How to clean an MBR and recover drive partitions

Sometimes it’s necessary to recover drive partitions because you accidentally repartitioned a drive you didn’t mean to, or because your MBR got infected or otherwise trashed. Here’s how to recover them, for free.

Infecting MBRs with malware is popular with virus writers again. And I fully expect chaos to ensue, because that’s what happened the last time there was more than one virus floating around that infected MBRs. They quit doing it for a good reason.

So here’s how to clean up the mess when an MBR gets infected, or when multiple infections blitzes the MBR and the hard drive loses the ability to boot, just displaying a message like Missing Operating System or Operating System Not Found.

We’ll be using the Gparted Live CD. Many Linux live CDs have the proper tools, but GParted works well and it’s a small download. You can try to use another Linux live CD, and it will work fine, but the icons might not all be where I say they are.

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A free SSD alignment tool

We’ve talked recently about the importance of aligning your partitions on your SSD or your RAID array. What if I told you you could align an SSD or RAID array for free? Here’s where to find a free SSD alignment tool–it’s just not normally billed as such.

Alignment helps performance, sometimes tremendously, and it also dramatically improves your SSD’s life expectancy. Newer versions of Windows automatically align their partitions, but only if you do a clean installation to an empty drive. Older versions of Windows created their partitions starting at sector 63, for tradition’s sake. Maybe moving off sector 63 made dual-booting with Windows 9x harder.

Two readers, Jim and Xrocode, suggested utilities to do the job. One costs $30 and seems fairly automatic. One is free and requires a small amount of work. Grab the freebie here. It’s a 274 MB download, so it doesn’t even take all that long.

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