I am trying to obtain text data from the disk drive of a mid-90s Packard Bell Multimedia which ran Windows 95. I’ve been using a cheap adapter to transfer data via USB to my current ASUS laptop, which uses Windows 10; a number of the old files have been transferred satisfactorily; and can be opened and updated with no problems on the laptop ‘side’.

However, there were other files on the old PC which I cannot easily ‘see’ from the laptop side using standard tools like Explorer, Word, etc. I know these ‘rogue’ files were there, because (1) I had opened and visually scanned them very recently using Word on the old PC (i.e. immediately before the transfer exercise); and (2) the old PC does reference 4 or 5 of the required files on Word, but only as shortcuts in the ‘recent’ folder; these fail to find, or point to, valid file locations on the old PC.

These latter shortcuts are strangely dated December 31, 1989. I’m fairly confident that the CMOS battery on the old PC has insufficient power remaining, so that the effective system date defaulted to January 1, 1980 (I have no theory on the extra day’s date discrepancy). I’m aware that I could replace the battery, or enter date and time manually, but these would not assist the current data retrieval exercise.

I made no changes to the rogue files, but Word on the old PC announced that it was saving the files, anyway. If the CMOS battery is, indeed, ‘flat’, this suggests that the tables won’t have been written back correctly, if at all (my fault). My hope is that some or all of the required raw data is still in place, but without correct ‘pointers’, so that these reside in a limbo state which is neither live nor properly deleted. (Note: running ScanDisk on the old DD using the 'standard' setting found errors but claimed to fix them. I reran using the 'thorough' setting, which includes a surface check; this found no further errors.)

I would prefer to work on the laptop and would appreciate being able to retrieve some or all of the ‘lost’ text via the adapter from the old disk. I have dabbled in DOS on both computers, but with no great expertise and minimal joy. There are text strings I can search for, but I need to come in ‘under the radar’, looking at all data, regardless of whether or not the computer(s) believe it is live. I’m thinking of a command like grep, but stepping outside MS is new ground for me. I would be eternally grateful for any suggestions – thanks – DR

  • file is a great Linux utility which can identify hundreds of file formats. Use it to identify the files and then we can have a more precise conversation. – Artem S. Tashkinov Aug 3 at 16:53
  • Before you do anything else, you probably should make a disk image file of the entire old disk. Once the complete contents of the possibly-fragile old disk have been copied to a modern disk drive/SSD, searching through it would be much faster, and you can try several things - in the worst case, you'll just need to go through the imaging process again. Using the loop devices (see losetup command), Linux can access the partitions inside such an image file and mount them as if they were on a real disk. Also commands like "grep" can search through such an image file as-is. – telcoM Aug 3 at 17:04
  • Thanks, Artem and telcoM - I'll look at these and report back - Dave – David Robinson Aug 3 at 17:52

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