Win2K's Support Tools Can Be a Lifesaver

Did you ever have one of those really bad days? I did yesterday—but it got better. I was writing a column using Microsoft Word 97 and had a bunch of other windows open. In an effort to clean up the screen, I started closing them—and realized that I'd goofed about half a second after answering "No" to "Do you want to save changes?" You guessed it—I closed Word by mistake! And, of course, I hadn't bothered to save the column while working on it, nor did I have Word's Auto-Save feature enabled. A couple hours of work had gone to the great bit-bucket in the sky. . . . Or had it?

Actually, it hadn't. I spent about 4 hours searching, but I finally found the column text, which still existed in scratch file storage on my hard disk. I found it using DiskProbe, which is part of the Support Tools supplied with Windows 2000 Professional. You can install the tools by running Setup.exe from the SUPPORT\TOOLS folder of your Win2K Pro distribution CD-ROM. Follow the on-screen directions to install the tools on your hard disk. After you've installed the tools (and it's best to do it BEFORE you lose something), follow these steps to recover your data.

  1. If you haven't already installed the Support Tools, do so, BUT NOT ON THE PARTITION YOU'RE TRYING TO RECOVER FROM (otherwise the tools might overwrite the data you're looking for)!
  2. Start DiskProbe, and select Drives/Logical Volume.
  3. Double-click the volume you want to search, then click the Set Active button for Handle 0 (which will be assigned to the volume in question).
  4. Click OK to dismiss the Open Logical Volume dialog box.
  5. Select Tools/Search Sectors.
  6. elect Exhaustive Search, Ignore Case. Select 0 as the first sector to search, and type the text you want to look for in the "Enter characters to search for" field.
  7. Click Search, and wait (the system might appear to be locked up; be patient).
  8. If you're lucky, DiskProbe will find the text you're looking for (if not, you might try other volumes), in which case a DiskProbe dialog box will appear, saying "Found match in sector \[number\], Press Yes to continue search." DO NOT CLICK YES!
  9. Click No. You'll see the sector where the match was found. Look to see if the sector contains what you're looking for. If not, start searching again, beginning with the next sector (i.e., if DiskProbe found a match in sector 2000, start searching again at sector 2001).
  10. If the sector does contain the text you're looking for, select Drives/Volume Information and note the Sector Size. You'll need this information later.
  11. Select Sectors/Read. A Read Sectors dialog box appears. The starting sector will be the one you're in. To determine the number of sectors you need to read, estimate the file size in bytes, and divide by the sector size. For instance, if you think the file is about 10KB and the sector size is 512 bytes, you'll need to read 20 sectors. After you enter the number of sectors, click Read.
  12. You can now use the VCR-style controls at the top of the DiskProbe display to browse the data you just read. Make sure the selection covers all the data you want to recover (if you didn't read enough sectors, repeat Step 11, but enter a larger number of sectors).
  13. Click File/Save As, and type a pathname for a file to hold the recovered data. You can open the file in Notepad or another text editor. The text might include some garbage characters, which you can delete as necessary. Whether this method works for you depends on how the program you're running stores data (if the program never writes the data to disk, it won't be there to recover) and whether another program uses the disk space before you can get to it; but it worked for me yesterday—thank heaven!
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