How to copy data off an old IDE disk

Andy Wardley abw at
Sun Mar 30 12:34:54 BST 2008

Philippe Bruhat (BooK) wrote:
 > Seen any sharks yet?


At this point, sharks would be a welcome sight.  It would at least suggest
that the end is near!  :-(

I bought an IDE enclosure but failed to persuade either my Mac or Ubuntu
box to mount the disk.

I'm assuming that a Mac should have no trouble mounting a FAT32 disk, but it
complained: "The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer" and the
syslog sayeth: disk2: I/O error.

The Ubuntu box also failed to automount it and throws up a bunch of media
errors and other kernel grumblings.  I spent many hours on this before giving
up.  I suspect that the new fangled disk enclosure is none too happy with
old IDE disks and between them and the Linux drivers, they can't make the
necessary SCSI emulation magic happen.  But that's just a guess.

So I switched back to the live cd approach and, after much wrangling, managed
to mount one of the two disks under Ubuntu. I dutifully copied the files to a
newly purchased 2Gb memory stick (because I couldn't find either of the two I
already own, of course) and cracked open a celebratory beer. But oh how the
gods mock me! Now, both Mac and Linux tell me that the memory stick is
complete garbage. It not only has no filesystem or partition table on it, but
is completely hosed to the point where "sudo fdisk /dev/sdb" simply barfs with
"Cannot open /dev/sdb". The Mac doesn't even recognise it when I plug it in.

Meanwhile, my cable modem died so I was netless for the 2 days when it would
have been *really* useful to have google access.  When your primary mode of
hardware debugging is pasting the relevant error message into a google search
box (with a fallback on posting to having no net access is about as
useful as having your hands superglued to a pair of killer fighting ferrets
that haven't been fed for a little over three weeks.

Incidentally, I can still boot MSDOS from the disk, browse all the source code
I'm trying to recover, and even run the applications.  But this is DOS 3, so
there's no support for network, USB or CD burning.  However, I do have a
working C/C++ compiler and assembler on that disk, so I haven't yet ruled out
writing something disgustingly low-level to try and blat the data off the
disk through a piece of electric string.

Should I give up and go to the pub?[*]


[*] Of course I should.... but don't phone in, it's just for fun.

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