Fixing a mangled NTFS partition: success

A follow-up from

Almost two years on,

Correcting errors in the Master File Table (MFT) mirror.
Correcting errors in the master file table's (MFT) BITMAP attribute.
Correcting errors in the Volume Bitmap.
Windows has made corrections to the file system.

My drive is back! And seemingly OK! I’m celebrating by setting up a Python script to recursively run through my current photo backup and the drive and compare file checksums.

How I did it

The key thing was to isolate the drive and not use it. If I hadn’t done that, it would have been utterly unrecoverable.

I also remembered the layout of the drive: Exactly 500GB on the first partition, and the rest of the disk as an NTFS partition. The first partition was a member of a RAID5 set, which had LVM setup on top of it.

I had used GParted to extend the NTFS partition backwards, to get the extra 500GB. However, this failed for… some reason. I’m not too clear.

TestDisk wasn’t successful – It identified the LVM partition, then promptly skipped everything between the LVM header and where the LVM header said the partition ended. Which meant it skipped to the middle of the drive, since the RAID5 set was 1TB in size. And thus TestDisk refused to restore the partition, because it doesn’t make sense that a 2 TB drive has 2 partitions which take up more than that.

The harddisk (2000 GB / 1863 GiB) seems too small! (< 3463 GB / 3226 GiB)
     Linux LVM                0  65  2 130541 139 30 2097145856
     LVM2, 1073 GB / 999 GiB
     HPFS - NTFS          65270 246  1 243201  13 12 2858446848
     NTFS found using backup sector, blocksize=4096, 1463 GB / 1363 GiB

Having tried a bunch of methods in the 1.5 years+ and failing each time, I decided to finally go all the way and wipe out the (screwed up) partition table and recreate it. I didn’t know the original commands run to create the partition setup, so I ended up booting into a Fedora 13 Live image, and doing the ‘Install to Hard Disk’ option, selecting the disk as the install target. I was worried because it wouldn’t allow me to create a partition without also formatting it (Kind of makes sense…), so I terminated the install process after seeing “Formatting /dev/sdd1 as ext4” – in other words, the first partition was being formatted.

I then turned to fdisk to create the partition, selecting the defaults which should have extended the partition to the end of the disk. However, there was some disagreement on what consistuted the end of the disk, leaving me with ~2MB of unallocated space. When I created the partition in Windows, it went all the way to the end of the disk. What this meant is that I ended up with a sector mismatch count (along the lines of “Error: size boot_sector 2858446848 > partition 2858446017”).

So I had a semi-working drive, just with a number screwed up. And what edits numbers on a drive? A hex editor, that’s what. So it was off to edit the NTFS boot sector, and the MBR. I had correct looking numbers from TestDisk’s analysis, so I plugged those in, and since I had the hex editor opened, I wiped out the LVM header at the same time.

Turned out wiping the LVM header was an excellent idea, because TestDisk then found the NTFS boot sector, and allowed me to restore it:

     HPFS - NTFS          65270 246  1 243201  13 13 2858446849
     NTFS, blocksize=4096, 1463 GB / 1363 GiB

After that, the disk still wouldn’t mount in Windows, but chkdsk at least picked it up. After letting chkdsk run overnight, I got my drive from August 2012 back, with (as far as I can tell) no data loss whatsoever.

That’s worth an awwyeah.

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