Microsoft Dynamic Partition Hell

I had an interesting weekend in the computer department. You see, a friend of mine has been fighting with his computer for weeks now because there seems to be a major issue with Windows XP, a NetGear WG311 WiFi NIC and his ASUS P4SGX-MX motherboard. The issue was that no matter what driver we used, or how we configured it, or what registry entries we hacked, it just wouldn't stay connected. In typical computer style, the card of course worked in every other system we tried.

Anyhu, it was his birthday yesterday, so I was roped into wandering down to Trinix for a new motherboard and such things. His new P4 3GHz on a Gigabyte GA-8IPE775-G motherboard should prove to be a bit of a boost from his Celeron, that's for sure.

But what has this to do with Microsoft and Dynamic disks? Well, it seems that his second hard drive had somehow ended up as a dynamic disk and the new installation of XP refused to acknowledge it was there. It's great when a Microsoft product can't even see the proprietary Microsoft format that people are being encouraged to use.

In an effort to get the data visible we tried it all - Helix forensics CD (get this!), reinstalled Windows (multiple times, with different combinations of the hard drives being connected), and even tried it in a 2K system. No joy. Trawling on the 'net came up with disheartening tidbits and little else. Finally, arstechnica shed some light on the issue.

After reading the post, a few things suddenly all clicked into place. According to fdisk, the partition type was 42, as opposed to the 07 as one would expect for a NTFS partition. This struck me as strange from the start and lead me to the information about custom partitioning scheme and all that guff. From the arstechnica post it looked like all they were doing was changing the partition type back to NTFS from 42. It was worth a try, especially as the alternative was to lose 120Gb of data.

In our case, it worked great. A quick run of fdisk (for Linux - NOT the DOS version) to set the partition type back to 07 and we were back in action with a fully working drive. I've no idea whether this trick would work if you had multiple partitions though.

Dynamic disks - thar be dragons!