Recovering The Unrecoverable: Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier Versus The Damaged Disk Image

Recently I had to send my UX32VD notebook back to ASUS for repairs under warranty (which turned out to be a completely painless experience, thankfully). Before I did, I made an image of the HDD to an external USB drive using Windows 7's backup tools. In the end the precaution was unneeded, but I decided keeping the image around might prove useful in the future so, instead of deleting it, I tried copying it to a more permanent location on my server. That's when I ran into trouble.

When Windows 7 makes a backup image, it actually generates several files containing system and partition metadata, more if you happen to have a couple of drives. These smaller files copied without issue — it was the main drive image, a 80GB virtual hard disk (VHD), that managed to transfer around 8GB of itself before the OS threw an error.

I should mentioned at this time that the USB HDD is less than a year old and has spent 95 per cent of its operational life sitting on top of a PC case, so the corruption was not at all expected.

A scan using Windows' own "chkdsk" utility determined several issues with the file system, which I gave the OK to repair. Unfortunately, that didn't solve the problem, with the copy operation again dying at the 8GB mark. So, I turned to the internet for help.

Typing "data recovery" into Google gave me results for professional services that extract information from damaged drives and "undelete" utilities — neither of which I was looking for (well, not the former just yet). After attempting various word combinations, "copy corrupted file" coughed up more relevant links. Unsurprisingly, I ran into plenty of paid-for products until I discovered the free "Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier".

(Just to be clear, I was more than willing to use something commercial, but I wanted to expend all cashless paths first.)

I downloaded the program and fired it up. I had a quick look at the options and spotted a slider that allowed me to set the tool's focus to "Best Data Recovery" or "Fastest Data Recovery". I went with the first choice, though in hindsight setting it towards the second a few notches might have been the better way to go.

This all happened on July 13. The screenshot above is the process it's made since then. To the right you'll find a cropped image of Process Explorer showing the process' start time (blurred for privacy).

Yes, it's still going after 23 days.

The reason for this is that the Unstoppable Copier tries to copy bad data many, many times, in the hopes that it'll extract a few extra bytes that the last attempt didn't get. As I mentioned, I probably could have been less conservative and chosen a faster setting, but I wasn't aware just how much slower the process would be on maximum.

A few times I've been tempted just to abort the recovery and forget the whole matter, but curiousity got the better of me — will it ever manage the copy? Will the image even be usable? Seeing as I was able to access the image using VHD exploring tools before I started the copy, it should be OK, but your guess is as good as mine at this stage.

In two weeks' time, I'll be travelling overseas for just over a month. If I come back and it's still slaving away, I'll call it a day.

Whatever happens, I'll be sure to provide an update.


Comments

    If it lets you cancel - it's not really "unstoppable" is it?

    Go on... TRY TO STOP IT - I DARE YOU.

    Incase you don't have any success, try Spinrite from grc.com

    Steve Gibson has been doing this stuff for decades, and I'm yet to find a better tool to fix hard drive issues/maintain my drives. Great support in the forums as well.

      Agree with Red, I've had tried spinrite and get some promising results though. No matter what happens, you can still try your luck using that software and see if helps you to find the desired files.
      Second option to try could be of Stellar Phoenix Partition Recovery, which helps you in creating image of damaged or inaccessible drive and allows you to perform recovery later on. Demo version give you every access accept recovering files.

      Thanks for the informative post LH!!

    I highly recommend getdataback for fat32/ntfs. Its a commercial product but it really gets the job done.

    So how long did it took to finally copy everything? Was it more than the 23 days? Was it worth it waiting? Did you get any good results? I am trying to recover a dvd movie and so far it says waiting time 3 hours but it keeps going up and doesn’t seem to advance, any help would be appreciated.

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