Last night I decided I was going to install XP on a spare drive in my test machine as I was tired of the number of applications which didn't want to run properly under Windows 7. I stuck the disk in, waited for it to load all the files, accepted the EULA and then got to the screen where you select the drive and partition you want to install to. At this point, a PEBKAC error surfaced and I selected my 150Gb Velociraptor instead of the 150Gb original raptor HD and went through the process of deleting the old partitions.
At this point, a warning light starting going off in the back of my mind, and after staring at the screen for a couple of seconds, I went back to the drive list and realized that I had just deleted my working windows 7 partitions! I felt like such an idiot, but those of us who have been doing this for any length of time have done this at least once before!
I spent about four hours finishing the XP install and trolling through various shareware and freeware partition and disk recovery utilities without any joy. It was only after some last ditch googling that I came across a posting talking about TESTDISK. I found my way to the Ultimate Boot CD website and, after being frightened off by the warning about v5 being a beta, I downloaded and burnt the v4.11 CD. This got me closer than anything before, but partly due to my ignorance and (possibly) due to the version of TESTDISK being two years old, it didn't seem to quite detect the partitions properly. Two hours later, I decided I had nothing to lose by trying the Release Candidate of Version 5.
For those of you who don't know, TESTDISK is a utility that allows you to fix problems with partition tables and to recover from exactly my kind of problem. However, on the RC of UBCD5, I couldn't find the utility directly from the menu and so had to start PARTEDMAGIC and then access TESTDISK from that menu. For anyone trying to fix the same problem, start by reading this how to which the author took a lot of time to write:
Most of the initial steps are self explanatory but I would make my own comments on the following steps:
6) In my case I had deleted all the partitions on the drive, but INTEL was the right option to choose here, not NONE
7) I didn't need to use anything outside of ANALYSE to fix my problem. Having done that, the current partition structure was blank (duh!).
8) I selected QUICK SEARCH, which also yielded no partitions.
9) At the bottom of the screen, I used the cursor keys to choose DEEPER SEARCH and then left the machine to scan for about 10 minutes - raptors are quick and small
10) At this point, I got a lot more than I bargained for and a lot more than I understood. Unfortunately I didn't take a screenshot, but I remember a number of lines displaying during scanning about the machine having partitions which had geometry errors - CHS values not matching and I got worried about how much of a mess I had made. It also didn't make sense to me that TESTDISK appeared to be finding about six partitions when there had only been two on the drive. After it finished scanning, it also came up with a worrying message about not being able to recover two partitions. I am sure one of the admins can explain where these came from, but I can't!
Anyway, after letting those go, I was left with a list of three recoverable partitions, two small ones and one which equated to 99% of the drive.
I knew from the install that the Windows 7 had created itself a reserved system partition of 100Mb at the beginning of the drive, but there was another small partition before that which I didn't understand. Thankfully I had another Windows 7 machine downstairs and was able to go and compare the partition tables. The machine down there had no such third partition, so after re-reading section 11 I used the P option to view files on the large partition and confirmed that my Data was indeed here. I took a leap and guessed than the second (and larger) unknown partition was the system reserved partition. Both of these had the letter D at the beginning of the line to indicate that they had been deleted. I moved the cursor down to the second partition and used the left and right arrow keys to change that partition to * which indicates a BOOTABLE primary partition. I then set the third one to P which is a standard PRIMARY partition.
11) MAKE SURE YOU CHOOSE THE OPTION TO WRITE YOUR RECOVERED PARTITION TABLE BACK TO THE DRIVE. Or you will have to go through the process for a second time like me
This was all it took to return my machine to bootable status. I was so happy it was ridiculous. Like many computer related problems out there, the solution can be simple, but finding the answer or the right tool is more difficult.
Anyway, I want to thank everyone who took the time to assemble, test and develop the Universal Boot CD, the people here at PartedMagic, et surtout, Monsieur Christophe Grenier, Je vous remercie de tout cœur - sans votre outil, tous aura etait perdu!
Good luck to those in similar circumstances - remember - someone has probably already managed to make the same mistake before. If you dig long enough, you will come out the other side!