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Windows 7: Safest way to backup failing hard drive?

16 Aug 2014   #1
Sadiew1990

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 
Safest way to backup failing hard drive?

tl;dr: my dad's drive is failing and I want to back it up without pushing it too hard. Should I do an image over manually saving files and should I use normal mode, safe mode, BIOS, a separate computer, or something else? Thank you

I wasn't able to find a thread that directly answers my question so I'm hoping you guys can share some of your expertise.

My father's desktop's hard drive is failing. He got a warning yesterday, but I do not know if it was a specific error or what to look for in event viewer anyway. It's 6+ years old and it uses XP i think, so I'm surprised it held so long.

I'm worried that backing up the drive in normal mode will make it worse, so I'm trying to find the least taxing way. I've always manually picked and saved files to avoid viruses and junk files. Would it be quicker/better to do an image here though? What about safe mode, BIOS, or a separate computer?

My drive started to fail about 6 months ago, but it turned out to be something else and I used seatools to write 0s all over. I did a ton of stuff before trying to diagnose and fix so I know a little about chkdsk, using bios, safe mode to diagnose, using windows repair, S.M.A.R.T. tests with USBs, etc. I'm focusing on saving the files before I try to rescue the drive though.

Any thoughts and help would be awesome. Thanks


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16 Aug 2014   #2
ignatzatsonic

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, 64-bit
 
 

Does he have just 1 partition (C)?

Are you trying to save his personal files (picture, videos, mp3s, etc)?

Or his Windows installation?

Or both?

If his drive drops dead right now, do you have a means of doing a clean reinstall of Windows after you buy a new drive?
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16 Aug 2014   #3
Sadiew1990

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Thanks for the quick response. My father just got back from work so I got some more relevant information from him.

He says he only has the c partition.

I definitely want to save his word documents (he writes a lot) along with pics, vids, music, etc. Possibly some files connected to important programs. And I guess any codes for paid programs. I think I used a downloadable program last time to find out the Microsoft office code and stuff.

He does not have any recovery disks so I do not think he would be able to do a clean (re)install.

My dad says he was thinking of putting a 2nd drive into the desktop and putting a clone instead of an image onto it. That sounds like it might hurt the 1st drive to me. Then we would manually save his files and documents to the external hard drive and redo windows on the new hard drive to start from scratch. Probably need recovery disks for that.

Do you think that would work? Is there something I'm missing?

Thanks
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16 Aug 2014   #4
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

If the drive will physically fail, there is not much you can do. But as long as it works, I would take an image of the C partition and the system partition (with Windows 7 imaging that is automatic). The 100MB system partition contains the bootmgr and the reason you do not see it is because it has no drive letter. But it can be imaged and you can see it in disk management.

Any other recovery approach will mean more pertubation of the disk - e.g. installing programs to recover the product keys. With the image, you have all the information in one swoop and you can restore the image on a new disk.
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16 Aug 2014   #5
ignatzatsonic

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, 64-bit
 
 

If he has an external drive, the first thing I would do is make an ordinary drag-and-drop copy of all personal files (Word, pictures, videos, mp3, etc). It's up to him to know where that stuff currently is on his PC. That might be 2 GB of stuff or 200 GB, whatever. Not an image, not a clone, just an ordinary copy. To an external drive or to a USB stick or whatever is available with enough capacity.

Yes, he should save any Product Keys he has for software such as Office.

XP is grossly out of date and I assume he has no way of re-installing it even if he wanted to. No installation disc, no Product Key, etc.

After I got the personal stuff backed up, I'd confirm to my own satisfaction that the hard drive was failing. Maybe you are already sure? If you aren't sure, the best way to find out is to download the hard drive diagnostic tool from the hard drive manufacturer. For Western Digital, it's called Data Lifeguard.

I don't follow his comments about cloning. There's not much point in trying to clone XP for the sake of XP. If you get a new hard drive, I assume you'd put some other operating system on it--Windows 7 or 8.

Or buy a new PC entirely if you have 6 year old hardware.
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16 Aug 2014   #6
Lady Fitzgerald

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit
 
 

If he has only a few folders of data to backup, dragging and dropping them to an external drive would be easiest. If there are more than just a few folders, cloning (not imaging) the drive with something likeMacrium Reflect Free would be easiest. After cloning or copying the data, run antivirus and antimalware scans on the external drive, using another computer that's not using XP.

This part you and your dad are not going to like to hear but, even if you get a successful clone of the HDD, you need to get rid of XP, even if it means upgrading to a new machine, unless the machine is never, ever, connected to the internet. XP is well past its EOL (End Of Life) and is no longer being supported by M$, meaning it is wide open to infections that can destroy or steal data or use the machine for sending spam.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Aug 2014   #7
mjf

Windows 7x64 Home Premium SP1
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by ignatzatsonic View Post
If he has an external drive, the first thing I would do is make an ordinary drag-and-drop copy of all personal files (Word, pictures, videos, mp3, etc). It's up to him to know where that stuff currently is on his PC. That might be 2 GB of stuff or 200 GB, whatever. Not an image, not a clone, just an ordinary copy. To an external drive or to a USB stick or whatever is available with enough capacity.
Definitely my choice. Also, don't run the PC much until you do this.
(The word & picture files sound the most irreplaceable.)
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