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Thread: Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

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    Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

    I have a Seagate Elements 500GB external hard drive which Ive been using in conjunction with a pvr-ready set top box to record television content. This set top box creates a folder on the drive called ALIDVR where it records / stores the TS / PS files. Just now, I accidently mixed drives up and inserted the Seagate into another pvr-ready stb of another brand. This stb did not recognise the drive. However, when I removed the drive and plugged it into the laptop, all the files within the ALIDVR folder are missing. The folder is still there but it is empty.

    There are other folders on this drive and they are not affected they still have files in them (including video files.)

    I tried two recovery programs - Ashampoo Undeleter and Recuva, but didn't have any success.

    I really am confused about what happened to those missing files. They were never deleted. They just simply vanished. I don't know if connecting the drive to the wrong stb had anything to do with it or whether that was just a coincidence. With these pvr-ready stbs, there is an option to format the drive but I definitely didn't do that.

    Does anybody have any theories as to what's going on and if there is any way of getting the files back?

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    Re: Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

    I expect the other device looked for its own ALIDVR folder, did not find it, so it created a new one after deleting the other one. If it put the new folder in the same root directory slot as the original, you're likely SOL.

    Folders can contain files that identify the application that created them.

    You might be able to recover the deleted files, or you might not. It depends on how the
    drive is organized and whether the deleted directory is still accessible.

    In any case, don't write any information to the drive. That can destroy information you need.

    - Leigh

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    Re: Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    I expect the other device looked for its own ALIDVR folder, did not find it, so it created a new one after deleting the other one. If it put the new folder in the same root directory slot as the original, you're likely SOL.
    That's what I assumed what happened - that one brand of stb replaced the existing ALIDVR folder with it's own ALIDVR folder. However, I right-clicked the folder on the laptop afterwards and it was revealed that it was created in 2010 so logically, that must be the original folder.

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    Re: Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

    The update mechanism for the new device could vary.
    It might simply delete the content of the original folder and substitute its own.
    If so, you're dead in the water unless you find an undelete program that can connect the file chains.

    A folder is just a file, like any other file on the computer, except that its content follows a strict format.
    Depending on the number of files present, the folder can occupy many sectors on the drive, all linked together.
    If the new incarnation deleted all those files, it would have broken the links to later sectors in the folder chain.

    For example, suppose the directory occupied relative sectors A through Z (they don't really use letters)...
    The new folder would have broken the link from A to B, but the links from B through Z are still intact.
    The challenge is to find sector B, create a new link from A to B, then recover the individual files.

    That becomes a real forensic challenge, not a simple undelete. It can be done, but 'tain't easy.

    There are data recovery services available that could do this, but they're usually expensive.
    Google would find many such.

    - Leigh

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    Re: Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post

    There are data recovery services available that could do this, but they're usually expensive.
    Google would find many such.

    - Leigh
    Yea, I am considering that option. Ive never heard any prices quoted for those sort of services though. I know they're expensive but I hope they're not TOO expensive.

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    Re: Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

    Too expensive is a relative term.
    I'm sure the Emir of Tublikan would think it pocket change.

    The important thing is to disconnect the drive and not allow ANY writes to it.

    - Leigh

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    Re: Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    Too expensive is a relative term.
    The important thing is to disconnect the drive and not allow ANY writes to it.

    - Leigh
    Would there be any potential harm or risk in backing up the other date that is visible on that drive? In other words, transferring the other folders and files to another drive before I go to a data recovery specialist. I'm just a bit paranoid after an experience with another IT 'expert'.

    Last year, a family member took a water damaged laptop to a computer shop to transfer all the contents from the laptop's internal drive to an external drive. The guy also offered to buy the laptop as spare parts. And despite his claims, not all of the data was transferred from the laptop's drive. I had a lot of video files that were missing (probably over 100GB worth.) The family member returned to take back the laptop and try somewhere else but the guy claimed that he threw the laptop's hard drive out. Not impressed.

    So yea, now I am wary about handing over data to IT specialists. I know the chances of something like that happening again are slim but still....it has made me a bit paranoid.

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    Re: Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

    A simple command line backup (xcopy d:\*.* e:\BACKUP\ /E /V /C) should be safe.

    I would avoid any GUI program since those _might_ try to write to the drive.

    - Leigh

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    Re: Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    A simple command line backup (xcopy d:\*.* e:\BACKUP\ /E /V /C) should be safe.

    I would avoid any GUI program since those _might_ try to write to the drive.

    - Leigh
    Uhm....I'm not familiar with this terminology. In Windows, when I have two windows (representing two drives) open, and drag and drop files from one to another, would that be making use of a GUI program?

    Ive no idea about command line backups or where I would need to type such commands. Ive never had to do that before!

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    Re: Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

    What version of Windows are you using?

    - Leigh

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    Re: Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    What version of Windows are you using?

    - Leigh
    Windows 7

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    Re: Files on external hard drive have mysteriously disappeared

    OK. Command line options are a bit more complicated in W7.
    Given that you're not already familiar with that environment, I think we'll resort to drag-n-drop.

    I _think_ a simple drag-n-drop from the damaged drive to a new backup folder
    will work without a problem, but I can't guarantee it.

    You might want to get some other opinions before you try it.

    - Leigh

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