TestDisk—A Butt-Saving Utility if Ever There Was One

I was “invited” to help someone repair a computer with Windows 8.1 that kept booting to a black screen. It only got just far past the initial Windows logo with the spinning dots “wait” indicator, and then it would just black out. This happened even when we put a bootable DVD in the optical drive and booted from it. Since we never got to the Windows UI, it was impossible to configure the startup sequence to prompt for diagnostics (the F8 menu).

After some tinkering with video cards and BIOS setups, I tried removing his primary boot drive and putting in one I knew was good, and it worked fine. That suggested that the problem lay with his drive, and not with the motherboard, video adapters, or the BIOS.

I removed his drive and put it into another computer. The BIOS POST complained that it couldn’t find a drive, but let me boot up anyway.

Windows had a really hard time working with the drive. It recognized that there was a drive, but wouldn’t do much else.

I tried running the diskpart utility to see what it had to say. diskpart reported that the main partition, the one where all the files were, had become a RAW partition instead of NTFS. That was not great news.

So, I googled on Bing: diskpart volume raw, and got a hit on msfn.org. From there, I learned of a utility that looked like it might get further along than diskpart.

It is called TestDisk.

This thing is awesome, but it is very low level, so it should only be used by people who understand the difference between sectors and clusters, and between partitions and volumes.

While I probably could use the tool to restore booting capability to the drive, we decided to go with the nuclear option. I’m currently copying all the files on this drive that he wanted to keep (fortunately, he’d prepared a little, since the computer had been randomly blue-screening lately). Once that’s done, we’ll wipe the whole thing and start over.



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