Mac failing (failed?) hard drive – is all hope lost?

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QUESTION :

It’s a 500 GB Seagate laptop hard drive that came with my Macbook Pro. Apple partition format.

Already replaced and now have it external, connected via SATA/USB adapter. Trying to get just a few files that I worked on while out of town when it crashed (and thus did not have my time machine backup drive).

Drive will not mount, but OS X Disk Utility detects it and can read the capacity, model number, and even the name of the partition, which leads me to believe all hope may not be lost.

Failed attempts so far:

  • Disk Utility verify+repair says drive cannot be repaired and that I should back up immediately (lovely)
  • Disk Warrior says it cannot rebuild the directory due to hardware failure
  • Data Rescue quick & deep scans immediately failed
  • PhotoRec says “error reading sector” for every sector (at least for the few minutes I let it run before closing it to explore other options)

What else can I try here? Again, I’m just looking for a few, small files (python scripts to be specific) – not a full recovery.

ANSWER :

From your description, I don’t think I can offer you much hope. If you’re getting read errors everywhere something pretty serious has gone wrong.

One thing you might try is using ddrescue to try to clone the raw volume (there are some notes on running it under OS X on tinyapps.org). It basically tries to read over & over, getting as much as possible from the disk. Unfortunately, while you only want to recover a little data, you also have to be able to read the volume data structures (catalog etc.) in order to locate the files you’re interested in. This pretty much means you need to clone the entire volume, and hence will need a blank space at least as big as the volume (whole volume, not just the used space)…

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