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Norton DiskEdit; SB Live; Jezar Freeverb VST

If you suffer a hard disk crash, a DOS‑based utility like Norton's DiskEdit may be able to help, but must be run from DOS, since Windows may write to the drive in unpredictable ways.If you suffer a hard disk crash, a DOS‑based utility like Norton's DiskEdit may be able to help, but must be run from DOS, since Windows may write to the drive in unpredictable ways.

Martin Walker suffers the consequences of a major hard disk failure, and attempts to recover his valuable data...

This month I had to face that nightmare scenario, a trashed hard drive. Everything was fine at the end of one week, and after finishing work I even defragmented each of my partitions. On the Monday morning I answered some emails, and then decided, before getting stuck into writing, to change the size of a couple of the partitions using the Partition Magic utility that I've used since 1997.

Windows 98 and my main applications are all installed on my C: partition on a small 2Gb drive, while I have a second drive split into two partitions. The first of these (D:) has Windows 95 installed and a small number of applications — I use this for review purposes when I don't want my main Registry altered by hardware and software that I know will be removed shortly afterwards. The second partition (E:) contains my non‑music data such as documents, graphics, saved web pages, application update files, and so on. Meanwhile my audio data resides on a third fast SCSI drive (F:), well out of the way of possible system crashes, and easy to defragment and back up independently when needed.

What I decided to do was to change the split between the C: and D: partitions, making C: smaller and D: larger to give me more space for document storage. Initially all went well using Partition Magic — it reduced the size of the C: partition, incorporated the extra space into the D: partiti on, and then starting the longish process of copying all the existing data in D: to its new start position in the larger partition. Then, with the progress meter at nine percent, disaster struck: my drive froze with the disk activity LED on the front of my PC left permanently on, but leaving Partition Magic still running, waiting for a further response from the drive. I waited for some time, but the drive had thrown a wobbly, and when I eventually rebooted nearly 2Gb of data had disappeared into the ether.

The most annoying part of this situation is that I knew very well that all the data was still on the E: drive, but since the File Allocation Table (FAT) had been trashed, the drive just didn't know where any of it was. This is because data is scattered all over the drive, and without the pointers to the start position of each file it's like looking for a needle in a haystack. Mind you, I was still very thankful that my operating systems, applications, and music data were on other partitions, since these were totally intact.

If you have a drive of 10Gb or more, I would recommend dividing it into partitions for this reason, since it makes file management a lot easier. And, despite what happened to me, I would still recommend Partition Magic, since it was the drive that malfunctioned, and not the software. I still prefer to use several drives in my PCs, since even if the entire drive had blown up I would still have had my other two drives C: and F: — if you use a single massive drive instead, then you could have a disaster on your hands in the event of a major crash.

In Search Of The Lost Data

Jezar has already released a version 2 of his excellent Freeverb VST, with added Predelay, Low‑pass, and High‑pass filter controls. It also has a Freeze mode for endless‑loop reverb effects. Mac and Linux versions are also planned. Freeverb 2.0 is available from has already released a version 2 of his excellent Freeverb VST, with added Predelay, Low‑pass, and High‑pass filter controls. It also has a Freeze mode for endless‑loop reverb effects. Mac and Linux versions are also planned. Freeverb 2.0 is available from

Those who back everything up regularly can laugh in the face of calamity, reformat their partition or drive, and then re‑install whatever applications have been lost, and restore the data from the most recent backup. However, for the majority of us there will be a stomach‑churning period where we try to stay calm while considering any last‑ditch attempts to retrieve at least a few vital files. Thankfully I do back up the majority of my data on a reasonably regular basis using the Seagate Backup utility bundled with Windows, but I had various reviews and features in progress that weren't in the most recent backup, and still lost a significant amount of work.

As always, applications like Norton Utilities are an absolute godsend. I can't give step‑by‑step instructions for those who face a similar situation, since the approach you take will largely depend on the type of hard drive error you have experienced. In some cases you may be able to restore a damaged File Allocation Table, and then get access to at least some or all of your files.

Norton Utilities includes an Image function, which takes a 'snapshot' of your disk's Boot Record, FATs, and root information. The Boot Record is the first logical sector on any hard drive, and contains details of such data as cluster size, number of bytes per sector, and the numbers of sectors per track, while the root directory contains details of all the top‑level folders on your drive. If you have a recent Image file then it may be possible to restore a damaged drive to very nearly the same condition. Few people specifically save Image files on a regular basis, but if you defragment your drives with Norton's Speed Disk a new one is saved automatically after defragmentation is complete. I therefore had very recent Image files for all my drives, but since I was in the process of moving all the data when the disaster happened this wasn't a lot of use in my particular case.

File Retrieval

For me, the most important files contained in‑progress work for SOS, and this made retrieval rather more feasible. The drive showed so many errors due to its corrupted FAT that it wasn't readable from Windows, but this wouldn't be desirable anyway, since Windows tends to do lots of work behind the scenes with various swap files and caches that might have further reduced my chances of finding the desired data intact. The answer was to use Norton's DOS‑based DiskEdit program. You launch this from a DOS prompt after restarting the PC, pressing the F8 key, and then selecting 'Command Prompt Only' from the list of options.

Since I had no file pointers, I had to search through the entire 2Gb partition using the Search function, after typing in a suitable word or phrase. This enabled me to find a couple of recent reviews and my PC Musician feature for this issue, but it did take several hours, which is hardly surprising when you consider that my partition had some 457,000 4K clusters to wade through. It can also be confusing if you have backed up your files regularly, since the older versions are still all likely to be present on the drive to confuse you, despite being marked as deleted and invisible to Windows under normal conditions. Thankfully, in my case, I had defragmented the data so recently that each version of my reviews was in one piece, so I was able to enter a starting and ending cluster number and save each likely‑looking block of data onto a floppy disk. When I've retrieved everything that I can from it, I'll reformat that drive or perhaps even replace it completely, in the hope of reducing the risk of a repetion of this type of incident in the future.

Losing data is always a sobering experience, even if you do make regular backups, but if you don't bother to do this, a hard drive fault could turn you into a gibbering heap. Do take a good long look at the contents of your hard drives, and consider how you would feel if you suddenly lost the lot. Then sort your data into suitably sized folders, and back them all up regularly onto another medium like CD‑R. Even if you value your time as low as £10 an hour, you might have thousands of pounds worth of work on that £100 drive.

SB Live! Goodies

Several readers have emailed me to ask if I know anything about the rumours that Creative Labs are writing ASIO drivers for their SB Live! soundcards. Well, the rumours are correct, but according to my source at Creative UK they won't be available until much later this year, as part of a major software update.

In the meantime, desperate users have already managed to get the ASIO drivers written for the Emu APS working with the SB Live! (they both use identical Emu 10K1 chips), but unfortunately you lose analogue input and output functions at the same time. If you have external converters then you can still use the digital I/O, but it does seem a drastic step to take. However, using the standard SB Live! drivers alongside the Emu APS ones can let you run two SB Live! cards in the same PC. Of course such non‑standard procedures are carried out at your own risk. For the really brave, there are even details of hardware modifications if you feel happy wielding a soldering iron. You can find out more at

Another useful web sites for SB Live! users is the Live! Center (sic), which contains news and reviews of software and hardware add‑ons for the Live! user, as well as links to other sites with free SoundFonts and a useful mixer map for Cubase users.

PC Snippets

  • Steinberg have released another Cubase VST update unexpectedly (at least to me). Version 3.7 revision two is no doubt the final release before version five is launched in a couple of months' time, and is the last chance for Steinberg to sort out any remaining bugs before asking users to pay for a major upgrade. As usual the download is about 9Mb long, but the list of bugs fixed seems quite small. I suggest you download and read the RTF file on Steinberg's site (follow the links to Cubase updates) before deciding whether to download the update as well." target="_blank

  • Ahead have released version 5.0 of their Nero CD burning software. It now supports burning of multiple CDs simultaneously on separate drives, Video CD and Super Video CD formats, M3U Playlists, Twin VQ audio compression, copying of CD Extra and multi‑session CDs, and has improved and enhanced audio filters, the results of which can be heard in real time. The full version can be bought for $69 and a serial number for continued use of the demo version can be had for $49.

  • New drivers are available for M Audio's Delta soundcard range. Version includes GSIF drivers for GigaSampler, as well as for DirectSound, ASIO 1 and 2, and multi‑card ASIO.

  • Creamware have now starting shipping their Pulsar II board. This has 50 percent more DSP power than its predecessor, along with new‑look version 2.0 software for Windows and Mac, which includes ASIO 2.0 drivers. Pulsar II remains fully compatible with the original Pulsar card, and can be used as an expansion to existing systems, and the new software is available free of charge to existing Pulsar users.