Data Disaster

OK, it’s not a total data disaster, but basically, it potentially means the loss of almost all my outgoing email for the past three years or so.

When I migrated to Fedora 19 over the weekend, I did it on a new disk, retaining the old installation on the old one. After I did so, I copied my old files over to the new disk from it. Unfortunately, rather than doing it from the shell with a ‘cp -r *’ I just used the GUI tool to drag’n’drop. Which means that I didn’t get the hidden files. Which contain all of my Thunderbird folders. I still have all incoming mail, because I’m using IMAP, but the outgoing was in those folders.

It shouldn’t have been a problem, but when I went back to grab the rest, I’m getting an error message that the drive can’t be mounted, and warnings that the drive is failing. Is the data still recoverable? And if so, by me, or do I have to take it to a specialist?

18 thoughts on “Data Disaster”

    1. Normally I’m opposed to the government competing with private business, but since the NSA is already doing the work, who needs Carbonite?

      1. It’s always funny when it happens to somebody else. I thought I was being smart partitioning my drive into 20% code and 80% data. When my code partition got wiped I’m left to figure out how to get over 500gb of data recovered. I could see it, but couldn’t get at it (I don’t know enough Linux to recover the Windows data.) Then I lost it and discovered that life goes on.

        I have a passport drive, but Linux can’t see that either. The only data I saved was what I had burned onto CDs.

  1. I had a similar error message a few years back, and it was actually a new but faulty power supply that couldn’t *quite* supply enough juice for two biggish drives.

    Drove me crazy for a few days, until the evil spirits left in a puff of black smoke.

    You might try with just the old drive powered up, and see if you can write to an USB stick or something.

  2. If you don’t succeed, you are welcome to come out here to Mojave and let me see what I can do.

    1. I may take you up on that. The cost of driving up to Mojave is less than that to take it to an expensive drive guru, and the benefits of going there exceed just data recovery…

  3. All I can say is this.

    Actually, that’s not all I can say. I have personally had email recovered from a hard disk platter that had been physically destroyed by the read/write heads. It was in pieces when they opened the drive. As I 0recall it was $1,200 back in the 90s. It should be possible. Don’t give up.

  4. I still have all incoming mail, because I’m using IMAP, but the outgoing was in those folders.

    Was there a reason why you didn’t configure an IMAP folder to store your sent mail?

  5. Another trick to try is to set up a bootable USB memory drive with persistence. There are several utilities to do this but a Fedora link is at:
    The key is to have a “persistent” overlay. That way the usb drive boots and also has space so that you can store data to the usb stick. If you remove the new drive, replace it with the old then boot into the usb stick, you may be able to mount the old drive and copy the files to the usb stick. Then you could sent those files elsewhere (dropbox, ubuntu one etc) and pick them up later when you put back the new drive. You could also try booting into a usb drive with parted magic. It might allow you to mount the old drive and then a similar “cloud” backup strategy might work (they usually have Firefox on them).

  6. You… care about this data?

    And you didn’t already have a backup?


    (This comment is not helpful for getting your lost mail back, but … get religion about backups and you will never have this problem again.

    Every piece of data on rotary media is to be considered already failed unless there’s redundancy – and frankly flash sticks aren’t much more trustworthy.

    No backup means it might as well already be gone.)

  7. I recommend Carbonite, which backs up my drive automatically to the cloud (with encryption). It’s always there whenever and wherever it’s needed, even if your house burns down or somebody steals your computer. (I have no affiliation with Carbonite other than being a customer!)

  8. Another alternative, if it’s not a head crash but rather the motor and/or electronics, might be to get a working drive, same make and model, and just swap out the case and platters.

    Requires nerves of steel and a much steadier hand than I have.

  9. Rand, do you have an old computer laying around? If so, one thing I’ve done in the past is put the drive in the old PC as a second drive, power up, and see if it can be accessed. (Note: I’m utterly unfamiliar with Fedora and how it sees drives).

    One other idea… the mentioin of the power supply above rang a bell with me. I had that issue, and to get around it, I just unplugged some power-using drives (In my case, CD, DVD, and floppy drives).

    The other method I’ve used is the one Trent mentioned; put the drive in a case to make it an external with USB connect.

    I hope all goes well.

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