Hi Brian,

  I've been in your situation before and I understand how bad it
sucks.  Fortunately, I had a week-old backup, but I did try data
recovery anyway to see what they could recover.  I sent it to Data
Recovery Services in Dallas (http://www.datarecovery.net/).  I
evaluated about 5 other companies (including the "leader" onTrack) and
decided to use them because they seemed competent when I spoke with a
technician over the phone and had a pricing model that I liked. (I
would not use a one-price-for-all service because they have a
disincentive to attempt recovery if they think that it will cost them
more than the price you paid -- and you have no way to know whether
they decided not to attempt recovery or if the data was actually
unrecoverable.)  DRS was unable to do any recovery for the initial $99
assessment and estimated that it would take about $500 to attempt the
next stage. The data wasn't worth more than a few hundred $$ so I
opted to return the drive to Dell under warranty (which they accepted
even after it was opened by DRS.)

  My drive was a little further gone than yours -- it was doing the
head-park clicking when it was powered on and it would not even show
up during the POST drive detection.  Depending on the value of your
data you may want to try and connect it to a desktop machine and try
to recover the data yourself.  I've done this a few times when the
data wasn't that important that its loss was worth < ~$300.  On at
least 4 occasions I was able to recover all of the data I needed.

Here's what I did. This may or may not work for you (don't blame me
when you create a hunk of aluminum out of your drive using these
instructions :)  Read all of the instructions before you begin.  I'm
assuming a relatively decent knowledge of PC innards and Windows.  If
the instructions are confusing and the information has any value (on
the desktop or notebook drives,) pay someone to recover the data for you.

Things you need:
- Desktop PC running the same or newer OS (Windows XP is explained
below) and an unused IDE controller/cable.  Disconnect any devices
from that IDE cable (CD drive, etc.)

- Notebook to desktop IDE converter like this one:

- Working knowledge of the command shell "xcopy" utility. "xcopy /?"
should give you a good start.  Make sure you use the /c switch to
continue on errors.


Be careful when handling the notebook drive.  Grab it gently by the
sides.  Never press on the top and try not to touch the electronics on
the bottom.  Static electricity is also your enemy.  Keep yourself and
all the components at the same electrical potential by connecting them
together electrically (like by using a grounding system with a wrist
strap.)  If any of the components are grounded then you should be too.

Backup all the data on the desktop PC that you will be using.  You
could end up frying that drive too.  Make directories called
"c:\nbDrive" "c:\nbDrive\important" "c:\nbDrive\all" on the desktop
machine and make sure that you have at least enough space free for all
of the files on the failing drive times two.

Write down all of the files that are important to you on the failing
drive (with full path names.)  Don't forget about Outlook data files,
Quickbooks data files, etc.  Rank them in the order of importance.
This is the order that you will try to recover them.

You want to minimize the spin-up/down cycles on the failing drive so
power up the desktop computer with it disconnected and go into the
BIOS to make sure that the Primary device on the secondary (or
whatever controller you will connect your drive to) IDE controller is
active and set to auto-detection.  Turn on the display of POST
information in the BIOS (so you can see the drives as they are being

Practice going into the Windows Safe Mode selection screen by pressing
F8 repeatedly just after the BIOS POST screen.  When you can get to
the screen 3x in a row, continue.

Connecting the Devices

Power down the desktop PC (Turn it off with a current-interrupting
switch or remove the power cord.  Most newer computers still have
current running through many of the components when they are powered
off with a "soft-switch."

Connect the notebook drive ADAPTER (not the drive yet) to the Primary
connector on the IDE cable.  Nothing should be connected to the
Secondary drive connector.  Connect the power to the drive adapter.

You may have to remove the caddy (four screws usually on the bottom)
and a wedge-shaped converter that Dell likes to use on their notebook
drives first.  I find that a small needle-nose pliers takes it off
pretty easily without bending the pins.  Pull gently on one side (1mm
at a time) and then on the other until it comes off easily from the

Connect the notebook adapter to the notebook drive.  Make sure that
you match up the pins correctly between the drive and the adapter
(there is usually a marking by Pin 1 on both connectors.  Be sure to
have pin one go to the socket #1.

Booting into Windows Safe Mode

You are going to be going into Windows Safe Mode so get your finger
near the F8 key now.  Power up the PC and make sure that your notebook
drive and desktop boot drive is detected by the BIOS.  If not, power
off the PC when you are in the safe mode selection screen (shut down
if you missed the selection screen) and check your connections and try
again.  If it's still not detected, stop now and send the drive off
for recovery if any of the data is important.

Recovering the Files

Assuming everything has been detected and you are at the safe mode
selection screen, select "Safe Mode Command Prompt Only" and press
Enter.  After you log in, you should see a command prompt window.
Change into the "c:\nbDrive\important" directory and copy (using
xcopy) all of your important files there in the order of their
importance (you may have to create additional directories if you like
to name files the same.)  If a directory has a space in it, you need
quotes like this: "c:\Program Files\whatever.file"  The tab key will
sometimes complete directories for you.

You may see read errors and have to skip some files. Check the
recovery directory against your list to make sure that you got all
that you could.  If it seems like problems are getting more frequent
or files that you could read before are now unreadable, the drive is
probably going to completely stop working soon and it may become
extremely expensive for a professional to recover anything (if at all.)

Once you have finished with all of your important files, change to the
"c:\nbDrive\all" directory and do a complete backup of all the files
on the drive using xcopy.

There are tools out there that can automate this process for you, but
I have found that xcopy works pretty well most of the time and if I
wanted to pay someone to recover my data I would have sent the drive
off in the first place.

Best of luck with your recovery efforts.  Make sure that you are
backing up often in the future.


On 11/27/2005 1:40 PM, [EMAIL PROTECTED] created:
> This is the route I will take.  I have tried to boot it 6 or 7 times and
> I will NOT power it up again.  My external backup drive just got here
> Friday too!  I was a day late.  :(  I have found a few places with flat
> rates at $700 or so.  I will keep looking.  Anyone have a Dell 8600? 
> Will you take the hard drive out and jiggle it?  I want to know it it
> rattles.  Just for peace of mind.  I hope it rattles.
> If anyone does not have backups, go do it now.  THIS SUCKS.  I hve Dell
> complete care, so laptop replacement is free, but not the data.

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