Recovering a Corrupted Partition Table

There are few things worse than the sinking feeling you get when you boot your computer and find that partitions are missing, or even worse that it won’t boot at all. For sure drives fail due to moving components wearing out over time, but if the drive is mechanically intact there are many options for recovering your data, and not all of them involve spending thousands of dollars to have a recovery specialist deconstruct the drive in a clean room. This option is useful if the drive no longer spins or is unrecoverable by other methods, and in many cases recovery can be too complicated an ordeal for a normal user to approach.

You’d never know the extent of the problem however without doing an initial bit of investigation, Does the drive spin? Yes? Is it making funny noises? No? Well chances are your data is still there, but may have gotten lost by a corrupt or broken partition. You could spend a bit of money on software designed to scan your drive for unmapped data (ie. GetDataBack & DiyDataRecovery’s Diskpatch are a couple of my favorites), though there is a good chance you could recover a backup of your partition table for free if you just knew how.

Enter Testdisk. I first discovered this useful freeware utility when using Insert, a mini-Linux distribution on a live cd focused on security. Since then I’ve found it’s also available on Windows and MacOSX and has helped me out of similar predicaments on countless occasions, and no technician’s arsenal is complete without it.

Full details can be found on their wiki at

with step by step instructions at

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