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Beginners Guides: Hard Drive Data Recovery

Beginners Guides: Hard Drive Data Recovery - PCSTATS
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Abstract: Hard drives, being the dynamic storage devices that they are, are extremely easy to erase in any number of amusing and simple to achieve ways. This Guide also deals with recovering deleted formatted information. UPDATED - How to fix a 1TB hard drive that suddenly changes to 0.0GB, or 32MB in size.
Filed under: Beginners Guides Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: PCSTATS Dec 27 2010   Mike Dowler  
Home > Reviews > Beginners Guides > PCSTATS

Restore factory Hard Drive Capacity When HDD Shows up as 32MB

The loss of factory hard drive capacity seems to be an increasingly common occurrence with very large capacity (ie. 1TB) hard drives, but it's not specific to any one hard drive manufacturer. It can happen to brand new drives or existing hard drives full of data. In either case the data portion of the drive isn't generally affected. If a new or existing hard drive in your computer suddenly pops up with a capacity of 32MB, or another value equally small compared to the true drive size, don't freak out, the data should still be there.

Here's what typically happens; a large capacity hard drive of between 500GB, 750GB, 1TB and 1.5TB suddenly appears to lose most of its capacity for no apparent reason. In many situations the capacity of the hard drive shrinks to 0.0GB or 32MB (and occasionally 32GB) and becomes inaccessible to the Windows Vista.


Disk 1 is actually 1TB in size, but here it shows up as 32MB.

What's happening, to put it simply, is that the portion of the hard drive responsible for telling the computer how big it is, is mis-reporting that value. We don't have a good technical explanation for what causes this issue to randomly strike PC users, but suffice to say a portion of the drive firmware known as the LBA48, HPA and DCO records becomes corrupted.


Select the correct hard drive which is mis-reporting its capacity from the list.

Our experience with the loss of factory hard drive capacity bug came whilst setting up a new PC with two fresh 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black SATA hard drives. Both SATA drives had been formatted and were working fine. After hard power-off reboot one of the 1TB disks suddenly became a lot smaller than it actually was.

Instead of reporting it's true capacity of 1000GB, or 1TeraByte, the Western Digital Caviar Black Edition SATA hard drive appeared to both the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system and the motherboard BIOS with a false capacity of 32MB. Somehow 999.968GB of storage space had disappeared into thin air! The new drive capacity of 32MB just seemed a little too specific to be random, so we did a little investigating.

What we found is that quite a few PC users have experienced the exact same situation - a new or existing large capacity hard drive suddenly looks to the computer like it's only 32MB, or 32GB in size. If the hard drive was previously filled with 1000GB worth of data you can imagine the shock of seeing it reduced to 32MB! Incidently, the 32MB figure seems to be drawn from the hard drives' onboard cache memory.

How to restore the 32MB drive size back to full capacity

CAUTION: As with all Hard Drive recovery situations, if your data is critical don't attempt data recovery yourself, send the HDD to a professional data recovery service. We've tried the proceedures outlined below ourselves with success, but PCSTATS cannot forsee every possible issue. Following the steps on this page could result in data loss. Proceed at your own risk. Always back up your data on a regular basis.

The fix (for a blank hard drive which doesn't have any data on it) is pretty simple, first connect the hard drive which has lost its factory capacity and reports itself as being only 32MB large to a computer that works. If it's an IDE hard drive, just make sure it's the only hard drive on the IDE cable. Serial ATA hard drives don't require any special steps, just plug in the SATA data cable and make sure the computer isn't trying to boot of this drive.

Next, go to blog.Atola.com and download a program called Atola Technology HDD Restore Capacity Tool.

Launch the program and select the hard drive from the menu which is mis-reporting its capacity, then confirm the correct hard drive has been selected and hit "Restore Capacity". The program will essentially correct the portion of the hard drive's firmware that contains the drive capacity information.

Next, shut down and physically turn off the computer and wait about 10 seconds. Then power the PC back up.

If everything worked as it should, the hard drive which previously showed up as 32MB will have been restored to the correct factory capacity. In our situation that means the 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive was back to its true 1000GB capacity.


Disk 1 is back to its true capacity of 1TB (or literally 931GB).

According to the maker of this program, the HDD Restore Capacity Tool only "changes hard drive firmware settings, it does not read to or write write from the user data portion of the disk." We haven't tried Atola's HDD Restore Capacity Tool on a drive full of data for the simple reason that it's difficult to replicate the problem which causes a drive to mis-report its capacity as 32MB in the first place.

However, from what we've read the program should work in the same fashion and your data should not be affected.

If you have any comments or questions, please post them in the PCSTATS Forums. Find out about this and many other reviews by joining the Weekly PCSTATS.com Newsletter today! Catch all of PCSTATS latest hardware reviews right here.

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Contents of Article: PCSTATS
 Pg 1.  Beginners Guides: Hard Drive Data Recovery
 Pg 2.  Primary Partition Gone?
 Pg 3.  Fixing NTFS Partitions
 Pg 4.  Steps to Data Recovery
 Pg 5.  File recovery programs
 Pg 6.  FINDNTFS Freeware
 Pg 7.  NTFS reader for DOS
 Pg 8.  TESTDISK, The Holy Grail
 Pg 9.  Testdisk Backs up Lost Data
 Pg 10.  Undeleting Files in Windows XP
 Pg 11.  Commercial Data Recovery Utilities
 Pg 12.  — Restore factory Hard Drive Capacity When HDD Shows up as 32MB

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