Accessing NTFS

Accessing NTFS by David Whelan I volunteer for a local event and provide some technical assistance, being slightly more technical than the other volunteers. The laptop that the group had been using, passing from one person to another, had flaked out and now the data (not backed up) was unavailable. This was the apparently common STOP 0x00000024 ntfs.sys error. Blue screen of death, can’t reach the recovery panel, can’t chkdsk, and Windows XP looks like it will start but won’t.

The laptop is one of the Dell Inspiron 5100s, susceptible to high heat due to dust getting into the fan.  This was apparently the reason the system crashed.  Typical Windows:  the error message tells you to run chkdsk /f but you can’t run it from DOS because the system is NTFS.  Rebooting into Safe Mode fails as well.  I tried reinstalling Windows XP and getting to the Recovery console (both options in the XP setup) but both failed as well.

Like many modern laptops, there was no floppy to boot from so I needed a boot CD.  I found an amazing boot disk at Ultimatebootcd.com.  It’s a free collection of utilities, boot images, partition tools, and the like.  You can download it and burn it to a CD and you’re ready to go.  I skipped many of the basic tools and went straight to the DOS boot images.  Relying on DR-DOS, they support USB storage, networking, and – most importantly – you can access NTFS drives, using NTFSDOS from Datapol to mount them and then  use ReadNTFS from NTFS.com to read them.  ReadNTFS also allows you to copy files off.

I was able to copy some files but had one Access database that I needed and that didn’t appear in the ReadNTFS list.  I could dir the file at the command level but when I browsed it in the ReadNTFS application, it wasn’t there.  When I tried to copy it from outside ReadNTFS, the size of the copied file wasn’t equal.

So, I struck out on DOS.  But this CD is absolutely brilliant.  It has the INSERT sytem as well, the INside SEcurity Rescue Toolkit.  It is a distribution based on Knoppix and Linux, and includes a huge number of tools as well as a GUI interface.  It includes read/write support for NTFS, and even a Samba and Web server daemon.

As the Ultimatebootcd (UBCD) says, you need to know something about Linux to be able to really get the benefit of INSERT.  I don’t.  But I knew enough, and eventually was able to mount the NTFS drive, copy the files off to the Web server files folder (Monkey server) loaded in the laptop’s RAM, and then download it from another computer on my home network.  If I’d had more files, this wouldn’t have worked so well (I suppose I could have gzip’d the files into a single one). 

The possibilities available because of INSERT though, and Knoppix-based systems for “thin client”, hard-drive-less PCs, are exciting.  This was my first introduction to them, and I know I’m going to have to cut out some time to use them more.

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