External USB hard drive devices have been a real ‘boon’ for the hard drive recovery industry. From the fact that they dissipate heat poorly, they are susceptible to vibration, and your dog walking past your computer happily wagging its tail can knock your precious data on the floor and destroy those irreplaceable pictures you took on your vacation last year, USB and Fire Wire drives comprise twenty five to thirty five percent of our hard drive recovery business. In addition to this the manufacturers thought they would be smart and format these external gems using the FAT32 file system. The reasoning behind this is that this particular file system is well documented, and Linux, Mac, and of course Microsoft can read from, and write to this file system.
In theory, this sounds like a great marketing idea having the ability to sell external USB and Fire Wire hard drives to three different operating systems. In theory. In practice, it presents some unique problems. As an example; a real life example, I have in my posession a Western Digital My Book that was formatted originally as a FAT32. However, this particular My Book was used for video editing and storage for a documentary on a Mac. For whatever reason this particular client decided to format the drive. In speaking with the client, this was not the intention. That being said, the drive was formatted using an EFI format that destroyed huge chunks of the FAT as well as destroying the OS Boot record, and the back-up OS Boot Record. In addition, the Master Boot Record had odd data for the partition starting points, and file system type on the external hard drive.
Now, with the MBR in the wind, both the OS boot records destroyed, and the beginning markers of both FATS gone, has does one reconstruct the original configuration of the FAT32 file system? In the next installment I will illustrate how Microsoft leaves little remnants of the file system all across the drive, and how these remnants can be used to recover the file system.
external usb firewire hard drive data recovery