Recover Data After Blue Screen Of Death

Data Recovery Options Better With Mozy Backup

windows-bsod-recover-dataMy 8 year old laptop hard drive decided it was old and worthy of failure generating a Windows Blue Screen Of Death. Panic, right?

Well, a BSOD is a guaranteed inconvenience at least. Time is valuable.

Knowing, though, that one has backups is always a comfort, one that can prevent panic, pain and suffering.

I needed to both get my laptop up and running AND recover some files that were on the desktop. Note that my REAL data resides on servers, but that doesn’t mean there are items on a laptop or desktop that I don’t want to lose.

So..we back up everything!

Getting The Laptop Running Again

Restoring the laptop to working condition was easy since I had made an image of the hard drive with Acronis True Image when the laptop was setup and working. With a hard drive image, restoring is as easy as installing the new hard drive, booting with the Acronis CD and restoring the image from the USB hard drive.

But.. unless the image was very recently done, there are things you will be missing like programs installed (hope you kept those installation disks or files and registration keys! And.. any data that was created or changed since the hard drive image was made.

And the thing I have found in a couple of decades of computer consulting is that backups that don’t happen automatically seem to just not happen.

Sure, I had some clients who made backup part of their daily schedule and did a great job, but when was the last time you knew someone who made backing up their computer at home part of their daily routine? That’s what I thought.

Enter Mozy Online Backup

That’s why for my laptop I went ahead and installed Mozy Home online backup service so that I wouldn’t have to make computer backup part of my daily schedule; it just happens – every day – for me without my thinking about it.

In the case of my laptop, since most of my data is on my servers, the FREE 2GB Mozy account was all that I needed.

This gave me two options for restoring my data files onto my laptop:

  1. Restore from Mozy’s Website
  2. Recover the files, if possible, using my Vantec USB hard drive adapter (see below)

Note that the minute my laptop BSOD’d I picked up my Android Smartphone (Droid X), opened the Mozy App and restored the most recent file I had worked on to make sure it was there – and it was. The file opened in Quick Office Pro right on my phone. Nice.

Here is the video I did for OnlineBackupSpot:

Data Recovered From Failing Drive With Vantec Adapter

I have several YouTube videos already showing how to recover data files from a hard drive that will not boot Windows or came out of a failed USB external hard drive. I often get questions, though, about getting data off of a DEAD hard drive.

If the drive is dead, you will only get data – maybe – from an expensive data recovery service (hundreds or even thousands of dollars). If the drive spins up and the computer recognizes it, then a Vantec USB hard drive adapter is the easiest, most convenient way to connect it to a PC, explore and retrieve files. You can even do some drive diagnostics and repair.

Here are a couple of photos of the hard drive, one after being removed from the laptop and the other connected to the Vantec adapter. This is an older 2.5″ IDE style drive, but the adapter works with 3.5″ IDE and newer SATA also.

Failing Hard Drive Removed From Laptop
Laptop IDE HD Connected to Vantec USB Adapter


Process For Trouble Shooting Hard Drive

The laptop was running when the Blue Screen Of Death appeared. That could be from a program running and accessing the hard drive (such as the Mozy backup) or the Windows swap file could have become corrupted, maybe a Windows system file.

The result will often be a few scramble files at best.

First, reboot. If you have the option to boot into the recover console (like with XP), do so and run a “ChkDsk /p” to fix any file system errors. Unfortunately when I did this, I received a BSOD, unbootable disk error.

So my next step was to remove the hard drive (see photo above) and connect to my Eee PC with the Vantec USB HDD adapter. Windows XP on the Eee PC recognized the drive, assigned a drive letter and let me explore the hard drive.

If I had not already recovered the files I needed via Mozy restore, the FIRST thing you want to do at this point is grab your most important files FIRST, followed by everything else you want. Do NOT shut it off until this is done! You never know what will happen next time you try to access the drive.

Now, just for a double-to-be-sure, I did copy the desktop files I wanted from the damaged hard drive to the desktop of the Eee PC.

Diagnostic and Repair of Damaged Hard Drive

Naturally the most convenient thing would be to see if I could fix the hard drive and install it back in the laptop. So at this point I was ready to try a chkdsk on the drive. At first ChkDsk reported that it could not perform the operation on the volume with the error message “Cannot open volume for direct access”.

MS Security Essentials Has Drive Locked

The culprit turned out to be my MS Security Essentials anti-virus, and since that does not have a convenient “unload” option, I did this short video showing how to exclude a drive from scanning in Microsoft Security Essentials. That did the trick and I was able to run ChkDsk.

Unfortunately, the damage on the drive was such that ChkDsk encountered an unexpected error and terminated without fixing anything. Time to replace the drive and trash it.

Since I already had multiple ways of recovering my files, and the drive gave me 8 years of service, things could be worse.

Do you think it’s time you backup with Mozy?

WAIT! – Don’t Reboot Just Yet..

With Windows operating systems it is common practice to have to reboot the server or workstation from time to time just to straighten things out. Add to that the times you reboot because you installed or updated a program and you can be rebooting quite often.

Don’t Touch That Dial!

I think the narrator in the TV version of Batman used to yell that out, but I could be wrong. What I mean is this: Don’t reboot without considering that the computer may not come up after the reboot.

When was your last backup?

Before you reboot, make a quick backup of at least the work you know has changed since your last good backup. Also think about your contingency plan in case the server or workstation chooses not to come alive again.

It’s just a fact with computer hardware that any time it’s running, it might be the last time. Does this happen frequently? Thankfully, no. But over the last couple of decades I have received enough frantic calls when it hasn’t to warrant mentioning it here.

Then there is the Windows operating system.

Just last week a client called me to say that their Windows 2000 server had a BSOD (blue screen of death) with 0x0000007B “Inaccessible Boot Device” on the screen. Not good.

Everything was working just fine except that a vendor support person couldn’t get in with pcAnywhere (an old as the hills remote control program). Why they haven’t joined the 21st century by using a product like GoToMyPC for tech support access is beyond me. So, without thinking about the last 3 nights backups that did NOT complete successfully, they rebooted.

After spending about 3 hours following all of Microsoft’s suggestions and Googling for any other hints, I punted. With a Windows Server 2003 CD at arms reach I couldn’t justify spending any more time trying to fix Windows 2000.

Fortunately, Windows 2000 Server was all that was corrupt; the data was all good (sigh of relief here). This is a client that does NOT hire me to monitor their server and such items as backup – that may change. A new Dell PowerEdge Server has also been ordered.

So before you click on Start | Shutdown | Restart – ask yourself what you will do if it doesn’t restart; and do a quick backup first.