Of course, if the data is super valuable and you have plenty of money, there are several disk recovery services that will take the physical drive apart (if necessary) to get your data. 'course, that cost generally starts at several hundreds and can run to a thousand or more depending on data amount and effort required...

Good luck and best wishes.


Rich Cruse

I wonder if the pin settings are wrong?

Jan. 19, 2009


Matt Snider

In regards to Chris Eschweiler's comment on the "PXE" screen:

That is NOT a drive error. The PXE message is from the PC's PXE BIOS interrupt. PXE stands for "Pre-boot Execution Environment" and it is used for booting directly into a network, such as in a thin-client arrangement where the thin-client might use only a Windows Terminal Server.

What is happening here is that the default boot mode for the PC is PXE. You can change that in the BIOS setup to bypass PXE and boot to any of a variety of other startup devices.

But that won't solve Chris' client's problem.

The only success I've had recovering data from "dead" drives is to "borrow" the controller card from another drive of the same model number and series that hasn't gone dead. I've installed that on the "dead" drive, powered it up and gotten the data, and afterward, moved the good board back to the drive from whence it came.

I then reinstall the "dead" board on the "dead" drive and ship it back to its manufacturer.

This is one of the same techniques that data recovery companies use but this is among the simplest techniques. Data recovery companies have many more tricks up their sleeves, most requiring very expensive, custom, sophisticated software and very expensive clean rooms and hundreds of thousands of parts of drives in their even more expensive inventories. If you've ever wondered why data recovery costs so much, that's the reason.

Jan. 28, 2009


MacInTouch Reader

I have a WD external Hard drive, which recently stopped working. I have been trying to get in touch with the tech support from WD but their website won't allow me to create an account so that I can update my questions. My laptop is able to recognize that the external is connected, but the drive itself makes a bad sound. I'm not extremely concerned with the external itself, but I would love to be able to get the information off the external. Does anyone know people that can diagnose the problem and either fix it or retrieve the data? I live in the Twin Cities if that makes a difference.

[Data Tech Labs offers free evaluations and garnered some kudos from other MacInTouch readers. -Ric Ford]


Ken M

There is also Drive Savers.

Feb. 17, 2009


Becky Waring

I'm hoping a MacInTouch member might have some advice.

I have an external 500GB Micronet Platinum Firewire 800 drive that is composed of two 250 drives inside the case.

I had copied ALL my sister's DV tapes of her three kids to this drive, in the hope of editing them and making DVDs.

Today, I plugged in the drive, and it would not mount. It can only be initialized, ignored, or ejected.

This has happened several times before with this drive, and every time, I simply initialize the drive with Disk Utility and it then works fine (except for the intermittent non-mounting...).

But I no longer have these tapes, and they are packed away for three years while my sister and her family are in South Africa working for the CDC Global AIDS Program. They are stored with all their other stuff and inaccessible until they return.

So basically, unless I can get this drive mounted, the videos are lost for 3 years.

Since it's not a single drive, I can't take it out and try a different enclosure. I don't know what kind of controller is used, but the drive appears as a single volume to Disk Utility.

I suspect it's faulty boot blocks or something, but how to rewrite them without losing the partitioning (2 partitions) & data? And why does this keep happening? I'm always careful to eject the drive before disconnecting it, and have tried different cables and machines. I also tried mounting it in Windows with MacDrive.

Any suggestions welcome...

Feb. 18, 2009


Bill Schwartz

For Becky Waring: It sounds like you have a PC handy, so I'd suggest you run Steve Gibson's Spinrite (which requires a real PC) on the faulty drives. Spinrite works at a very low level, beneath any file system, so it won't know or care that you had a Mac-formatted volume. (I think you'll be able to run Spinrite on the dual-disk spanned volume in the Firewire case, though perhaps you'll have to remove the drives and work on them individually; GRC tech support could tell you.)

Spinrite can work miracles. There's nothing even remotely comparable for the Mac. Alternatively, you could try DiskWarrior, which is a very different kind of disk repair utility but can be highly effective. I'd be very suspicious of those drives since you say you've had to reformat in the past. Could be that they are slowly failing, but Spinrite, if you run it, should tell you everything you need to know. If you recover the data I'd consider buying a new drive. Good luck.


Jon Ubertech

Run DiskWarrior


Colleen Thompson

Re Becky Waring's problematical RAID drive.

Have you tried Disk Warrior? It works on RAIDs.

You can run DW, get to the point where you can either access the Preview volume or Rebuild the directory; then choose Preview, and copy the Preview to another drive.

I find that Firewire-connected drives are a lot more prone to directory damage and mounting problems than USB ones, which is one reason I tend to advise people use USB drives for Time Machine backups (because speed is not critical, unlike your video editing project.)


Tim Newsom

Re. Becky Waring's missing disk partition, I've had similar problems with a number of external drives (I have a dozen or so, different brands and models). With one that failed multiple times, at best using Disk Utility to repair the directory worked when Disk Warrior didn't; at worst, Disk Utility couldn't see it as a physical device (let alone a partition), Data Rescue II failed to recover anything after 24 hours of scanning, but Disk Warrior successfully scavenged all but one file out of a little over half a terabyte. So all isn't lost, but it might take a little patience and a second drive.

As for why, the only pattern I've noticed that this seems to happen with drives that have been initialized as HFS+ over an existing MBR partition map (sold pre-formatted for Windows, in other words). Since I started partitioning (not initializing) every new enclosure as Apple Partition Map or GUID before use I haven't had any of these mysterious failures. A little too much like voodoo for my liking, but it seems to work...

Feb. 19, 2009


Brian Bergstrand [Prosoft]

Bill Schwartz said:

"Spinrite can work miracles. There's nothing even remotely comparable for the Mac."

Prosoft's Data Rescue II is quite similar to Spinrite and is OS X native. There's a free demo at (Disclaimer, I'm an engineer for Prosoft, but not on DR II.)

Feb. 20, 2009


David Zatz

"Bill Schwartz said:

"Spinrite can work miracles. There's nothing even remotely comparable for the Mac.""

Actually, there's nothing comparable on Windows, either. It uses a unique operating system to boot the computer, and, as far as I can tell, should be able to boot an Intel Mac as easily as a Windows PC. SpinRite uses FreeDOS, an open-source operating system that should allow it to be run by any Intel Mac as long as you boot from its startup media - a floppy, CD, or USB drive. Or you can set up an MS-DOS boot disk and start the Mac from that?

If you use a PowerPC Mac, of course, you're out of luck with Spinrite - along with Netflix On Demand.


Bill Schwartz

Brian Bergstrand [Prosoft] writes:

"Prosoft's Data Rescue II is quite similar to Spinrite and is OS X native." Based on the information on Prosoft's website, Data Rescue II does not seem to be very similar to Spinrite at all.

Data Rescue II, apparently, simply tries to recover as much data from a disk as possible, using more or less conventional methods, and write it to another one, leaving the original disk unchanged. Spinrite not only rescues as much data as possible (using much more sophisticated, unique technology that operates at a very low level beneath the file system), but also fixes the drive (or more accurately, forces the drive to fix itself). Spinrite can also be used preventively to great advantage to avoid disk problems in the first place.

Data Rescue II may be a valuable tool for data recovery, especially since it runs under OS X, but it's no Spinrite. Check out for an extraordinarily detailed description of the unique technology under Spinrite's hood (for example, even if it's impossible to recover an entire sector, it will recover all the bits it can, which is often almost all of them and enough to fix the drive).

Feb. 21, 2009


Bill Schwartz

David Zatz writes:

"[Spinrite] uses a unique operating system to boot the computer, and, as far as I can tell, should be able to boot an Intel Mac as easily as a Windows PC. SpinRite uses FreeDOS, an open-source operating system that should allow it to be run by any Intel Mac as long as you boot from its startup media - a floppy, CD, or USB drive. Or you can set up an MS-DOS boot disk and start the Mac from that?"

Unfortunately, it's not the case that Spinrite will run on an Intel Mac. Here's Steve Gibson's own explanation (from his Security Now! netcast #106):

STEVE: Well, the problem is the Mac is EFI based. The Intel Macs use another generation of the BIOS from what SpinRite was born and bred on, the B-I-O-S, the basic I/O system, input/output system. And SpinRite is still dependent on some of the BIOS functions which are not present in the EFI. So you can't boot SpinRite on an Intel-based Mac directly. And what we tell people is, well, I mean, if you're - well, of course it means that it's very inconvenient to run it just occasionally to prevent, in a preventive maintenance fashion, to prevent there from being problems.

LEO: You'd have to pull the drive out.

STEVE: Right. And people do, and it fixes their Macs that way. But it's, you know, it's a pain in the Mac, so...


David Charlap

David Zatz wrote:

"[SpinRite] uses a unique operating system to boot the computer, and, as far as I can tell, should be able to boot an Intel Mac as easily as a Windows PC."

You might think so, but it's not the case. This MacInTouch discussion here includes a message from GRC on the subject. SpinRite needs not just an Intel processor but a fully PC-compatible hardware and firmware environment, which Macs do not have.


Keith Plucker

FYI, SpinRite will work on a Mac drive but only if it has been moved to a standard Windows box first. The SpinRite CD will not boot/run on an Intel Mac.


Peter Fine

Commenting on:

"Check out for an extraordinarily detailed description of the unique technology under Spinrite's hood".

While this may be true and of course finding a great product that works on Mac OS drives is wanted, it is also a bit of a concern that Spinrite has not been updated since 2004 when the current promoted version 6.0 was released. From their own site: "Monday, June 7th, 2004 " SpinRite 6.0 Released"

Does that mean they hit perfection five years ago or does it mean that the company is not big on continued development or does this make no difference to the user?
Just thinking out loud.


Paul Ediger

David Zatz wrote:

"SpinRite uses FreeDOS, an open-source operating system that should allow it to be run by any Intel Mac as long as you boot from its startup media - a floppy, CD, or USB drive."

While I don't remember if I actually tried it myself, all accounts I've read are that SpinRite will not work even on an Intel Mac. FreeDOS itself can boot (note that the Seagate firmware updater also ran under FreeDOS) but SpinRite has issues without a real BIOS, e.g., keyboard does not even function.

What I have very recently had success with is running SR in VMware Fusion targeted at a drive in an external eSata enclosure. I plan to write more about this somewhere after further testing.

I had gotten SR itself to run in Fusion a while ago but without being able to access drives (USB at that time). My recent success updating a Seagate drive in my SeriTek eSata enclosure (discussed here previously) prompted me to try again with SR.

The key was to configure Fusion, using its vmware-rawdiskCreator tool, for direct access to the drive. I have not yet finished scanning a 500GB test drive with SR (I last stopped it at 44%) but it appeared to be working quite well. While it's not fast, reporting in the range of 24 hours for a level 4 scan and something like 8 for a level 2 scan, this is not that different from some reports I've read in the GRC Spinrite forum regarding scan times for big drives on real PCs (which I have had limited experience doing).

Again, I hope to write a more detailed account when time permits, but if there is interest I could provide additional information here.


Bill Schwartz

Peter Fine writes:

"it is also a bit of a concern that Spinrite has not been updated since 2004 when the current promoted version 6.0 was released . . . Does that mean they hit perfection five years ago or does it mean that the company is not big on continued development or does this make no difference to the user?"

Spinrite is an extremely mature and actively developed product that uses technology years ahead of any other tool I'm aware of. Steve Gibson, the developer, releases new versions when he has major new features he feels are worth adding, but he doesn't add fluff just to generate new versions. The one thing Spinrite really needs is an OS X version, and lots of people ask for it. Steve is on record saying it will happen, but not anytime soon, since other projects have priority for him.


Bill Schwartz

Paul Ediger writes:

"...I have very recently had success...running SR in VMware Fusion targeted at a drive in an external eSata enclosure...if there is interest I could provide additional information here."

There's interest. Please keep us posted. Steve Gibson has said it can't be done, even if Fusion has the direct hard disk access you describe. So if you succeed it will be big news. And it will sell many copies of Spinrite.

Mar. 16, 2009


Greg Hastings

A company is trying to recover data from my existing hard drive (Mac Notebook laptop). I have been told, they (or I), need to find a "Donor" hard drive(more than likely used), which is an EXACT match to the following criteria. Once found this company will remove the heads from the donor and installed into the original drive, with hopes the data can be extracted.

I am not a computer "guru" so I don't know if the above can done accomplished. Can it?

Seagate momentus 5400.3,
FW: 3.CAE,
Model: ST9120822AS,
Site: WU,
Date: 08031


Mar. 17, 2009


Philip Accas

Re: Greg Hastings' need for a "donor" Seagate HD:

If the read/write heads alone are what caused his current drive to fail, then swapping the head assembly from an identical drive (clean room protocols, please!) should result in a workable drive.

A quick search using the model number ST9120822AS shows Amazon has at least one "new" starting at $39 (though this is from a brand new seller; next cheapest new is $109), and a few refurbs from $55. If someone has a spare 120 GB Momentus they can contribute, great, but failing that, I would think Greg might be willing to pay a reasonable amount to expedite getting his data back. My experience with data recovery costs for clients leads me to believe 50-ish bucks for a drive will unfortunately be a small percentage of the total to get his data back.

I can't be sure if the Amazon stock matches every criteria he lists (FW versions, site and date), but perhaps contacting one of the Amazon vendors before purchase could confirm that by just reading the label.

Assuming all goes well with the recovery, I would *not* rely on the Frankendrive created by melding the two Seagates, and *immediately* copy the data yet another drive, or another Mac.

(Oh, and be sure to use the MacInTouch link to Amazon to support Ric if you do buy.)

Mar. 24, 2009


Nathan Cobb

In the past couple of weeks I have twice suffered hard crashes (kernel panics) and when I have rebooted my active/primary account was missing and I am unable to login. This is on a MacBook Pro about 18m old on which I did a clean install of Leopard w/ all patches a a couple of months ago. The only thing different is that I installed the new Safari 4.x beta.

The first time this happened I was able to boot into single user mode, clean up some minor errors in the file system, enable the root user and recreate the user entry with dscl (with a lot of help from Google.) The second time, last night, I tried the same thing, but there were no problems when I ran fsck and dscl was unable to recreate the missing user ("create: Invalid Path / DS Error: -14009") although it will create a test account.

At this point I'm sure I can create a new user and move all the files over, but I'm concerned that something is corrupt at a lower level and this will continue to happen. Any thoughts out there? I'd like to avoid reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling the entire OS ...

Sep. 8, 2009


Ericka Basile

I have had my Powerbook G4 for about five years now, and it has never given me any problems, until about three months ago it would make an internal noise that I just assumed was a fan overheating. It would only make the noise when I would physically pick it up and move it to another location. Then one night, I left the computer on to upload some pictures and the next morning the really scary noises started to occur. My hard drive failing and going kaput,of course.

I took the comp to Tekserve, a local Mac expert. There they told me not to turn it back on, and that for them to attempt data recovery it would cost $600, not including the price of a new hard drive. None of my files, music or photos are backed up. So, from the advice of friends who have also had hard drive failure I have decided to try and turn the computer on one more time. If this works, i will attempt to transfer data to an external hard drive, and then get a new hard drive. I am just terrified that I am going to lose all of my data. Is this just a pipe dream, or could it actually work?

Sep. 9, 2009


Colleen Thompson

Erika said:

"So, from the advice of friends who have also had hard drive failure I have decided to try and turn the computer on one more time. If this works, i will attempt to transfer data to an external hard drive, and then get a new hard drive. I am just terrified that I am going to lose all of my data. Is this just a pipe dream, or could it actually work?"

Sure, it *could* work. However, there are many kinds of hard drive failure, some of which rapidly go from bad to worse with further disk activity -- hence the shop's advice, which which I concur, to not turn on your computer and to bring it in ASAP. An expert will be more likely to succeed in salvaging as much data as possible with less wasted disk activity. You might look for an alternative to that particular shop, someone who would charge for the actual time spent and not a flat fee.

And of course you'll make sure you have good backups going forward...everybody loses one unbacked-up hard drive. Very few do it twice.


Erik Rieselbach

For Ericka Basile, whose hard drive is dying:

I strongly recommend that you find a friend with a Mac, attach your Powerbook to that Mac by Firewire, and bring it up in target mode, instead of trying to boot it directly.

And my second recommendation is to buy an external drive and a copy of SuperDuper and have it automatically clone your replacement drive every night!


Skot Nelson


If this works, i will attempt to transfer data to an external hard drive, and then get a new hard drive

If you're intending to continue to use the machine, and not replace it, I would instead just get a new drive installed and put the old drive in an external case to see if it will mount. If you were in Vancouver, I'd give you a case that I haven't used in some time.

Another alternative is to try to boot the machine into FireWire target disk mode by holding the T key down and connecting it to another host machine.

Generally speaking when drives fail they're dead, but it's possible that either one of these might allow you to recover your data. I wouldn't hold my breath though.


Ian Wright

re: Erika Basile's issue

There are no guarantees in real life! Your tech people were making a calculated guess and until you try it you won't know if it would boot one more time. They would still have to power the drive up, removed from your G4, to remove the data so there's a risk there, hence their caution.

Another option you might consider is to try starting the G4 in Target Disk mode.

Connect by Firewire to another Mac and power G4 on while holding down the T key on the G4. If all goes well you'll see your G4 drive appear on other Mac's Desktop just like any other external drive. If this is successful you may be able drag files from the G4 drive onto the other Mac, subject to the condition of the drive. Not a great solution if you want an image of the full drive but if it's just your documents and important folders, it may help. My impression is that the hard drive is under less stress mounting as a target disk than booting because there's a lot less drive activity, at least initially.

Did I already mention Time Machine and what a wonderful innovation it is....!

Sep. 10, 2009


Richard Tjoa

Ericka Basile wrote:

"So, from the advice of friends who have also had hard drive failure I have decided to try and turn the computer on one more time. If this works, I will attempt to transfer data to an external hard drive, and then get a new hard drive. I am just terrified that I am going to lose all of my data. Is this just a pipe dream, or could it actually work?"

Well, it could work, but it could also NOT work. Her most reliable bet is to go with the data recovery.

That said, if she still really, really wanted to proceed, I would NOT boot the PowerBook but, instead, connect it to another Mac via FireWire, starting the PowerBook up in FireWire Target Disk Mode (turn it on, hold down the T key). Then, copy the contents of your old hard drive off. Start with the contents of your Home Folder (double click Users, then your username), in order of "most important to you" priority (Documents? Pictures? Desktop?).

Before you begin: Make sure Spotlight drive indexing is turned off (the methods for turning it off differ between OS versions) and make sure there is plenty of empty hard drive space available. Also, make sure your computers are plugged in. Minimize the number of times your hard drive needs to start up. (Don't turn it on "just to see if it'll work.") Ask a more expert friend for help if you need it. And use Time Machine. It's really been a lifesaver for me.

Nov. 16, 2009


Rowland Jobson

Hi I wondered if Gregg Hastings had recovered his hard drive with a donor drive!

I have the same drive go and am looking for a donor!

Lots out there but none of the exact model for a donor drive. The data recovery people say it needs to be the exact model.

Surely Apple should have issued a recall on these!? Seems to be a big problem as most of the drives of this model are dead!

If you know someone with one or where to go it will be much appreciated

It's a SEAGATE 5400


ST9120822as 3.cae wu

Apr. 27, 2010


Trevor Hart

I wanted to get recommendations on what drive utilities one should keep handy for both testing a drive and recovering data. TechTool, Drive Genius, Diskwarrior, Data Rescue, SpeedTools, and others have all been mentioned previously on MacInTouchh. For looking at SMART data, smartmontools works just fine for me.

However, testing the drive's physical media is something I've been wanting to do (especially a non-destructive read-write test). I'd love to hear suggestions for this.

And secondly, for drive repair and recovery, is having Diskwarrior and one of the other recovery tools a good idea? Or is there one recovery program that covers both Diskwarrior's talent at repairing directories and offers additional recovery features?

Many thanks in advance to Ric Ford and readers.


MacInTouch Reader

Re Trevor Hart's question about what disk utilities to use:

I don't think anything else does what Disk Warrior does.

If you're happy with SmartMonTools instead of SMART Utility, that's great. Same result.

Personally, when checking a disk, I do this, after booting to my external diagnostic drive:

1. Check it with SMART Utility, if it's an internal disk

2. Repair permissions with Disk Utility (seems to be faster than letting Disk Warrior do it.)

3. Rebuild directory with Disk Warrior

4. If it's an external drive, use TechTool Pro's Surface Scan to check the blocks (this can take a loooong time.) Alternatively, after a DW rebuild, the System Log will show the number of bad blocks discovered, on some disks, but not all. Also, if DW reports during rebuild "speed inhibited due to disk malfunction", this almost invariably means there are bad blocks.

For recovery of a damaged drive, it depends quite a lot on the circumstances. If the client may want to send it to DriveSavers or similar, best not to stress the drive at all. If that's not a consideration, try to clone the drive (prioritized portions of it first) from a Disk Warrior preview using Carbon Copy Cloner. Other apps that can come in handy for sicker disks are Data Rescue and File Salvage.


Tracy Valleau

I have an explanation of disk utilities (and why there is no "one best") posted here:

Aug. 9, 2010


Rafael Acosta

By accident I deleted some images from a memory card and wanted them back.

I tried the demos of PhotoRescue and StellarPhoenixPhotoRecovery and both found the images I needed.
When I tried to purchase the software, *both* companies declined my transaction because the country of my credit card billing address doesn't match the country of my IP address.
(My company sent me to work abroad)

Both companies assumed it was fraud and decided to completely ignore me for a few days.
Not a single email telling to contact customer support, or their fraud department.

The status windows always showed the transactions as "unprocessed" and kept on saying that I should wait for an email - that never arrived.
As a side note; Amex approved the charges on *both* occasions but the vendors reversed the transactions! - yes, I called to check.

Only after writing angry mails to everyone, the programmer of PhotoRescue started an email war -and instead of making things up, he tried to justify his actions and the ones of the payment processing company.
He completely misses the point and thinks that ignoring these things is the best course of action.
I just believe ignoring a potential customer is a bad practice. Always.

After 72 hours, I started to get automatic emails from both processing companies stating that my transaction was declined -again, not by my CCC.

Since these clowns clearly didn't want my money, I did some further research until I found this:

PhotoRec 6.11.3 worked perfectly; and for free!
It is not a fancy product (you run it from the console command line) but it does the work.
I will donate to the creator the equivalent of what I would have paid otherwise.


Joe Ubertech

Just to piggyback off of this thread...

This company's other software is called TestDisk.

Do NOT under any circumstances, use this software - I've seen it destroy more drives than one should get a chance to destroy.

Now, granted, that may be because putting a command line tool that rebuilds a partition map, but requires an end user to insert values such as the size of a volume in blocks, is far from a good idea and creates all sorts of possibility for user error - as I can virtually assure that 99.99% of people reading this thread do not know how to find the size of a drive, in blocks, when a drive is inaccessible. Nor, certainly, how to verify that the value they find, is correct.

Dangerous dangerous software.

Aug. 10, 2010


Harold Zeh

Rafael Acosta exclaimed that for image recovery, PhotoRec 6.11.3 worked perfectly; and for free! I will second that and add it affords a greater amount of configuration than found in other recovery tools. You can go very deep with finer grain control in your pursuit of that lost file. The software is also very well documented which made using the command line a walk in the park - albeit at night, for one not generally comfortable there.

Aug. 12, 2010


WK Lee

I've used PhotoRec and it works very well but there's one thing to consider: It finds every file and renames them uniquely regardless of whether the files are duplicates or not. I've had anywhere from 2 to 10 identical files that were discovered by PhotoRec.

A second step is needed to weed out the identical files and thirdly, rename them back to the user preferred names. There are lots of utilities but they are mostly for Windows. I'm currently trying out "A Better Finder Rename" to see if it helps.


WK Lee

The recovered file names that PhotoRec writes to disk are cryptic alphanumeric file names like f12345678.jpg


Bill Schwartz

I just had a superb experience with Alsoft's Disk Warrior tech support. Indispensable utility, great support.

Time Machine had become unable to use a backup disk that's been in service for several years. Disk Warrior was unable to rebuild the directory, reporting inadequate memory in the Mac Pro I was using. (I assume this was because of the complex nature of Time Machine disk directories). Apple Disk Utility was also unable to repair the disk, though it reported many errors.

Alsoft tech support (in the person of the estimable Marc Moorsash) asked me to set up an iChat session. Marc took over the Mac Pro via iChat screen sharing. He implemented a hidden feature set of Disk Warrior (which is apparently protected by a special password system preventing anyone but Alsoft from getting in).

As far as I can tell, he used this special feature set to rebuild a corrupt volume header that was part of the problem. He also explained to me that he was able to command Disk Warrior to overlook the memory limitation problem and attempt to repair the drive anyway. (I asked if adding RAM to the Mac Pro would have helped, and he said no, since the problem is OS X's limit on the amount of memory it can make available to a given app; I assume this is why virtual memory was unable to help in this case).

It took a while, but Disk Warrior successfully rebuilt the Time Machine volume's directory. Marc confirmed my suspicion that the hard disk was physically failing and should be retired from service immediately. But Disk Warrior's "Report" area let me mount a virtual Preview Disk from which I was able to copy files to another drive for safekeeping.

To me this is an incredible free service Alsoft offers to its customers: expert hard disk repair, done remotely by their own personnel, when Disk Warrior is unable to do the job in its normal end-user mode. I can't imagine a good reason for any Mac owner not to own Disk Warrior, especially given the high rate of hard drive failures recently documented by Google and experienced, I think, by all of us sooner or later. Now if we could only persuade Steve Gibson to write a Mac version of SpinRite (which maintains and repairs magnetic hard disks--though not SSDs -- at a much lower level, below the file system)...

Marc is also extremely expert and nice to work with. I'm just a customer, no other connections here, but an even more satisfied one than I was before.

Aug. 13, 2010


Stephen Clark

Bill Schwartz's experience with Disk Warrior says a lot about Alsoft's commitment to the Mac community. I've relied upon DW for many, many years (long before OS X!) to resolve drive problems that otherwise would have caused much pain and sorrow.

(I'll have to contact them about an Apple RAID mirror drive pair I had problems with earlier this year - so far nothing I've tried renders that drive visible again to my Mac Pro....)


Gregory Tetrault

WK Lee said:

"The recovered file names that PhotoRec writes to disk are cryptic alphanumeric file names like f12345678.jpg"

If the JPEG files are photographs or scans, and if their EXIF data is intact, then you can use a utility such as ExifRenamer to rename the files based on their creation date and time (which is my preferred way to name photos). This would make it easier to find replicate recovered images.


Ken Cohen

I've used Disk Warrior to do volume repairs on my hard drives which neither Disk Utility nor Techtool Pro could handle. As a result, it's paid for itself several times over in time saved and repair bills not incurred. Great application from a company that's been selling Mac software since the 1980's. (I remember my first Alsoft application was a little program that let me use my Stylewriter One inkjet printer as a typewriter with my Mac SE30.)

Aug. 16, 2010


Christian Nelson

DiskWarrior is great, but owners of "newer" Macintoshes should take note of this paragraph from the Alsoft web site:

The current DiskWarrior DVD cannot start up the new iMac Quad-Core (introduced 10/20/2009), the new MacBook Pros (introduced 4/13/2010) or the new Mac Mini models (introduced 06/15/2010). An updated disc that will also start up these recent Mac models will be released as soon as Apple, Inc. releases new startup files to Alsoft, Inc. and other developers.


Chuck B

I've used Alsoft DiskWarrior since before the days of OS X and it has always worked flawlessly. In over 10 years of use, I've had 3 serious emergencies involving disk crashes or major corruption and DiskWarrior saved the day each time.

On one occasion I thought the disk was physically damaged and that even DW couldn't fix it. Alsoft tech support spent time with me on the problem and told me to run DW -overnight-. Somehow DW scavenged the disk and I recovered 99% of the contents.

Highly, highly recommended. You want need DW often, but when you need it, you'll REALLY need it.

Aug. 17, 2010


Joe Ubertech

We all really have a short memory as this issue comes up every time there is new hardware - it is not unique to Alsoft. Although I do wonder why Apple is taking so long to supply its developers with the ability to create a new disc.

However, it isn't really a big deal that you can't start up "newer" computers from a third-party CD or DVD.

Further on in the Alsoft website we see:

You will need to employ one of the following workarounds:

Alternate Startup Disk: If you have another drive (such as an external FireWire drive or an iPod) you could install Mac OS X (10.3.9 or higher) on that drive and then start from it. Install DiskWarrior on that drive's "Utilities" folder, (which is inside the "Applications" folder) and run DiskWarrior from there.

Target Disk Mode: Connect two Macs with a FireWire cable where the one is the "host" and the other is a "target". The host Mac should be running an OS X in which DiskWarrior 4 runs. In this scenario, the target Mac is the Mac whose disk you are trying to rebuild. Start by shutting down the target Mac. Then turn it on while holding down the "T" key. The target Mac's drive will appear as a usable drive on the host Mac. Run DiskWarrior from the host Mac and rebuild the target Mac's disk.


James Wilson

Running Disk Warrior from the CD is really slow. Everyone should have a backup system boot volume. Start up from your backup boot volume with DW installed to rebuild your startup volume. This works fine even if you can not start up from the DW CD.


Stephen Hart

Christian Nelson wrote:

"DiskWarrior is great, but owners of "newer" Macintoshes should take note of this paragraph from the Alsoft web site..."

Because DiskWarrior startup CDs require a licensed mini OS version from Apple, the CDs are often a few models behind.

But no matter. Using any sufficiently sized external hard drive, thumb drive, etc., just install the OS and the most current version of DiskWarrior on the drive, then start up from that drive.

I keep DiskWarrior on my internal startup drive, and keep it current. Any of my several clones (made with Carbon Copy Cloner) will start up my Macs, and all have the current version of DiskWarrior.


Terrence Thompson

I agree with Chuck B:

"I've used Alsoft DiskWarrior since before the days of OS X and it has always worked flawlessly."

Back in 2005, I had an older iMac DV SE 500 MHz that would that was booting into open firmware when I used the then new DiskWarrior CD. I contacted Alsoft and was immediately told, "reset the firmware" with precise instructions on how to do so.

They also told me what to do for an even older iMac my wife was using: "For the other computer, the 233MHz, you will need to start from the OS 9.1 System Folder on the DiskWarrior CD. Start the computer from the DiskWarrior CD by holding the "C" key at startup then switch to the number 2 key when you see the happy Mac. ?When you do this you will force the computer to start from the OS 9.1 System Folder.

Both suggestions worked flawlessly.

With Apple or other software updates over the years, I always use Apple's Disk Utility for Repair Disk and Repair Disk Permissions plus DiskWarrior before and after any upgrades. I always update redundant backup SuperDuper! clones before backups too. When problems have occurred, this strategy has always been a winning combo.

I don't recall what I paid for my first DiskWarrior CD but I just upgrade for a nominal fee whenever a major new version comes out. Less than major revisions have software you can download and update and make a new disc.

I routinely run DiskWarrior on every Mac Saturday morning for peace of mind.

Again, Chuck B is right,

"Highly, highly recommended. ... when you need it, you'll REALLY need it."



For those with operating stuff at the terminal and USB/firewire-to-disk adapters, the open-source GNU ddrescue is a brilliant failing disk recovery tool.

It is very much a nuts and bolts level tool, but also quite easy to use. You will need Apple Developer tools installed to compile it. This is a daunting 1GB download.

It is filesystem agnostic, everything it does in at the OS device level. So you can use it to rescue Windows, Mac, and Linux disks.

Basically, it tries to copy every block of a source disk to a corresponding block on a target, which can be another disk (same size or larger) or a file (image) if you like. You can tell it to keep a log to which it records status for each sector, so it can be quit and resumed, and so you can get the most readable data first, then try again for disk regions that generate errors. The resume capability increases the efficacy of tricks like cooling the drive to get back stubbornly unreadable data.

Even if it can't get everything, you can get the retrievable parts of a failing disk onto a good one and potentially rebuild it using Disk Utility and / or Disk Warrior, or gain organized access to the most valuable data.

A basic usage looks like:

diskutil list

to determine the proper Unix device special file, then

sudo ./ddrescue -n /dev/<src> /dev/<target> logfile

It prints three lines of continuously updating status to help you track recovery. If canceled and re-invoked, logile let's it resume where it left off. Here's the from a restore I am doing as I write this:

bigstakes:ddrescue-1.12 main$ ./ddrescue -c 1024 -n /dev/disk7 /dev/disk8 logfile2

Press Ctrl-C to interrupt

Initial status (read from logfile)
rescued: 1749 MB, errsize: 0 B, errors: 0
Current status
rescued: 70071 MB, errsize: 410 MB, current rate: 102 B/s
ipos: 70481 MB, errors: 970, average rate: 1026 kB/s
opos: 70481 MB, time from last successful read: 0 s

DON'T JUST RUN THIS TOOL WITHOUT THINKING and double check your work a la "measure-twice-cut-once." If you specify the wrong drive special files, you can wreck your current installation or any other disk in a heartbeat. With great power comes great responsibility.

There are a number of good write-ups on the web, which 20 minutes of Google searching will uncover. Read the man page.

Don't confuse GNU ddrescue (find it at with an earlier incarnation dd_rescue.

You will see the writeups contrast ddrescue with the Unix tool dd (device to device I/O) of lore and legend, and upon which ddrescue is based.

If there is anything challenging about using this tool, besides shooting yourself in the foot, it's the amount of time it takes. It averages about 3-4MB/sec for USB to USB rescue, so a 100GB drive will take 8 hours, best case. Recovery time increases depending on the type of problem with the drive and number of errors. It always rescues the whole device, because at its level of operation it has no idea how full it is.

Best of luck on your recovery!


Bill Strohm

One problem I have had since installing an ATI Radeon X800 XT graphics card in my PPC G5: Starting from either the TechTool or the Disk Warrior CD results in an almost unreadable display. This is because Apple did not supply either Alsoft or Micromat with a version of Mac OS X that contains the ATI "Rom Extender" file. That file is needed to properly operate the X800 XT card. Apple should be sure to use the latest ATI software in the OS it supplies to third-party utility software developers.


David S.

Regarding the post by Christian Nelson that quoted the Alsoft Website discussing Disk Warrior being incapable of starting up the latest brand new Macs:

This is not a new situation. In the last several years, I can recall that this happened many times where the DW disc would not boot a new system, and Alsoft says so. And as the site mentions, there WILL be an updater that you can usually download for free. This updater takes your original DW disc and builds an image of an updated disc that you then burn.

Regardless, there's a workaround, which might be better. I'm reasonably sure you can install your personal copy of DW onto a Firewire or USB "emergency" drive, boot from that (instead of the CD), and still be able to run DW on the new Macs.

No, I haven't tried it on these specific Macs listed on the website so anyone who wants to play it safe should first contact Alsoft about it.

But in general, I've always had success running DW off a bootable external HD rather than their own disc. MUCH much faster that way!


Steve B

Chuck B's comment about Disk Warrior:

"You want need DW often, but when you need it, you'll REALLY need it."

Is absolutely correct from my experience. DW works.


Steven Smith

In 15 years of professional consulting, I, too, will vouch for Disk Warrior's value. Since the release of Mac OS X, it is the ONLY third-party, disk maintenance software I carry in my gig bag.

If the problem cannot be addressed by Disk Warrior and/or the CLI or Apple's Disk Utility, it's no longer a repair job but a recovery job. For that there is other software or...(gulp)...paying for data recovery (FYI: regular, automated backups are MUCH less expensive).

Thanks for the many years of service from the MacInTouch team.


Chris Evans

DiskWarrior has saved my bacon a number of times in the past. In addition, if you run into difficulties, Alsoft's support is nothing short of spectacular. I am puzzled why Apple hasn't purchased Diskwarrior from Alsoft. There isn't a better Mac hard drive diagnostic/repair utility on the face of the planet, and Apple's Disk Utility pales in comparison to DiskWarrior. Kudos to Alsoft for your great product, product support, and support of the Mac community!

Aug. 18, 2010


Matt Neuburg


Running Disk Warrior from the CD is really slow

But running DiskWarrior from the DVD is *not* slow. This is one of the best recent changes to DiskWarrior. Plunk down the upgrade price for the DVD version and prepare to be amazed at the fast launch time.


Kurt Tappe

Be aware that Alsoft's "Target Disk Mode" tip works for basic directory structure repairs but won't work for badly munged disks. If DiskWarrior doesn't find good directory info and has to go perusing the disk, rebuilding the drive from scratch, or there are other hardware-related disk problems, it needs direct access to the disk. Target Disk Mode adds a layer of interpretation between the HD and the host Mac, and Apple's firmware can't deal with disk malfunctions as well as DiskWarrior can.

In such cases, remove the bad HD from the Mac and put it in the recovery Mac running DiskWarrior, or boot the bad Mac from a USB or Firewire drive so DiskWarrior doesn't have Apple's firmware between it and the HD.


David Weatherston


I am puzzled why Apple hasn't purchased Diskwarrior from Alsoft.

Heavens above! Don't even _think_ that, let alone print it in public. Apple would turn it into something "insanely great" (half the features, idiot-proof interface, no troubleshooting report) and the vaunted support would evolve downward into Applecare elves "solving" every problem by telling you to re-install your system software.


David Empson

Joe Ubertech was wondering why Apple was taking so long to supply a bootable system to Alsoft (and other developers) for mid 2010 MacBook Pro.

There is a good explanation for the delay in this case: all the mid 2010 models from the MacBook Pro (April) to the Mac Pro (August) came with custom builds of 10.6.3. Some of them (Mac Mini, iMac and Mac Pro) were too new to be supported by the general release of 10.6.4, so a custom update was required for each model to bring it up to 10.6.4. Until Apple has finished releasing this batch of new Mac models (we still haven't seen a MacBook Air update) and release 10.6.5, they won't have a single system version that can boot every recent model.

Anyway, as you note, it isn't a major problem yet as long as you are only dealing with a single model, have an external hard drive and can install a bootable system with DiskWarrior on that. Just be aware that the system may not be compatible with all the mid 2010 models until you can install 10.6.5 on it.

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