The hard drive that suffered the data loss was a
17Gb Fujitsu drive with two 5Gb XP NTFS partitions (Home and Professional) and 6Gb of
unused space. Both XP partition were unbootable after the incident.
After transferring the drive to a Windows 2000 computer so I could
use disk manager, (to load disk manager on XP or 2000, right click 'my computer'
select 'manage' then 'disk manager') this is what I saw.
partition where my 5000+ word article was saved, is seen as unformatted and cannot be read by the OS. The second XP partition could
not be booted, but was seen as formatted and I could transfer files
easily from it using explorer. Unfortunately, all the data I needed was
on the first partition.
What to do? Well there are a
few tricks you can use to get data back from the brink of an abyss like the one
I've created for myself here. First though, we should understand exactly what a
file system is, and how it controls access to your
data on a computer.
An overview of file systems
A file system is a method an operating system uses to arrange data and
free space on a hard drive or other storage device so it can be written to and
read from. File systems create partitions which are areas of free
space than can be addressed by the file system and seen as a logical drives
(C: D: etc.) to be written to and read from.
The two file systems
used by the various Windows operating systems are NTFS (NT File System)
and FAT (File Allocation Table). FAT is an earlier file system, used first in DOS
as FAT-16, then later in Windows 9x/ME as FAT-32.
major difference between FAT-16 and -32 is in the amount of data
they can address. FAT-16 can only use up to 2GB of space on each logical drive, FAT-32 on
the other hand can create partitions of up to 32GB in size. Later
Microsoft operating systems like Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 are fully compatible with FAT, even if it is
not the default method they use to store files.
NTFS is used
in Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista/7 and provides a more secure and efficient method of file storage. In
addition to allowing security to be implemented on individual files, NTFS also
stores backup copies of essential disk information to aid in recovering from
Both file systems use the Master Boot Record (MBR) and partition table, found in the first sector of
each hard drive or storage device. The MBR and partition table determine which
partition(s) on the disk are bootable, and locate and pass control to that partition
to boot the operating system.
If the MBR or partition table are
damaged, the drive will become unbootable, and may appear to be blank if the
partition information has been erased.