Recovering Data From CDs

By Martin Walker (SoundOnSound Magazine)

When a rogue disc refuses to be read by your CD drive, the cause can simply be dust or dirt, either on the CD lens or the disc itself. In the former case a suitable cleaning disc can occasionally be used, while you can clean CDs using a lint-free cloth; always wipe in a radial direction, since error correction is better at dealing with such marks. You can also use cleaning fluids on proper pressed discs, but it's safer to use a dry cloth on the more delicate CD-Rs and CD-RW discs. The next step is to try another CD player, since different models may have more (or less) success in reading a borderline CD.

Failing this, the PC owner also has access to plenty of useful utilities to help recover scrambled CD data. One of the best I've come across is IsoBuster, written by Peter Van Hove of Smart Projects ( This is designed to extract data from CD,

DVD and image files, and often succeeds where Windows Explorer and packet-writing software such as DirectCD and InCD give up. It's also better at retrieving data from CDs that have suffered from 'buffer under-runs'. Part of the reason for its success is that it apparently uses better error handling and several retry mechanisms to get at the data from borderline CDs.

IsoBuster runs on Windows 95, 98, ME, NT 4.0, 2000 and XP, is already supported in 41 languages, and can read and extract files, tracks, and sessions from formats including CD-i, VCD, SVCD, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, DVD and DVCD. Currently at version 1.1, the vast majority of its features are freeware, although registration to the Pro version is just $29.95. This unlocks added high-end recovery features for UDF File System CDs created by packet-writing software such as DirectCD, Drag 2 Disc, InCD, DLA and Packet CD.

Although there are plenty of options for engineering boffins to extract data in various raw formats and by block number, it's essentially really easy to use: you just insert the desired CD or DVD disc into your drive and IsoBuster will scan its contents and offer various extraction methods. If any errors are found, it will offer to retry the read, ignore it, or quit, and when creating data in an image file will offer to retry, omit the offending sector, or replace it with zeros or dummy data (the latter may be less obvious in some cases). Although the latter two options are largely pointless for data, they may let you extract audio files with a great degree of success.

I tested it out with a double-CD-R set I'd received for review in Sample Shop, when Windows Explorer insisted both CDs were blank. I'd already tried to use Ahead's Nero to access the data, but although it correctly showed a single 422MB Data (mode 2) track on the first CD, and its View Track function showed the presence of data and filenames, all I could do was use its Save Track option to create a hard drive image file.

IsoBuster showed exactly the same data on the original CDs. However, when I used it to open the NRG image file created by Nero, it found the file system information, and I was able to extract the individual files perfectly. I also subsequently used IsoBuster to create an image file from the CD, and it read this perfectly as well. It can also read CD image files created by CDRWin, CloneCD, Creator, DiskJuggler, Duplicator, Optimage, Prassi and Prassi Primo DVD, Toast and WinOnCD. It can't recover information from blanked CD-R/W discs, since this process overwrites the data, although if they have only been quick-formatted, Smart Projects do offer a service to extract the data using special hardware and tools

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IsoBuster for CD/DVD Data Recovery

By Bob Lafave (Tampa PC Users Group)

I had started to use IsoBuster a couple years ago when I had downloaded my first .ISO formatted files. The .ISO format files are actually images of complete CDs compiled as one whole image, just like Ghost images do for hard disks and partitions. ISO images can be loaded into several different CD recording software packages to create CDs. I wanted to see what was inside these files without burning to a CD and also wanted to see if I could then extract specific files for my use. I also use GameDrive, which creates a virtual CD-ROM on your hard drive and stores the CD's in a .VCD format. IsoBuster can extract the data from both .VCD or .ISO files and allows you to explore the individual files and directories. As you can see from the screen capture, the interface is very similar to Windows Explorer or even Ghost Explorer; you open the files in the left panel showing directories and the more specific information is shown on the right. These are just a few of the file formats that you can work with and for a complete list please go to Little did I know what this program is able to do other than interpret these images that I was using.

I had started looking at data recovery from different computer storage methods as a subject I wanted to find more about. I had made a few CD-R's that I could not view with Windows Explorer and I was interested in if data could be seen by something other than Windows Explorer. Who hasn't gone and deleted a file accidentally and hated having to try and remember how to recreate the file or prayed to be able to find a backup copy. And what do you do if you back up the file to either CD or DVD media and when you go to retrieve the file Windows Explorer does not recognize your backup CD disc? Besides, what do you do if the data is, say, a picture that was taken with a digital camera and transferred to a computer for use? Sure you made a copy to a CD-R but that was 2 years ago and now the hard drive on the computer died and your memories on the CD-R are not recognized. Thankfully there is IsoBuster!

I wish to thank Peter Van Hove, the CEO and founder of Smart Projects. I had e-mailed Peter with my interest in the data recovery and had asked for permission to review a full version for TPCUG and he was kind enough to send a registration id. Little did I know that shortly after I had activated all functions, my sister would call to tearfully tell me about her computer problems. When she sent me the CD, I placed it in my CD burner and I tried to use the undelete program that comes with Norton System Works 2003, but it does not recognize CD's. I then looked at the CD-R in Windows Explorer and with IsoBuster. Windows Explorer did not recognize the disc, let alone tell me if any files were on the CD. With IsoBuster I was able to see actual file names of photos that my sister said were on the CD-R. I looked at Help and found out what to do to recover the files and easily was able to recover all photos. At that point I was very happy that I had e-mailed Peter the month before and when I let my sister know that the photos were recovered, you cannot believe her happiness.

Each reader should go to and see what this program can help with. The individual features available are too numerous to list but put simply: IsoBuster uses different recovery methods and can recover most data on CD's if you can see it in the program window when inserted into the CD-ROM drive. The site itself has lots of interesting information on the program that, along with the included Help file, makes IsoBuster easy to use. There is a Free version of the program that will do certain tasks such as show you what is contained in an .ISO file; and a Full version that is a wonder at data recovery from CD/DVD that you may have burned yourself or even CD's that you may have purchased. The full version can be purchased online for $29.95 and a registration code is sent via e-mail. As Peter wrote to me, “The difference is that for files in the UDF file system (e.g. CDs written with Roxio Direct CD or Ahead InCD, or ... ) extraction won't work until you are registered.” To see what others users think of IsoBuster you can go to and follow the links to other reviews that have been done. If you don't purchase a full version, I am sure many of you will find uses for the free version along with a couple of the other programs that are on the site.

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Resurrect dead discs

by / / reviewer

That MacGyver guy doesn't have anything on Power Downloader, especially when it comes to finding new uses for old compact discs. When he's in a pinch, Power has been known to use CDs as Chinese throwing stars, coffee table coasters, and even compact mirrors. Unfortunately, each of these alternative uses creates a great deal of wear and tear. When a disc seems damaged beyond repair, Power simply shrugs it off by firing up IsoBuster. The straightforward utility rescues data from seriously scratched or badly burned CDs by accessing the disc's core ISO file system. Several disc types are salvageable with help from the software, including CD-R, VCD, CD-RW, DVD-R, and DVD-RW. A heavy-duty search tool helps Power go fishing for specific files. He can also locate previously lost data by scanning all readable files or by viewing entire sector contents, in case he's not sure what he's looking for.

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This program recovers various kinds of information from any type of CD or DVD. The installation flies by, and in the very beginning IsoBuster asks the user to select the file systems to associate with the program, such as ISO9660 and UDF. If you don't make the selection at that time, you can do it manually later. After the software launches, it automatically configures and shows all the information on the CD or DVD in the CD-ROM drive. The program lists the computer-assigned and actual file names of recoverable files. Recovering any deleted file takes seconds. Besides the recovery functions, IsoBuster can play audio files, search for deleted names through keywords, and extract files from all the sessions done on the CD or DVD. Although the graphics and organization of the program are only average, the performance is outstanding. This software can help just about everyone.

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Author note :
The graphics have been dealt with since then. 
A real XP looking application on an XP system.