How to coax data from balky CD

Ask Jim

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For two years I stored files on a CD as a backup. Then we had a power surge and my computer got fried. The problem hit when I went back to the CD to put the data on the hard drive of the replacement computer. A statement came up "this disk is not formatted, would you like to do it now?" I tried many times by ejecting and re-inserting the CD into the drive but nothing works.

- Alfred Crotty,

Nothing gets much dicier than trying to recover lost data from devices that the computer can no longer see using its built-in hardware resources like CD drives.

Happily, Mr. C., there is software that often can fix this. Unhappily, the software I have in mind costs $29.50. Happily, you can download this program, called CDRoller, for an evaluation period and use it to make sure your data can be salvaged before forking over any money.

First, let me suggest you try bypassing Windows and try to coax your information out of that damaged disc for free.

Click on Start and then Run on your PC, and then type in command. This calls up the DOS shell, the text-based disk operating system that was Microsoft's first operating system that lacks all of Windows' bells and whistles, including many refinements for working with CDs, floppy disks and devices that can get messed up.

The DOS window will appear with a blinking cursor at the end of a line like: C: 1/4 DOCUME~1 1/4 Owner. This is your current location on the computer's hard drive.

Now do the following: Type in cd .. and then tap Enter. This will move you up one level to the owner's folder.

Again type in cd .. and hit Enter. Repeat until you get a response of "C: 1/4 ," which is your hard drive.

Now go to the Windows desktop and click the My Computer icon. It will open a display of your hard drive, floppy drive and CD drives, among other items. Get your CD drive's letter. I'm guessing it will be D:, so type in dir D: and see if that doesn't force a display of the CD's data.

When (if?) the directory of the files and folders appears, you need to make a copy on your hard drive.

So from the command line, type in md emergency and tap Enter. I made up the name. This creates a folder named emergency on the C: drive.

Finally type copy D: *.* emergency and tap Enter. This will copy all of the stuff on your CD into the newly created folder on your hard drive.

Should this fail, or if you decide jumping through those DOS hoops I just described isn't worth the trouble, point your browser to There, you will find a rather amazing utility program that goes beyond DOS to bypass error messages from Windows and then displays whatever is on each and every bit of any attached CD or DVD drive.

The evaluation copy you download can find the stuff, but you have to pay to unlock the part of the software that will retrieve your data.

I have a wireless network hooked up to DSL, and my laptop hooks up to the wireless fine but I can't get my desktop computer to work using a wireless card I acquired. It worked fine for about 6 months but now no luck. I have tried disabling firewalls plus multiple other suggestions from tech support. The funny thing is the wireless system says the computer is hooked up to the network. Also, when I run an Ethernet wire to the computer, it hooks up fine. Any other ideas?

Chris Hugenberg,

Recalcitrant network members like your desktop can be dragged back to life by using the built-in repair tool in Windows that will restore the setting for the computer's IP (Internet protocol) address so that it can once again access Web sites and services.

So click on Start and then select the My Network Places icon. When it opens, look for the line in the pane on the left that reads "View Network Connections." This brings a display that will show icons for your Ethernet connection and for your wireless hardware. Give the wireless icon a right-click and then select Repair from the pop-up menu. The software will then wipe the current mistaken IP address from your wireless card and go on to the network and acquire another one and put that desktop back in play.

This fix is based on a feature called DHCP that finds IP addresses automatically. To set DHCP, right-click on the device icon and select Properties and then select TCP/IP in the next display. Next, click Properties and check the box to find IP addresses automatically.

Jim Coates writes for the Chicago Tribune. Reach him by mail at the Chicago Tribune, Room 400, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60611.

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