Disk Woes

by Erica Sadun

What's worse than discovering that your backup hard drive has mechanical difficulties that just killed a years worth of your pictures and videos? I'll give you the answer: Discovering that the file system on your primary data drive is corrupt and also just killed that same years worth of pictures and video.

So what do you do? In my case, I dashed over to the Alsoft website and downloaded a copy of the well regarded Disk Warrior software. The reviews on this software are such that I expect people to regularly offer to marry the software and bear its little disk-recovery babies. That's how good the reviews are.

Unfortunately, the software was no-go. It did not work. It did not recover my disk. Not only did it not work, but the horrible way it ran under Tiger OS X gave me the impression that it was a bad Carbon makeover of legacy 9.x code. (It may not be, but that's the impression it gives.) For heaven's sake, I couldn't even drag the window when it's scanning a disk. Nor did it offer a try then pay model. No refunds, no returns, no trial.

I'm out my primary data drive. I'm out my backup hard drive. I'm out a years worth of photos and videos. And I'm out $80 for the Disk Warrior software. And I am more than a bit cranky about it all.

So what are your experiences with Disk Warrior? Happier Endings? Let me know in the comments.

UPDATE: I've downloaded the Data Rescue II trial and I'm seeing whether or not it can find any data before I lay out another $99. According to the software, the scan will take an hour or two before I know. The Quick Scan did not work at all.

UPDATE II: The Data Rescue II scan worked beautifully! My data is (mostly) rescued and my $99 seems to have been very, very well spent. Thanks for the recommendation!


UPDATE III: Tech Support from Alsoft just contacted me by e-mail, gently chided me for not contacting them first to take advantage of their tech support and offered their help.


Jody Sanders
2006-04-20 08:29:49
thats mighty unlucky!
S Lasley
2006-04-20 08:40:37
I have had very good experiences with Disk Warrior. The only problem i ran into was with two drives that had physical damage. In those cases, Data Rescue II from Prosoft was able to recover files from the damaged drives. If you have a large enough spare drive, you might try making a block level backup of the drive with ddrescue, then running Diskwarrior on the backup. Best wishes for whatever recovery method you use.
GC Fiedler
2006-04-20 08:43:13
I think you are using the wrong tool. DW works for fixing drive problems - I didn't know it had much in the way of data recovery software.

Try DataRescue II instead by ProSoft Engineering.

Stefan Schmidt
2006-04-20 08:52:32
I had a major problem with the HFS+ filesystem on my external 320 GB firewire harddrive and DataRescue II recovered about 80-90% of the files in a reasonable amount of time, whereas all other tools cycled for hours and failed to do anything meaningful. Recommendation !

2006-04-20 08:54:34
Given that this was a mechanical failure, I'd have been nervous about turning on the drive at all, for fear that even more damage would be done to the data. I'd have brought one or both of the drives to a professional hard drive recovery place.

That said, I agree with the DataRescue recommendations. Both it and DiskWarrior are great tools.

I'd never heard of ddrescue -- looks useful.

2006-04-20 09:07:32
I had no problems with DiskWarrior. I was in a similar circumstance; my mirrored RAID configuration had one drive fail, when I went to boot using the remaining drive, the directory info was corrupted. DiskWarrior flawlessly recovered the directory info from the disk. I've used it as a routine preventative on several other computers since then and it has found and repaired issues that Disk Utility/fsck were unable to fix.
Blake Seely
2006-04-20 09:28:29
I'm curious what the problem was if DiskWarrior couldn't do anything for you - I've had it perform miracles for me in the past and I have never had any major problems with it.
2006-04-20 10:01:52
I used Disk Warrior once, it was a bad mistake. I got suckered into the "Warrior" thing thinking it could fix my problem. But it does so little for $80. Turns out I had a few bad sectors and only Disk Utility Erase w/Zero option cleared the problem. For $80 you would think it would do more but it's a bait and switch. From now on I use Carbon Copy Cloner or DejaVu to auto clone and auto backup two clones of my boot/file drive. I also buy enterprise level drives from Western Digital, not this Seagate or Maxtor craploa which has a failire rate 50% higher than WD. So far my machine has been running flawlessly 24/7 for the last two years. I did have a LaCie drive die on me, turns out it has a old ATA WD drive inside. I also periodically burn a ton of DVD's of all my iTunes music just in case. Disk Warrior sucks in my opinion, not worth the cash. If you have a lab, perhaps.
John Hollinger
2006-04-20 10:15:25
I will also put in a word for the Prosoft Data Rescue software. It will get data off your drive when all else has failed. It is a life saver at our school district.
2006-04-20 10:26:47
Did you contact Alsoft technical Support for assistance? There were recently a number of raves on MacInTouch about the lengths their Technical Support Team will render on extremely damaged drives.
2006-04-20 11:53:15
I'm curious to know if you monitor the S.M.A.R.T. status of your drives. Oh wait, OS X won't let you do that for external drives... (is that a weakness of OS X, or could it be an inherent technical limitation?) I'm guessing your backup is external, or is it on a server? Monitoring external drives would be a nice feature for 10.5 (and 10.4!).
Rainy Day
2006-04-20 12:12:31
Disk Warrior is great, but you have to understand what it can and cannot do. It can create a new directory for a drive (the vast majority of disk related problems), however it cannot generally do other kinds of disk repairs, like fixing VTOC (Volume Table of Contents), bad sectors, etc. It is very good at what it does, but it does not do everything, so YMMV.

I always run Disk Utility to repair a disk before running DW. I've run into a few situations where DU couldn't fix the disk and it wouldn't mount, and so DW can't do anything. In 100% of those situations, i have been able to manually edit the disks, usually the VTOC, with a sector editor, and get the disk into good enough shape where DU and DW could work their magic. Most of the time, it's just a byte or two in the VTOC which is out-of-whack.

Mark Bernstein
2006-04-20 12:17:05
Disk Warrior is the benchmark product in the sector -- and your criticisms are unfounded. Why, precisely, is it important to drag a window, when *by definition* there's nothing else to see?

I think Disk Warrior remains an important tool for just about every Macintosh power user. Of course, a good backup strategy is even more important; if your backup disk fails, you need to get a fresh disk IMMEDIATELY, meaning next working day. Professional users need two *good* backups at all times.

It's natural that Disk Warrior doesn't support a try-then-buy model; many customers might be tempted to 'try' it, fix their problem for free, and wait to buy it until the next disk crash three or four years down the road.

2006-04-20 13:18:39
The hard drive in my PowerBook died recently, and I hadn't made any backups prior. Ack! I bought DW and it did not recognize the drive. I was upset about everything, but then I had an idea... I set my PB on end so that the drive orientation was vertical. That allowed the drive to spin up enough so that DW could recognize it. The drive was definitely limping along, but DW was able to repair the drive and then I was able to use .Mac Backup to backup my home directory, photos, etc. to an external drive. I went from dissapointment with DW to jubilation! That one save alone was worth the $90 to me.
Andy Lester
2006-04-20 14:42:17
I bought Disk Warrior once trying to salvage some data, but apparently it wasn't the tool to use. I'm glad it worked out for you with Data Rescue II.
Phill Kenoyer
2006-04-20 19:01:06
This is the exact reason why I make weekly backups to CD's and lock them away. Hard drives fail. They fail for me about twice a year. Mirrored RAID and CD backups.
2006-04-21 03:44:20
I've had good luck using DiskWarrior to optimize my drives, but for failed disks File Salvage has saved my butt. Thanks for the Data Rescue tip, and I'm glad it worked for you. Someday there may be One Disk Utility That Does Everything, but until then we have a variety of great one-trick ponies.
2006-04-21 05:55:45
The one time I've needed it, Disk Warrior did the job for me. But I always keep the raw footage for my video on tape and copy the finished product to DVD (and sometimes back out to tape). As for music, photos, and documents, that's why I bought a 60GB iPod. I always keep it with me, so if my iBook gets fried or stolen, I have my data... and I'll know if it starts flaking out on me.
2006-04-22 04:56:51
DiskWarrrior really only does one thing, repairing or replacing a disk's directory, but it does it very well. This has saved my bacon as a technician on many occasions. However, there are certainly other things that can go wrong with disks, particularly if there's a hardware failure.

I've also had good success with the Alsoft tech support, and I find DiskWarrior to be a lovell, if limited, program.

Glad to hear Data Rescue II was able to save your data! That's enough to save a heart attack.

2006-04-25 08:10:15
DW has been good for rebuilding serious directory problems where Disk Utility and fsck did not work.
2006-05-05 22:42:58
I have nothing to add that hasn't been said already. I'd like to chime in that DiskWarrior is a great program and has saved my bacon more times than I care to remember. It only rebuilds disk directories, from what I recall, and is not a data rescue tool per se.

DW is my first choice if I have problems, as it fixes directory issues other programs miss or can't fix. You will not regret your investment in this software as it also is a good defensive maintenance tool.

Finally, nothing beats a good and consistent backup strategy, and THAT saved me enormous headaches about two years ago when my Powerbook hard drive died (and I mean dead!). This drive refused to spin back up, all tricks aside, and I would have needed a professional data recovery service (as in more than several hundred dollars) to recover the data.

Backup your data and optimize hard drive function, all on a regular basis. It's akin to servicing your car.

2006-05-18 08:46:26
I've used and been happy with VirtualLab (http://www.binarybiz.com/vlab). It's a bit more expensive than DW, but works to recover the data when DU, DW or any of the others fails to. It also works under Windows to recover mac volumes, which is quite handy if you've installed Windows dual boot on your Intel based Mac, and for whatever reason your mac partition won't boot, or if you delete a file from the mac side.. you can easily use the PC side to recover it.
2006-05-18 08:47:30
I've used and been happy with VirtualLab (http://www.binarybiz.com/vlab). It's a bit more expensive than DW, but works to recover the data when DU, DW or any of the others fails to. It also works under Windows to recover mac volumes, which is quite handy if you've installed Windows dual boot on your Intel based Mac, and for whatever reason your mac partition won't boot, or if you delete a file from the mac side.. you can easily use the PC side to recover it.
2006-06-19 05:29:24
In My case i was not ready to use and try the software by myself because i was afraid that i might further ruin my harddisk and after some consultation i went to Disk Doctors Labs Who helped me out in the recovery of all my Hard Work and my entire hard disk was recoverd
2006-07-21 04:50:31
Today as people say data is so precious that it is taken much care more than that of cash or stock. This is true in all the cases. I take regular backups if all my data on my DVD but i realised it a bit too late not before i lost my data but lucky for me i got it recoverd with the help of Disk Doctors Labs Inc, since then i regularly get the backup done and thats one of my major work.
2006-10-03 16:22:33
Even with fairly regular backups, the recent crash of my Powerbook's startup disk has become a major headache. I have to agree with the author and several posters here: Data Rescue II is an excellent product for the price. It has just saved my essential data from a seemingly minor hard disk crash which neither DiskWarrior nor TechTool Pro could fix.

Richard Branston
2006-10-26 15:01:12
I tried data rescue II's free download. The programme saw all my files OK but in the end I decided to go with Disk Warrior, safe in the knowledge I could buy DRII if needed.

In a nutshell, I didn't want the hassle of manually sorting through the saved files if I could avoid it + I didn't like the idea that I needed a 2nd drive to save all my files on. I figured if DW worked, no need for a manual sort and no need for that 2nd drive.

Well, DW worked for me and fixed some really funky problems easily and without hassle. Out of many gigs of pics and ~600 cd's I lost about 5 songs from one cd - I have that cd so no major problems.

The scheduled SMART feature is another DW plus, but note it can't be used on external FW hard drives. I must admit this really irritated me, though from what I've read about this issue no blame lies at DW's feet; it is up to Apple to implement firewire so that it can take advantage of SMART's reporting capabilities.

Kate Johnson
2006-12-26 13:47:07
Beware of Disk Warrior!
I too was a believer until this weekend. An external drive suddenly failed.
It wouldn't mount and I pulled out my trusty Disk Warrior software.
It saw the disk, recognized its problems and then I pushed the Rebuild
button. BIG MISTAKE!!! It rebuilt the drive into 580 unreadable corrupt
files. I lost all of my folder structure. But worse, I lost a year's worth
of work on a project. Even more troubling 100+GB of info just disappeared.

I'm now calling professionals to see what, if anything , can be salvaged.
So far the news is not good.

2007-01-01 11:41:17
I just had my external 80-mb drive, 95% full, fail to mount) it just disappeared while writing to/copying from)

I downloaded Demo of Data Rescue II & scanned the drive successfully, then successfully recovered a 400k MS Word file.

I was so pleased I immediately purchased the full program. Oddly, that's when the hassleds really started.

It would not even complete a simple Quick Scan of the drive like teh demo had previously done (after an hour it just froze up at about 30% of the blue progress bar -- I waited for 7 hours more butthere was no change. When I tried to get it to stop the scan early it wouldn't. Then to even get Data Rescue to start up again I had to force quit and reboot.

A 2nd Quick Scan attempt on the drive failed again to complete, and failed again to stop, so once more I forced quit and rebooted to get it to load again.

I then attempted Analysis on the drive -- after about 20 minutes it showed about 5% on the progress bar, but 4 hours later it now had gone down to 0% blue progress and appeared frozen. After 3 more hours I tried to stop Analysis butit wouldn't. Again I had to force quit, then reboot again just to Data Rescue to load up.

Next I attempted Thorough Scan, and after a few inutes it indicated it would require an est. 136 hours to complete! So, I immediately canceled that but no surpirse it failed to stop and back to force quit & rebootoing I went.

Finnay, I attempted Clone of the drive to a brand new 2nd external drive. Data Rescue indicated it would require an est. 14 hours, to complete it. After 9 hours though it seemed frozen at about 30% of the progress bar, so I canceled it but yet agan it failed to stop (I tried about dozen times over several minutes). Yet again I had to force quit & reboot.

Then after the Clone was canceled early the brand new 2nd external drive no longer mounted either! All the files on it evidently had been erased in the aborted clone attempt. So I tried a Quick Scan of it and it revealed hundreds of unnamed saved from the cloned drive.

So, with that news I attempted a 2nd Clone try, but Data Rescue this time stated it would require an 30 est. hours. About 2 hours later it showed 15% completed on progress bar (with 38.2 hours est. remaining). But, 22 hours later it hasn;t changed at all and hasn't moved.

So, I am thoroughly unimpressed an dduiscguste diwth Data Rescue. The freaking demo worked perfectly ONCE but the full program failed on all 4 tasks it sasy it can do, refused to stop any of the tasks when ordered, and cannot even tell if my drive has any hardware problems, plus on top of that appears to have ruined a 2nd brand new drive in the process!

I can't see that I am doing anything wrong or incorrect here, but I'm out $200 plus days of work and have 1 recovered file from the free Demo no less!

2008-07-29 09:18:05
This is very good software