DiskWarrior – The Battle of Data Recovery

DiskWarrior App IconI’ve been encountering a strange number of disk problems lately. It’s almost suspicious. Yet, I suppose that is to be expected with older computers. Over the years, damage can sneak in. Neglect can make matters worse. Macs “just work”, so it can be unsettling when they stop working. Perhaps I’ve been overestimating the durability of Mac hardware and software. With three dead drives this year, I decided to call in a clincher – DiskWarrior.

I really tried not to spend the money. I used Disk Utility, but it just couldn’t fix the trouble. I don’t remember exactly what the report said, but I think it might have been the “File System Check Exit Code 8” error. That’s not very telling. Apparently, there was severe damage to the file system. It seemed that the files were there, but I couldn’t simply copy the files to the disk. I even tried using some Terminal commands to restore the data. Nothing was working.

Normally, I’d just restore the files from a Time Machine backup. But unfortunately, that was one of the disks with trouble. That’s when you start to realize how important computers are in modern life… family photos, emails, work stuff. I couldn’t just give up. I had to solve this problem. Naturally, I searched the Internet for possible solutions. Commercial software was often listed as a solution. One app in particular was mentioned frequently – DiskWarrior.

I remember this app from my early days of working with Macs. Normally, I’d use Norton Disk Doctor for this kind of thing, but that software was discontinued. I decided to give DiskWarrior a shot. Apparently, Alsoft (the creators of DiskWarrior) is headquartered in Texas. It seemed like a nice company. The president of the company is “Al Dion”, which likely explains the meaning of “Alsoft”.

The software arrived on a USB. It was around $100. Initially, I felt ripped off. I tried to boot from the USB and that didn’t work. So, I used a different disk as a startup disk and I tried running DiskWarrior from the USB. Instead of just fixing the damage, it was like… whoa, whoa, whoa there slim… in this neck of the woods, we’re gonna need to see some ID… where’s your serial number?

Needless to say, with broken hard drives and cables across my desk, I’m in a bad mood. Any little issue is amplified, making me even more aggravated. DiskWarrior didn’t rush in like a knight in shining armor and save the day. No, at first the software felt useless. That’s because there is a bit of a learning curve with DiskWarrior.

Part of the problem is that the software would just hang. It would take a while to find the damaged disk – if it would find it at all. I was force-quitting the app a lot. You probably shouldn’t do this kind of work if you’re angry. Having a clear head is essential.

DiskWarrior was able to generate a damage report. It didn’t look good.

A disk malfunction is a failure of or damage to any mechanical component of the disk device, or any component connected to it. The malfunction will likely worsen. Therefore, recovering your files from the DiskWarrior Preview as quickly as possible is essential.

It is highly recommended that you backup all of your data from the preview disk.

Well duh, what do you think I’m trying to do? Because I had been struggling with this problem for days… and eventually weeks… I was worsening the state of the drives. Don’t be a cheapskate. 20 years from now, will you miss the $100 or will you miss the pictures? That’s what’s challenging about this stuff. You can get disgusted. You can start to doubt yourself. “Do I really need those pictures?” Staying calm is critical. Think logically.

That’s where this story has a happy ending. Eventually, I setup DiskWarrior to copy the files from the bad drive to a good drive. I screwed up the first attempt, so the second attempt took even longer. Patience and calm thinking was critical. I had to let my computer run for days to salvage the files. It wasn’t clear to me if the progress bar was frozen, but I let the software run. I could see the filenames changing, so it was working.

The end result was a long list of directories with files scattered across them. It wasn’t apparent where to look. Are the pictures in “Missing Folder 29”, “temp981287” or one of the many other directories? An easy way to filter through the junk is to set the “View” options in the “Finder”. By selecting “Show View Options” a new window appears. The “Calculate all sizes” option will show the total file size of a specific directory. By sorting by size, it’s easy to see where the bulk of the files are located. (To be clear, this was done on the good disk – not the damaged disk.)

DiskWarrior was a good purchase. The lost data was recovered.