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How to recover programs and files from a hard drive with bad sectors

Learn how to save your programs and files from a computer with hard disk corruption / bad sectors.

Windows 10

We all know that backup is important, and that hard drives may fail at any moment. Still, things happen, and you have found yourself with a hard drive that already had bad sectors on it, and potentially other forms of corruption as well.

At this point, it is usually too late to use a regular backup software, as it will probably fail to deal with bad sectors (which are physical damage on the drive). In this how-to, we will discuss some ways to deal with this situation, and which software to use to recover your programs (yes, programs too!), settings and files from the failing drive.

An important thing to note is that when the drive is already failing, you want to minimize interaction with it as much as possible, since every time you access the drive, you are bringing it closer to total failure. This means that - if possible - you should remove the drive from the computer, so that it is only accessed for data recovery and not for the failing computer's ongoing operation. However, if that is not possible, or if you are not sure how to do it, you can recover directly from the computer as well. Both options are below.

Option 1: Remove the drive from the computer, and recover contents to a different computer / hard drive.

If you can remove the failing drive from its PC, do it (if you can't, see Option 2 below).

Windows XP

  1. Disconnect the machine from power, and if it is a laptop - remove the battery.
  2. In a desktop computer, open the case, and you will see the drive on the front side.
  3. In a laptop computer, you will probably see a dedicated flap for accessing the hard drive, which you can open by removing a few screws.
  4. Disconnect the hard drive from the cables that go into it, and take it out.


Now that you have the hard drive, you need to connect it to the new computer. There are several ways to do this:

Windows XP

  1. You can use a USB hard drive enclosure, which is a special "box"-like device that you slide the old drive into. The enclosure then connects to the new computer via a simple USB.
  2. You can also use a USB hard drive adapter, which is a cable-like device, connecting to the hard drive on one end and to a USB in the new computer on the other.
  3. If the new computer is a desktop, you can also connect the old drive as a secondary internal drive, just as the one already in the new computer.

Windows XP

Once the old drive is connected to the new computer, in any of the ways above, you should be able to view the old files. At that point, you can proceed to the recovery stage.

 

Recover your programs, files, settings from the corrupted hard disk

At this stage, you can access the old files on the new computer. This already a big step forward! You can already look for the files you need, and manually copy them to the new PC. This type of manual recovery is not the easiest job to do, but it will at least get you most of your files back.

However, since the drive is partially corrupted, manual recover is not ideal, and it is better to use a dedicated rescue software. In this tutorial, we'll use Zinstall Computer Rescue Kit. It can recover your programs, settings, files, emails, personalization, settings, documents and all the rest. An important feature of the Rescue Kit is that it is capable of dealing with bad sectors and corruption (to an extent). You will probably see notes on bad sectors while you run it.

Option 2: Leave the corrupted hard drive in its old PC and recover directly from that

If you prefer not to remove the hard drive, you can instead recover directly from the old computer to a new computer or to a USB backup drive. The disadvantage of not taking the drive out is that it continues to "run" the old computer, which puts a bit more strain on it, although of course it means that you don't have to deal with screwdrivers.

If you opt for this option, you can still use the recovery process described below. The difference is that instead of connecting the actual drive to a new computer, you'll need to run the Zinstall software on the old computer, and tell it to become a recovery source. It will then allow to access the drive in a similar way as if it were connected to a new computer, and the rest of the process will be the same as below.

Using Recovery Software

Here is how to do it:

  1. On the new computer, run the Zinstall Computer Rescue Kit (if you don't have it yet, you'll find it here: Zinstall Computer Rescue Kit)
  2. You can use it either to recover the old programs and files directly to the new computer (so that you can start using it just like the old one you've had), or - create a recovered image container of the old hard drive, and save it either on the new computer or on another backup drive, for future recovery of data.
  3. Once you choose the way you want to go, the Kit will detect the old drive, and you can press Next.
  4. Windows XP
  5. If you want to only recover some of the programs, or some of the files, use the Advanced menu to select which ones you want. If you want to just recover everything, simply click Next to continue.
  6. You will be presented with a quick summary of what's about to be recovery - press "Go" to start the process.

The recovery process will take a while, and you may see notifications about bad sectors being processed and recovered.

If the Rescue Kit finishes its run with a "Congratulations!..." message, that means that your recovery is complete, and you are done.

If it does not, that means that the amount of bad sectors / corruption on the drive was a bit too high. If that happens, we are not giving up yet, just moving to a slightly riskier recovery option (though it's not like you have too much to lose...). This means running a CHKDSK on the drive.

Running a CHKDSK on the corrupted drive

If the drive is too deeply corrupted, it can be partially repaired using the Windows CHKDSK utility. The downside of using CHKDSK is that if the drive is almost completely dead, it may physically fail. This is why we recommend to use Zinstall Rescue Kit first, before running CHKDSK, to make sure everything that could be recovered beforehand, was recovered. After that, it's worth the risk to run a CHKDSK on the drive, and here is how.

Important: On Windows 10, using the Control Panel interface will seem to allow you to run CHKDSK as well, but it will not be an in-depth check that can address bad sectors. Use the instructions below to run a "real" CHKDSK.

  1. Open Computer (to see the drive you are recovering). You need to find what is its drive letter. Let's assume it's drive E:
  2. Open Command Prompt as Administrator:
    1. Right-click on the Start button (bottom-left corner of the screen, the one with the Windows logo)
    2. From the menu that opens, select "Command prompt as Administrator"
  3. In the command prompt that opens, type in the following command (change the drive letter if it is not E:):
  4. chkdsk /f /r /x E: 
  5. Press Enter to start the process. This will take a long while.

Once CHKDSK is complete, run the recovery process above again.

Any questions on the recovery process? You can contact us by email (support@zinstall.com), phone (877.444.1588) or chat with us, at the bottom-right of this page.

Video demo - recovering programs and files to new computer

(You'll be doing that from a drive, the video is just here to show the end result)