It is quite a long story, but that's not the situation where I may shorten it. So, here goes...
I had a 60GB PS3 for five years (no cfw) and then decided to let it retire in peace and got a new 160 GB Slim version. Transferring save data took QUITE a while, but was done successfully. But then I noticed that new PS3 way way slower, it took a lot of time to load anything, and rebuilding the database didn't help at all. So what I did was to try and backup all my data via PC means, since I swear I always thought the PS3 internal drive was running under FAT32. First deadly mistake... I connected it to my PC, started it and initialized the drive. Second deadly mistake... After realizing what I've done I immediately connected the HDD back to PS3, tried to run it, but of course it didn't boot at all and asked me to reinstall the firmware. Safe boot "Recover file system" and "rebuild database" options couldn't be started either.
So the first thing I did was to backup the whole drive (sector cloning) using DMDE tool. The idea was to format the drive, find the MBR using HEX Editor (DMDE), copy it to my cloned image, put it all back to the HDD and... profit. I read some threads on the internet with people successfully doing it in 2010, restoring all their data. From what I managed to find, the MBR is located in 00000000-00F03000, so knowing this got my hopes up. But since the safe boot "Format drive" option could not be started for unknown reason, I decided it wouldn't hurt if the drive was formatted when updating the firmware. Third and the last deadly mistake...
I did all as planned, but the MBR back to the original drive image, tried to boot it and got the message "The system cannot be run. The file system is corrupted. Recover?", Why, of course recover! But right the next second after starting the recovery process I got "The file system cannot be recovered. Format the drive?". This is when I started to get a headache that has lasted for 5 days already...
To summarize all I managed to find out about about my case:
1. Windows initialization only rewrites the first sector (512 bytes, 0000-0200).
2. Bytes 00C0-00F0 and 0150-0180 differ for each full format/firmware update. These are the only bytes that are different in whole 15.7MB of MBR record.
3. My guess is those bytes contain the encryption key PS3 uses to recognize the drive.
4. I, of course, lost my original strings when initializing the drive.
5. Somehow if I create a clean firmware reinstall with formatting the drive, then replace the MBR for that drive with MRB taken another clean reinstallation (thus having different 00C0-00F0 and 0150-0180 strings), the PS3 asks for another firmware reinstallation without formatting the drive and then manages to boot. But the same trick doesn't work if I try to make it boot the full image I want to restore. Special street magic?
6. I realize it was stupid to do those three stupid mistakes in the first place, so I'm not really here to read any non-productive posts like "you're screwed", "why would you even think of doing it?", etc. I know I'm screwed, but would still like to hear an opinion of people smarter than me.
If you have any ideas that may help me restore my data, please share them.