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One of my hard disks is failing and I need to recover some data from it (mostly photos). It's not the boot disk, which is an SSD. But as long as the failing hdd is connected, the system hangs on boot (Win 10). If I disable that hdd via BIOS, system boots.

So I'm thinking a bootable pendrive based recovery software that can work with possible bad sectors and broken fs. Or do I need to use a windows based data recovery with a SATA to USB enclosure (I imagine this will hang more than the former, what with the bad sectors)

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Look into ddrescue. There's 2 advantages over using Windows based software:

  1. Linux is a tad more accepting when it comes to 'unstable' hard drives.
  2. ddrescue is designed to image/clone problem drives and work around problem areas.

So idea then is to to image / clone the hard drive. With cloning you 'dump' each readable sector to another drive, imaging saves every readable sector to a disk image.

Next you concentrate on saving individual files. Some times mounting the clone or disk image file is enough to gain access to the the file system, if not you will need file recovery software: A tool like DMDE is powerful and inexpensive.

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