23 March, 2011

Dredging Dying Disks

Crash Central deals with dying disks daily. Now there's a line that belonged in The King's Speech. It's also a truth universally acknowledged. Several times a day, someone will come in with a disk that's either so crusted with malware or so pockmarked with bad sectors that it can't boot. Naturally, the data's not backed up. So the race is on to get the data off the drive before it screeches its last.

I usually slip the hard disk out of the old machine and into a USB drive reader hooked up to my production machine. Then I get all the personal data off the machine. It's usually stored in three locations:

The three folders are stored (in Vista or Windows 7) under Users or (in XP and before) Documents and Settings, in the profile of whoever uses the machine. They are Favorites (for Web sites bookmarked in Internet Explorer), Desktop, and My Documents.

Copy these three folders and most of the time, you've got everything people want.

Unless, of course, they don't use Internet Explorer. This morning, I got a dying disk from a fellow who uses Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox and has a unique set of bookmarks for each. Gee...thanks Will! Anyone who knows these browsers well knows you can back up and export bookmarks and other settings...but that's not much help when you can't boot into Windows and launch the programs.

Here's where these browsers store their bookmarks and other settings:





In Windows 7, %APPDATA% is the folder \Users\\AppData\Local
In XP, %APPDATA% is the folder \Documents and Settings\\Local Settings\Application Data

Mozilla bookmarks are stored in a file called places.sqlite. If you can't find it in the Profiles folder, do a diskwide search for it.