resurrecting the past, one block at a time

last weekend i broke out my old windows 2000 computer and thought i’d give a shot at trying to recover data off the hard drive again. for those not in the know, back in fall 2004 (friday, september 17th, 2004, to be exact) my web server crashed, and i lost a blog i’d been writing for a few months. i hadn’t really advertised the location to anyone, so almost no one knew it existed. and i was really just using it to write out some of my thoughts with what was going on in my life since tamara had decided to have affair and completely fsck up everything. in addition to losing the blog, i also lost a lot of email that had only been on the server. there was some stuff that i had copied to my desktop computer though. then a month or two after that (november 7th, 2004, to be exact), my desktop computer fried. so even stuff i’d had in both places got lost (email, etc.). my wife has a miscarriage, then she has an affair, then she leaves me, then my server crashes, then my desktop crashes. ah, the good old days.
at the time, and since then, i thought it was my hard drive that was the culprit. i’d tried doing stuff using the same machine, tried doing stuff using my old windows 98 desktop, and nothing really seemed to fix it. i did manage to use a recovery program to search the raw device and pull files that had identifiable headers and were in contiguous blocks. unfortunately, a lot of stuff wasn’t, and even what was saved was only identified by file extension and a number for the file (e.g. file0001.gif, file0024.jpg, etc.).
this time i took a computer my parents had handed down to me after they upgraded and put an unused 80 gig hard drive in it (so as to not overwrite my parents’ data, just in case they needed something and had forgotten about it). their computer had windows me on it originally, and i had the dell restore disk, but i just couldn’t bring myself to install me. *shudder* so i installed windows 2000. humorously, after i installed it and got it set up i immediately went to start security patches…but it couldn’t get on the network. “what’s up?” i was thinking. i went into the control panel and looked at the hardware and it had a yellow warning on the nic card. i clicked on it and it had no driver. “uh…oh yeah. drivers.” haha. i’d forgotten about that. luckily, i had a cd with a driver that’d work with the card in the computer. i installed that and was on my way to doing updates.
i had some recovery programs from the last time i’d messed with this stuff years ago, so i installed those again. one of them did me no good at all. the other seemed to perform the same as last time, finding stuff but finding files only by doing a raw search on the disk. i went ahead and let it run and extract everything it could.
at this point i also ran a couple of programs that tested the disk. they claimed nothing was wrong with the drive. hhmmm. perhaps it was the motherboard on my old windows 2000 machine that borked, not the hard drive. i also decided i’d try to find some other data recovery programs. i poked around and found a few, but i wasn’t too excited about paying what looked to be between $70 and $150 for recovery software.
i was about ready to break down and buy one of the cheaper ones ($70) that still seemed to be mentioned favorably in multiple places, with a discount from following a link to a special price page on their site ($56), when i noticed you could get the software free ($0) by using “trial pay.” i did a bit of poking around to see if it seemed legit, and it did. the deal is the companies have an agreement that you can get their product for free if you follow the trial pay link and make a purchase with one of the companies on trial pay. you have a decent choice of companies and products to buy from, although probably half of it or more involves signing up for some kind of subscription to something (which i assume you can cancel). but there are some decent things too. i didn’t find anything i was really excited about, but i did find a purchase that i was okay with, so i bought something and got the recovery software too.
the new software (easeus data recovery wizard) has done a better job than the old stuff i was using. it has identified lots of files by name. unfortunately it doesn’t include the directory structure, so it’s a bunch of individual files from the whole system. which is a lot. but i’ve been able to pick through quite a few things and get a decent amount of stuff that i thought was gone.
one of the best ones so far is that i was able to recover my thunderbird mail and index files and open them up in thunderbird. i was able to do the same thing with a number of outlook express dbx files, but i’d moved to thunderbird so i think thunderbird had everything that was in outlook express.
the other awesome thing is that i was able to find an html cache file that had the text of almost all of my published blog entries from my first blog attempt. i’m missing a few from august and september of 2004, but i think everything from july 2004 back was in there. i’m sure there are some entries that were in draft mode that are forever gone, but i’m pretty excited i got most of the published stuff back. hopefully here pretty soon i’ll be posting the text on this blog with the original dates intact. (which means they won’t show up as new entries.) in addition to covering thoughts and feelings about the situation with tamara while i was in the midst of it, it also covers the purchase of my motorcycle and the first roadtrip on it (to cornerstone in illinois, summer 2004).

1 comment on “resurrecting the past, one block at a time”

  1. Regarding the first motorcycle road trip, it will be cool that you can post those entries again. I really did enjoy seeing you and Linc at Cornerstone that summer. I hadn’t originally planned to go because Lori was finally going to be flying in from Germany so that we could actually start living in the same place together. Various complications got in the way though, so suddenly I had no reason not to go. I wasn’t sure how I would find you, but once I was there I had a hunch that I would find you at the Travelogue show, which you were. Anyway, good times…

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