I'm having trouble collecting data from an IDE hard disk. Here's the situation: I created a 2GB primary partition and an 8GB extended partition on a 10GB Western Digital disk. I installed Windows 98 on the primary partition and installed Windows 2000 on the extended partition, then converted the extended partition to NTFS, leaving the primary partition as FAT16. On the NTFS partition, I created two user accounts. Everything worked fine for more than a year. Then, I decided to change the permissions for one of the NTFS users. During this process, a power outage occurred and outlasted the allotted UPS time. After the power was restored, I tried to use the new security to log on to the NTFS partition but couldn't log on. When I tried to use the other account to fix the security, I received the dreaded inaccessible hard drive message.

I placed the disk on a different Win2K machine but still couldn't access the disk or its contents. When I tried to recover the NTFS files, I discovered that the two partitions had become one; using Ontrack's Disk Manager, I also discovered that the disk had become dynamic. Can you explain how a basic disk with two partitions ended up as a dynamic drive with one partition? And how can I get to my data?

You have a very serious problem indeed. I hope you have recent backups of the data on the disk because recovering that data is going to be expensive, if it's even possible. (The conversion of the disk from basic to dynamic might make recovery impossible because of the differences between basic and dynamic signatures, Master Boot Records—MBRs, and partition tables.) To find out whether the data can be saved, you'll need to send the disk to a data-recovery shop such as DriveSavers Data Recovery. You might also look into a product such as bitMart's Restorer2000 Professional, which is a much less expensive option but might not be able to handle dynamic signatures.

As to the cause, a serious surge must have occurred when the power came back on. These surges can often overpower a small surge protector and destroy electronic equipment. I suggest that you ask your power company to place a surge protector on your line. These types of protectors are the only defense against massive surges.