copying DVDs (part 2)

Well, I took a 2-week hiatus from trying to recover my lost mail archives from a DVD that failed its burning process. (Mac OS 10.3). But yesterday & today I’ve been on the problem again, downloading a slew of tools and digging out info on mounting unmountable discs and digging data off the disks.And the winner is … Data Rescue! from ProSoft! which can see the files on my incompletely-burned DVD backup of personal & professional email. Hurrah!

Overall comments: A winner!
User interface: Simple but virtually inscrutable without the user manual.
User manual: Very good.
Price & marketing:
Not free, but at $99 ($89 + $10 s/h) probably worth it for almost anybody who’s lost data. Marketing method was very smart: Allow the whole program to download & allow users to scan all media, and recover a limited number of files (1 or 15 files, I don’t remember) for free. In the world of data recovery software, there is a lot of hype, a lot of jargon, and a lot of deliberately vague terminology. Do you really want to shell out money only to find that the program you’ve purchased only recovers .jpgs from thumb drives? No, you do not. ProSoft lets you play with the program to figure out if it will work for you — and then buy it. I’m sure some people are motivated enough at that point to hack the serial number. But if they’re that motivated and skilled, then they are either a) so broke that who cares? it’s a kindness to them to let them have it; or b) so skilled that they probably could have recovered the files on their own anyway. Me, I was happy — happy! — to spend the money and support the folks who wrote the software that recovered the data on the disk that failed from the computer that failed in the house that Jack built.

Moral of the story: If you know the problem is intractable to begin with, don’t fuck around; jump right into the data recovery process & spend the money. OTOH, if time is not of the essence (as in optical media, where you’re not going to re-use it anyway, and there’s no real risk of re-writing over the data) then take some time & explore.In the interests of documenting this process, I’ll go ahead & include all notes from other attempts & programs, and will alphabetize most of the downloads for ease of reference.

  1. disk utility (the one that comes with OS X): The good news is that disk utility sees the disk. The bad news is that it claims the disk is unmountable.
  2. dd: briefly described their disk recovery process (discouragingly titled: Dead, Dead, Dead…). The comments by Richard Soderberg included the dd command:dd if=/dev/disk0s9 of=$HOME/disk0s9.dmg bs=512 conv=noerrorI used disk utility to get the disk identifier (disk1s2) of the unreadable data partion. The dd command then did process through what seemed like the right amount of data, building a .dmg file. At a certain point though, bang, it started hanging, and I had to CTRL-C out of the process. The .dmg file looks fine but won’t mount. Now, though, I have two things to work with — a burn-crashed DVD and a poorly created .dmg file. From the standpoint of THIS IS FUCKING HOPELESS, well, that’s an improvement.
  3. hdiutil: Still trying to get the .dmg file to mount. Hitting hdiutil directly on the new .dmg file doesn’t work either:$ sudo hdituil attach filename.dmgjust returns a read/write error.
  4. very nicely detailed their (failed) disk recovery process including a number of product names.
  5. Typing this up, I am disconcerted by the periodic spinning of the DVD drive, in response, apparently, to nothing. Disk utility is open but nothing else. Is Disk Utility periodically hitting the drive? Or what?
  6. Back to Google and to to try to dig out more programs that might help.
    • BurnItAgainNow. This program claimed to enable easy creation of linked multi-sessions. That’s not my problem, but what the hell, maybe it’ll show me something interesting, or maybe its multisessionness will let it skip past badly burned sesssions. Nope. Nothing.
    • CarbonCopyCloner. A HD backup program. Looks only for mounted disks. Not helpful.
    • CDRestore. One of the SubRosaSoft programs (mentioned below). No trial version, so I’m not going to try it.
    • DataRescue 10.4.3. Available at mac.softpedia and I can’t figure if this will help or not: it recovers “general” files from HDs (HFS file systems, which my DVD is) and “media” files from “removable media”. I’ll give it a shot, since you can “test” it for free: scan for files and recover one. I agree to the license terms and choose DEMO mode.It’s completely unclear from the cryptic buttons what the options are. So I crack open the manual which, to my very great surprise, is actually helpful. Not only does it explain the button options, but it explains how it is attempting to recover the files, by describing the catalogs and how they’re structured. So — two types of searches are available: Catalog scans (quick & thorough), which rely on undamaged portions of the catalog; and Content Scans, which ignore the catalog. I’ll start with a Thorough Catalog scan. (If there’s a catalog to scan, then I assume that means that a catalog is written at the beginning of the burning process; or, less likely, contemporaneously. If there is no catalog to scan then I assume it means the catalog is written at the end of the burning process. See? I’m learning things. This process isn’t a complete waste. Right? I’m trying to persuade myself.)… As it’s scanning, things look hopeful: It’s seeing “16860 items” which sounds like it could be a chunk of my mail files. Going pretty quickly too — maybe 5 minutes total to scan the 1.5G that was successfully burned. The 16860 were found in the first couple of minutes and nothing since then. I’m starting to feel hopeful, so I’ll stomp those feelings down right now — hope can only lead to disappointment. Even if it recovers the files they’re probably just duplicates of the files that were successfully backed up, and not the grail of files that are lost…. The program is now doing something called “Calibration: 35 files found, need 165 more.” Huh? This process is scheduled to take around 5 minutes…. Up pops a window: “Files were found! You should now blah blah blah.” The exclamation point shows that DataRescue is as excited as I am! “I am happy to serve you!”… 2 minutes later, after I select a file, recover it, and test it: Oh! Oh! Oh! Data Rescue, I love you! I will immediately go plonk down $89 or whatever to purchase you…. 5 minutes later I have begun the actual full data recovery process, which will take more than an hour apparently. Data Rescue is retrieving the file structure too which is nice. I am still filled with love for Data Rescue. Once I see what is actually successfully recovered, I will be able to then mourn what was not recovered, and of course the 6 weeks of data since this failed DVD burn. Sigh. Still — 6 weeks, versus some number of years (0-6 depending on the state of my CD archives back in California) — I’m not complaining!… maybe half an hour later it comes back & tells me that it’s recovered everything but there were errors. Indeed. Out of 16000+ files there were 12000+ errors of the ominous “Block number out-of-range” sort. My suspicion is that the catalog was written first and these errors are telling the system that the catalog refers to the part of the disk that was not burned — not the 1.5G but the other 2.9G that didn’t get burned…. indeed as I go through the files that’s what it looks like. I have recovered about half the personal files, A-M, and mid-way through the M’s the files crap out — 0 bytes, 0 bytes, 0 bytes. Maybe the disk was burning sequentially and made its way first into the “personal” folder, but never made it into “personal-business” or “professional”. Very deep sigh. Some puzzlement, though: could those A-M personal files really be 1.4G of mail? No — they are about 100+MB. Looking through I see that some of the archives further down were partially recovered — in fact it looks like the other folders had files at the top level hierarchy recovered, but files lower down in the hierarchy were not recovered. Weird. So maybe Apple’s burner goes through one hierarchy level at a time.Of course, the files that were most important to me were also the most organized, and the most likely to be included in sub-folders and organized hierarchies. And most of the 1.5G turns out to have been in the “lists” folder which was almost completely recoverable, but which was also recovered from the failed hard drive. Grrr…. Content Scan is turning up something similar. Except it turns up 2021 files, and without the catalog info, all of them are crudely organized into “audio”, “images”, “movies”, “documents”, “misc”, and are named things like D1.doc, D2.doc, etc. Ooof. This will be painful. wtf, I may recover a little more. It’ll take a long long time to sort through the recovered files and see what they are, though, so it’ll probably be weeks before I dedicate this many hours to it again…. Well, this will be a hard & painful file loss to recover from. All my personal mail from the early M’s on; lots of personal mail that was in special subfolders (like all the wedding email); all my professional mail; most of my projects email (for instance, 10 years of feedback from the femsf website). But I am happy enough to have gotten back some portion of the data, and to have a disk recovery program.
    • Disk Copy
    • DiskWarrior. You gotta pay money! I will try every free solution first, by god. This should be something you can do for free!
    • DMG Fixer for OS X claims to fix DMGs that were downloaded in ascii/text format rather than binary. Won’t be useful but I downloaded it anyway just in case it has some interesting recognition capability that’s not mentioned.
    • DMG Tool 3. Never got to it.
    • DockDisks. Mounts disks to your dock instead of on the desktop. For folks who (like me) place their dock on the right edge of the screen, where the mac wants to place the icons of mounted volumes. I’m interested enough to download this and try it out, not for my current disk recovery problem of course, but to see if it’s an improvement. Actually what would be better would be a prefpanel to let you choose where on the Desktop to place volume icons.
    • DropDMG. Another DMG creation utility. Claimed to have some interesting features to enable reading DMGs. But didn’t. However, can pull up information about DMG files, and the set of data is slightly different than Disk Utility generated.
    • DVDBackup 1.3. Requires a mounted DVD. What kind of a lame backup program is that? I know what kind, of course, but really — you can’t only write software for horse-still-in-the-barn kinds of folks. What about those of us whose barn is smoldering ashes and whose horses are out in the meadow somewhere, frighened? [ahem. you either get it or you google.]
    • DVD Extractor. Never got to it.
    • FileSalvage. Never got to it.
    • FindFile. Never got to it.
    • ImageMounter. SubRosaSoft lists a product called ImageMounter 1.0.1 in a few key places, but when you click the download [], it takes you to their page of various other downloads that are not extremely helpful. Is the program still out there somewhere? Or was it a scam all along to get you to clickthrough to their website? I am suspicious.
    • IMount. A GUI interface for the diskutil command, to see partitions & get info about them.
    • ISOBuster keeps coming up in the searches even though it’s a W1nd0ws program, because it can read & recover mac files. If I hadn’t gotten rid of my half-dozen old computers of various kinds & OS last fall, that might help me now. Dammit! Damn the cross-country move that caused me to become efficient and ultimately to lose all this data! The cross-country move is what caused me to consolidate all my data onto one computer and one backup hard drive, thus leading to the problem when the computer’s DVD burner fails, Applecare wipes its HD (unnecessarily! so unnecessarily!), and the backup is discovered to have screwed up, replacing a complete set of files with an incomplete set of files. Yes it’s all my fault. Damn damn damn.
    • ISOlator for Mac. Uses dd to make copies of disks. Hmm. Since I know fuck-all about dd, other than the cookbook command I typed in earlier, I wonder if this program will have interesting ability to display error files etc., and maybe I’ll get some more info out of the dd program.
    • LaCie Silverkeeper. Someone on a message board said they had success mounting a drive with Silverkeeper, and then after futzing had further success. So worth a try. Negative points for nondescriptive product-based name.
    • Mac DVD Rip Tutorial. Taught me nothing.
    • Mac the Ripper. As previously stated, requires a mounted disk. Points for good name.
    • Media Recover Image Recovery. Another of these programs dedicated to dragging off jpgs, mpgs, and the like off of thumb drives & memory cards & sticks.
    • MountMe. Very funny title. Claims to force-mount physical disks (like my DVD) that refuse to mount on your system, or you ocan drop image files to have them mounted. So I’m trying to get it, but all apparent sites are down. versiontracker,, mac.softpedia
    • RecoverDM. Never got to it.
    • Special Move 1.0. Lets you enable/disable the auto-extraction feature of .dmg files. This really won’t help me, but I’m intrigued enough to download it — what does it do? why do you want to disable auto-extraction?
    • wwDVD. Some sort of session manager. Requires a mounted disk.