Missing files and disk letter changed


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Hi, I am hoping someone here can help?

When I checked on my disks in Computer all have now got the identical files on them. I keep all my website creation files on the D drive but this letter has been changed to L and all my files have been replaced by system (O/S) files?

I can reassign the drive letter but cannot find my original files? I have tried data recovery software, running virus scans but to no avail.

I backup to a 4TB external drive but the backups are also missing and have been replaced with O/S files again? I used both Casper and NovaBACKUP but neither backups are showing?

All/any help really appreciated.
Graham
 
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There probably has not been massive movement of your files. It is more likely that one or more drive letters were changed or lost and/or what you're seeing is not really where you think you are (something corrupted and the computer is mis-reporting what you are asking for). Until you get to the bottom of the problem, don't do any operations that write to your hard disks. If "high level" information like drive letters and directories have been lost, the content will still be there and recoverable. However, the computer may not recognize that it is sitting there and writing to the hard disks could over-write and corrupt the contents, or write to the wrong locations.

The first step would be to try to eliminate extraneous stuff and see what is really there. I would reboot in Safe Mode with Command Prompt and just try to open the drive letters that are supposed to be there plus the ones reported in your earlier efforts. See if you can determine what the computer recognizes as being there and where it thinks stuff is. If you are seeing system files on more than one drive, the likely explanation is that a virtual drive letter has been mapped to a system directory and you are really looking at the same thing under different "names". How to fix the problem will depend on what you find.
 
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Thank you very much for your reply. You are the only one to give me a base start for this issue as it has baffled others as well has myself.

Will give this a whirl and get back to you.

Many thanks again
Graham
 
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Right, having followed your instruction, I found all the disks )including my 4TB external backup drive) contain the same data as my C (O/S) drive?
Graham
 
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It sounds like the drive letter assignments have been corrupted. Figuring out how and why and fixing it may not be trivial. I was just on my way out and won't be available to help. I checked who is logged on and there are only two other members, which may explain why you didn't get a fast response. That was pretty stupid on your part letting your computer get messed up on a Saturday. What were you thinking? :) You may need to wait for someone to pick up the ball on this forum. You could also try another forum. Sorry to leave you hanging with a messed up computer.
 

TrainableMan

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Windows 7 has "Libraries" which is really just a set of pointers to another location. I'm wondering if maybe you simply messed up some pointers? It might be really helpful if you took some screenshots of what you are seeing and upload them with your next post.
 
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Many thanks guys again for your time. I will get some screenshots and post them this morning (I'm UK based)

Graham
 
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Here are some screenshots:

1. Disks with changed letters

2. The same file/folder structure now (wrongly) on each disk

3. Disk Management screenshot.

I have not included my 4TB external backup drive nut this now contains the same folder structure :(

Hope this helps and thank you for your help.
Graham
 

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TrainableMan

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Did you change anything in your system BIOS? One of the settings possible is usually the ability to enable RAID. The most common RAID setting is to cause the same information to be written to two or more hard drives at the same time. It is a common safety precaution; in case one drive fails there is always a backup. If this was somehow enabled then you may be seeing the result of Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disk (RAID) technology.
 

TrainableMan

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EDIT: DISREGARD THIS POST, FIXER HAS ANOTHER IDEA.

I'll be honest, I was hoping Fixer was correct, but it definitely looks like RAID. Three physical hard drives with two partitions each, and you see the same data on D, E, & H and then another identical set on C:, F:, & I: , don't you? And it sounds like when you attached your 4TB drive it may have even been brought in as a 4th RAID drive.

If so, I believe your old D: drive has been overwritten. I don't know enough about RAID to tell you what to do to change it back to normal but my biggest concern is that your data may be gone. If there is to be any chance of data recovery I would recommend you remove (or at least disconnect) the SATA (or less likely IDE) cable from the other two drives so that no more sectors are overwritten but I am not optimistic about any data recovery.

I hope I am wrong and I don't know what to tell you from here. I would encourage you to get someone involved locally with a stronger understanding.
 
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Graham, got back and thought I would check in to see if you got your problem solved. Looking at the screen shots you attached, I don't think it's as simple as mapping drive letters. If the drive letters were pointing to the same place, the drive information would be the same and it's not. RAID would be an explanation for the drive contents to be identical. However, you can't accidentally change a setting and have a RAID. There is some setup you have to go through.

The fact that this involves backup software is interesting. If you were working with the backup profiles, it isn't hard to accidentally create a new backup plan that copies everything (or have corruption in the backup plan that causes it). That could explain why you're seeing duplicates of your entire primary hard disk everywhere else. However, that wouldn't erase what was previously there. Check to see if what should be there is "hiding" among a host of new directories. Also, look at the drive information. Do you have three physical drives, each with two partitions? Are the reported sizes accurate? I'm not seeing anything that adds up to a 4 TB drive. Half of that is not showing up.

As a quick test, disconnect the external drive (just disconnect the cable, don't eject the drive, that could write to it), and see what disappears from Windows Explorer. Then reconnect it and see what shows up. Do you see 4 TB? Are you still missing all of the old contents? Do you still see the stuff apparently copied from your primary drive?
 

TrainableMan

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I like Fixer's idea that maybe some files were duplicated across the drives with your backup software; it offers hope for your data. Closer inspection of the numbers (when I subtract free space from capacity), it does appear there are differing amounts on the drives C: 159GB, F: 77GB, I: 142GB.

And, I don't think we are seeing your external 4TB drive at all.

Maybe post some screenshots of your backup settings.

When I made my last post I was thinking this was the worst news I ever gave anyone so, please let us know if your data is still there. And Fixer, I'm glad it's not so easy to enable RAID, I thought it was simply a BIOS setting (and some drivers) but I never used it myself.
 
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Thanks for your replies, especially Fixer who has given me a little hope :) As I am visually challenged (registered blind, although I do have limited sight) I cannot undertake any hardware jobs and even un-plugging the drive would have been a no-no for me.

I have downloaded EaseUS Data Recovery Pro but if anyone here can recommend a better alternative, please let me know? I looked at R-Studio but this looked too complicated for me.

To reiterate: I used Casper to make a image, but only of my C drive and then used NovaBACKUP to backup the files/folders on my (then) D drive which has now changed to X.

I will now carry out your instruction regarding the external 4TB drive Fixer and get straight back.

Appreciation again guys.
Graham
 
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Right, carried-out Fixer's recommendation and when the 4TB external drive was disconnected it disappeared (obviously) from explorer and then reappeared when re-connected. All the files/folders are the same as the other drives except, in the folder where I kept my backup (NovaBACKUP) is two new backup files showing NB must have automatically made backups yesterday??? The original backup file is not there though?

I eagerly await replies and thank you for your time.
Graham
 
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Graham, I'm hoping all of your original data is there, just hiding. You might want to temporarily stop the backups. No sense backing up corrupted stuff that you will just have to cleanup later.

Right now, running a data recovery program is not a good idea unless you have another place to recover stuff to, like an external hard disk or a cloud account. If the directory structure has been lost but the data is still on the drive, anything you recover and write to that drive could over-write and corrupt your files. Actually, you never want to recover files onto the same drive or any drive that might be impaired. Also, don't try to recover to a CD or DVD. Everything is first stored on the hard disk and then copied, so that temporary storage could over-write lost data.

Actually, I'm guessing that in your case, it may not make a difference. If the old stuff still exists but is hiding, it won't be affected by new writing to the drive. If the original directory structures have been wiped, the recovery process would be so massive that it probably would not be worth the effort (tens of thousands of recovered but essentially unidentified files).

Let's deal with the external and internal drives separately, starting with the internal drives. You have one partition on one drive that is where your operating system was originally installed and you boot from. Unless you've gotten very fancy, your user directory tree is also there. From the screen shots, it looks like that is still called C:, so that's good.

That drive also has another small partition. Is that a system restore partition that came that way from the manufacturer? Rather than ship computers with the original Windows installation disk, most manufacturers are saving $0.25 by just sticking a backup copy on the computer so you can recover Windows if it gets totally crapped up. If that's what that partition is, you don't want to use it for anything else. You don't want to touch it in any way--not even backing it up (unless you do a special type of image copy, the backup wouldn't be useful, anyway). You don't want to write anything new or additional in that partition. So, questions about that partition:
  • Is that a factory-installed restore partition or one you created for your own use?
  • Have you stored anything of your own there?
  • Does your backup program know the partition exists (that you intentionally set up)?
  • Does it look like your C: drive has been copied there? This is important because it is a small partition and everything from C: won't fit. You certainly wouldn't have any free space left on it. So, if it shows the C: folder tree, something else is going on. What you're seeing could be just a collection of empty folders and the original contents are still there somewhere.
Is physical drive 0, which contains C: and H:, a "nominal" 250 GB drive? The actual GB capacity of a drive that size would be roughly what is showing in the screen shots. If the drive is bigger than that, there is unaccounted for space.

Physical drive 2 contains E: and F:. Again, E: is a tiny partition. Is this, by any chance, a drive removed from another computer, where E: was the recovery partition and F: was C: in that computer, and now you're just using it as an extra hard disk? If so, and you didn't reformat it, that would explain why F: looks like your C: directory structure. Is drive 2 a "nominal" 115 GB or 120 GB drive. Again, if it is supposed to be bigger than that, there is missing space (a potential place for missing files). Same question as above on E:--this is a tiny partition that isn't big enough to hold a copy of C:. Does it show the C: directory tree?

What is supposed to be on E: and F:? Were there any "loose" files you stored in the root directory? These would not appear in the list of folders, so they could still be sitting there. If they are, that's a good sign because it means your other files are probably there, too. If you created a couple of root-level folders and all of your files are in these (or in directory trees inside these), they might be hiding in plain sight. The root level folders could just be among the flotsam you are seeing. If stuff from C: was, say, copied to F: and it contained folders with the same names as the ones you set up on F:, Windows would have merged the folder contents. So at first glance, it would just look like the C: folders, but the ones with the same names would also contain the files you originally put there.

Now your external drive. Drive 1 contains D: and I: and again, D: is a small partition. Is this also a drive that was previously the internal drive for a computer and has been put in an external drive box? D: contains only about 40 MB, so that is not a copy of everything on C:. Does it show the C: folders? Same questions for I: as above for F:

The total capacity that is showing for Drive 1 is a little light for what would be sold as a nominal 2 TB drive. So there is at least 2 TB not accounted for. If you are missing files from this drive, the first place to look is to find the rest of the drive. I guess a logical starting question would be are you sure there was 4 TB of formatted capacity before the problem occurred? If so, where was the rest (in a now missing partition, or one or both of the partitions used to be a lot bigger)?

This is a lot of questions, but to know what direction to go in next we need to understand what we're looking at.
 
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Hello Fixer,

I will (at least try) :) to go through all your questions:

The C Drive is (obviously) my O/S drive.250GB

The F Drive is my old 120GB SSD that was left in when the tech guy fitted the above drive.

With the drive letters getting mixed-up the D and H I presume are system restores for the above drives. I did not create them myself and my machine cam complete with a Win7 x64 Pro DVD.

The (now named) X Drive was originally my D Drive which contained all the files which were/are hidden/lost.

I have NOT set either NovaBACKUP or Casper to backup to any of the internal drives, pointing both to my external 4TB drive. I have now switched this drive off.

Looking through the X Drive, all the folders seem to have files inside which the .exes work if not registered now :)

Nothing in D, E and H of any consequence as far as I can see :)

I hope I have answered most of your questions but, if I have been an idiot or missed something please bear with me and re-ask?

If you have a favourite (UK spelling) charity or whatever, please let me know when this is sorted and I will send a donation.

Thank you
Graham
 
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Good start.

My thought about the possible cause being your backup software was that some kind of corruption might have resulted in a non-selective copying of everything on C: to other places. Whether or not that was the cause, to be safe it wouldn't hurt to reinstall that software and recreate the backup plans. However, wait until your hard disks are all accounted for and cleaned up.

Do I understand correctly that C was not affected at all--nothing missing and nothing new?

D, E, and H are sort of inconsequential to the problem because they are so small. My only real question is whether they also show the C: folders? If not, we can ignore them for now because they weren't affected by whatever happened. Except for one more question. D: is part of your external drive. Was this partition the current size before the problem or did it shrink and that accounts for some of the missing capacity?

Is the F drive one of the ones that now looks like your C: drive? If so, was it previously your C: drive and still has at least the folders on it from before, or had you wiped it and now you're seeing C folders again? (If you see C folders, are you surprised to see them or do you expect to see them? Does F now contain folders and/or files that shouldn't be there?)

Is anything missing from the F: drive?

That leaves the external drive. In your screen grabs, it's main partition is labelled I: and there are 2 TB missing. You are referring to X:. Have you renamed the I: partition, or did the drive letter of that partition change after you removed and reconnected the drive, or does X: refer to the missing 2 TB? For consistency in this post, I'll keep referring to I: as the 1.8 TB partition shown in your screen grabs.

The screen grabs show roughly 142 GB of content in this partition. Is that all flotsam that appeared after the "incident" or is any of that your files that are supposed to be there? Are files that are supposed to in that partition missing?

The missing 2 TB of capacity: this will sound like a stupid question, but it is to cover all of the bases and to zero in on where your missing files might be located. Are you sure that the drive is a 4 TB drive, not 2 TB, and that when it was originally formatted and partitioned, all 4 TB were accounted for? If it originally had 4 TB of capacity available to you, where was the other 2 TB located--did the I: partition shrink or was there another partition that is now missing?

Did you use any third party software to set up or partition the external drive or just Windows?

In terms of a donation, put that toward a beer fund to celebrate when you get the problem fixed. In the meantime, feel free to raid that fund to drown your sorrows while you are working on the problem.
 
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Well, actually your thoughts on one of my backup programs, NovaBACKUP could be correct. Version 15 for some reason kept coming-up with the error it could not find the 'engine' on startup. I upgraded to version 16 which seemed OK after installation but, this has happened again now. I have contacted their tech support on this issue.

My original (2TB) internal drive D was changed to I after the incident. I was advised on another forum to change the letter to X to safeguard this happening again. Sadly, I did not receive anymore help from this other forum :(

My C drive seems to be working fine; it boots-up OK and each application I have used since has worked fine.

The F drive looks slightly different from my C drive, only some of the folders are the same.I have just tried a couple of exes on the F drive and they work fine.

My external drive is a 4TB drive which was already formatted when purchased about a month ago.Did you want me to pipe through another screenshot of what is on this external drive? No third-party software was used to partition the drive.

Thanks for hanging-in with this issue
Graham
 
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