Sure, there are many data recovery products out there are easier to use than Norton Disk Editor. But what I like about Norton Disk Editor is that it allows Windows administratrators to directly manipulate the sectors on the hard disk. So if you need to undelete a file or unformat a hard drive, you may be happier with a different product. But if you need to recover from a really nasty disk crash, I recommend the Norton tool.
The problem with using a disk editor on a system that runs Windows is that the Windows operating system maintains exclusive control of the file system. Windows is designed in such a way that it prevents any user mode processes (applications) from interacting directly with the hardware. Therefore, if you want to directly manipulate the contents of your hard disk, you will have to do so from outside of Windows.
Of course you're going to need some kind of operating system to be present. That's why I'm going to show you how you can create a boot disk that you can use to run Norton Disk Editor.
Creating a boot disk: Finding a PC with compatible OS
The toughest part of the process is finding a PC that is running a suitable operating system: DOS, Windows 95, Windows 98 or Windows ME. Note: Windows NT, 2000, XP and 2003 are not suitable because they are based on the NT kernel rather than DOS. If you can't find a PC running one of these old OSes, you can always use an old Windows 98 CD to install Windows
Once you get one of these old OSes to run, boot the operating system, open a Command Prompt window and enter the following command: FORMAT A: /S
Doing so will cause the DOS or Windows operating system to format a floppy disk and transfer the DOS operating system to it. (When I say DOS, I am referring to the MSDOS.SYS, IO.SYS and COMMAND.COM files.)
You will now have to copy a few files to the disk. You can either do this directly from the DOS environment using the COPY command, or you can do it from any version of Windows. Use whichever method you're most comfortable with.
Installing a mouse driver for Norton Disk Editor
Because DOS is not natively a graphical operating system, out of the box, it has no knowledge of the existence of your mouse. Norton Disk Editor is designed to support the use of a mouse, and having a mouse makes Norton Disk Editor a lot easier to use. But since DOS doesn't natively support the use of a mouse, you'll have to install a mouse driver.
Once upon a time, DOS base mouse drivers were very popular, but today they can be hard to find. I found one generic DOS mouse driver on Logitech's Web site**. This mouse driver should get the job done as long as you're using a fairly standard mouse (nothing too fancy), and it's connected to your PC through a PS/2 port. This mouse driver does not support USB mice.
Download the mouse driver (MOUSE.COM) and copy it to your boot disk. Now copy Norton Disk Editor to the boot disk. The files associated with Norton Disk Editor are located on your Norton System Works CD in the NU\APP\NU folder. The files you want to copy to the disk are DISKEDIT.EXE and DISKEDIT.HLP. If your disk has enough free space (the amount of free space varies, depending on the operating system used to render the disk bootable), you may also want to copy Norton Disk Doctor to the disk. Norton Disk Doctor is an easier-to-use utility designed to fix common disk issues. The files for Norton Disk Doctor are located in the same folder as the disk editor files. The necessary files are NDD.EXE and NDD.HLP.
Creating an AUTOEXEC.BAT file for your boot disk
The last part of creating your boot disk is creating an AUTOEXEC.BAT file. An AUTOEXEC.BAT file tells the disk which files to load at startup. If you did not put Norton Disk Doctor on the disk, you can configure the AUTOEXEC.BAT file to load the mouse driver and then load Norton Disk Editor. If Norton Disk Doctor is present on the disk, avoid loading Norton Disk Editor automatically so you can choose which program you want to use.
To create the AUTOEXEC.BAT file, boot the system from your boot disk and enter the following commands:
COPY CON AUTOEXEC.BAT
Press F6, then Enter. You'll see a message saying that one file was copied. Your disk is now ready to use. Reboot the system and your disk should load the mouse driver and Norton Disk Editor (assuming you included the DISKEDIT.EXE line in the AUTOEXEC.BAT file).
Prior to using your disk for the first time, I recommend making a backup of it. Floppies tend to be fragile, and it's a good idea to have a backup copy so that you don't have to recreate the floppy from scratch should something happen to it. You should also write-protect your floppy to prevent it from becoming infected by viruses and to prevent files from being accidentally deleted.
Now that you've learned how to create a disk you can use for hard disk repairs, it's time to learn how to use it. The next article in the series will show you that.
**Editor's note: SearchWincomputing.com has since learned that the generic DOS mouse driver from Logitech is no longer available.
Data Recovery Techinques for Windows
- How to recover data
- How to create a boot disk to run Norton Disk Editor
- How disk cluster size affects data recovery processes
- How long file names complicate data recovery
- How to recover deleted files on FAT via Disk Editor
- How data recovery for NTFS differs from FAT
- How to recover corrupt NTFS boot sectors
- Signature-based data recovery: A last ditch technique
About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server, Exchange Server and IIS. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. He writes regularly for SearchWinComputing.com and other TechTarget sites.
This was first published in June 2006