What Happened to All My Data?

NTFS Files on Windows 98 and Older Not Recognized.

Has this happened to you?  You install Windows XP or hook your iPod up to your XP machine then your computer crashes. When you reboot, Windows runs autochk (a built-in disk scanner) and converts all of your precious folders containing your Neil Diamond music and third quarterly earning projections into a small 32 kB file.

No, this is not the work of the digital gods trying to give you a bad hair day or get you fired (though I sometimes wonder). This is a fault in Windows XP’s chkdsk utility (this is what the autochk runs)  that Microsoft has yet to completely fix.

"So are my Neil Diamonds gone?" you may ask. The good news is "No, they are not", though it may be difficult to retrieve them.

So, what do I do? Windows XP/2000 didn’t even give me a choice. It just said ‘Yes’. When I went to the path it listed, I found a hard drive full of 32 kB files with the same name as the folder that was there, but now the folder’s gone!

First thing’s first. Don’t do anything! I mean don’t take any action that would modify the contents of this hard  drive.  For example, loading this post if it’s your primary drive. Any modification to your drive could overwrite the lost data you wish to recover.

The cause if this problem is the file system type on the device. It may be an iPod or an external hard  drive,  etc.  The FAT32 file system is likely the problem.  It is very old. It was used back when Windows 98 was the OS of choice. Manufactures still use this file system hoping it will work over a broad range of different operating systems.  By default Windows XP, and newer systems, use a more robust file system called NTFS.  Windows 98 can not read the newer NTFS formats. What can happen is that the chkdsk utility marks these files as bad, or unrecoverable. You can not access them as you use to.

The recovery steps (which I will not go into great detail) involve using a utility called a Hex Editor to modify your  hard disk. Note:  if the editor is used improperly, or incorrectly, you could end up losing all of your data. I do not recommend you try this on your own.

What the Hex Editor will allow you to do is modify the low level "pointers" of the hard disk to tell it that it is an alternative file system.  The work can be tedious and unfortunately there is no quick fix.  The time it will take depends on how many files/folders were stored on the drive/Ipod.

If this has happened to you all is not lost.  Call the CCS Retail Systems Support department at 800-672-4806 or send me an email to discuss your options

-Bryan alt

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