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  1. #1
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    PC Geeks & Data Recovery

    I have an external USB hard drive that I used to use for backup that has not been used in about a year. I tried to use the other day and it does not seem to work properly.

    Upon plugging in the external HD into the USB port, the typical windows sound goes off. But it takes 5+ minutes for the actual HD to then pop up in windows explorer.

    The drive spins fine, but seems to read data well, with what would seems ver little effort although the data light does flash. Eventually I get a message that the drive is not accessible.

    I can safely eject the drive still even after this message, which is quite strange.
    I've tried different PC's/and Macs as well with the same issue, as well as different USB cables.

    To make a long story short, there is data I need recovered from this drive, although not much data (maybe 300mb worth) I could probably pop the drive out of its case and make it an internal drive to test myself further. But I would rather prevent issues that could further impact data recovery in a hopeful attempt to get most of it back.

    So in conclusion, I would like to get an idea from those that may have had professionals do data recovery, and if the recovery was successful and maybe any other additional thoughts on similar situations. Thanks.

  2. #2
    AEO
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    yeah, just pop it in the pc. most times the pc will recognize the drive has a partition table that is readable.

    as long as your drive is not making any weird whirring, clicking or grinding noises, it might just be the external HDD controller board.
    Food for thought: if you aren't dead by 2050, you and your entire family will be within a few years from starvation. Now that is a cruel gift to leave for your offspring. ;)
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    Thanks for the reassurance! No noise at all, and the disc is definitely spinning at a normal speed as you can feel the vibration, so in this regard the swap would seem to be a positive one (once I pry it out of its case ).

    But still would like to know if any users have had done or currently do pro-recovery in the case that this does not work - and how successful it was in the end and if worth the cost.

  4. #4
    AEO
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    depends on the condition of the drive, but most are totally recoverable if it's just a bad motor.
    spindle and voice coil motors are easy, but head knock and scratched disks are hard, if not impossible to fix.
    hard drive controller board can be hard to find since the exact same model should be used for replacement.
    as long as the platters aren't shattered or scratched too badly, they're easy.
    from the sounds of yours, it's either the enclosure controller board, HDD controller board or overheating.

    some tricks you can do to get your drive working is to put the hard drive in a different position than flat on it's bottom. you can try putting it on it's side or flipped over. works like a charm, but if your drive starts to work because of this, it's a good indication that the motors are going to burn out.
    Food for thought: if you aren't dead by 2050, you and your entire family will be within a few years from starvation. Now that is a cruel gift to leave for your offspring. ;)
    http://sanfrancisco.ibtimes.com/arti...ger-photos.htm

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    It does not seem to be a physical issue as its positioning does not matter.

    It just seems like whatever computer its hooked up to, the drive is not being "fully" recognized, even when trying different USB ports.

    As in, it's connected/recognized to the computer by connection and icon only, but in terms of getting a screen with files/data, the external "E:\" inaccessible message pops up. So I'm hoping it is a controller issue. It is not overheating. This occured after being plugged in for the first time in quite a while, and was never left on for more than 2 hrs max that I can ever remember, and it does not seem to be abnormally hot even after this usage. At least comparable to some other externals I've got.

    Thanks for the quick replies. I'll keep an update when I get a chance to finally pop it open. it is a pretty common drive I believe (western digital) so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

  6. #6
    On my TARDIScycle! KingTermite's Avatar
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    Another trick that has worked in the past, if the disk is failing but not dead yet, is to place the drive itself into a ziplock baggie (maybe even two, one inside the other) and place it in your freezer for a while (maybe 20-30 minutes).

    Then pull it out, hook it up as quickly as you can (before it warms back up) and try it. It may give you enough good time to copy your data off. It's worked for people many times in the past, but it depends on the issue that's really causing the problem.
    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
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    Oddly, post screen shows the drive but from within the PC it seems to just be freezing the system up and I cannot proceed without hard shut down. From Uboot cd it freezes that up as well, showing an unknown partitioned -1 mb disk, so something is definitely screwy. WELL, it has been an interesting challenge indeed but I can let this one go, thanks for the help.

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    On my TARDIScycle! KingTermite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stansarch View Post
    Oddly, post screen shows the drive but from within the PC it seems to just be freezing the system up and I cannot proceed without hard shut down. From Uboot cd it freezes that up as well, showing an unknown partitioned -1 mb disk, so something is definitely screwy. WELL, it has been an interesting challenge indeed but I can let this one go, thanks for the help.
    It sounds like the head is sticking...a common drive failure. The freezer trick may help that.
    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    - it's pretty well established that Hitler was an *******.

  9. #9
    T-Shirt Guy ehidle's Avatar
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    What do the SMART diagnostics tell you?
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    If its a Seagate or Maxtor drive, download SeaTools and run SMART tests such as mentioned above.

    In any case, consider the purchase of another external drive so you can get the data off your first one ASAP.

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Have you tried taking the drive out of the case yet? I've seen a lot of external cases with crappy USB bridge-boards that die within a year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    Have you tried taking the drive out of the case yet? I've seen a lot of external cases with crappy USB bridge-boards that die within a year.
    +1 on that. I had a 750 GB drive external whose power supply died while I was at a renfaire last year. The drive promptly became a well functioning 750 GB internal drive without issue.

  13. #13
    On my TARDIScycle! KingTermite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    Have you tried taking the drive out of the case yet? I've seen a lot of external cases with crappy USB bridge-boards that die within a year.
    +2 on that. Now that I recall, that was the reason for the failure of my last ext usb drive.
    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    - it's pretty well established that Hitler was an *******.

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    I suppose I should have been clearer, what I wrote in my last post involved the fact that I had removed it from the external case and loaded it as a master, then as a slave (with a master as well), and then finally both these under an ultimate boot. It is a western digital so pretty straightforward.

    I was not able to run any diagnostic on the drive as any access to the drive would cause the machine to freeze up. It acts very similarly to what it does as an external usb. Even though its "there," something is not sending information properly to let the PC know this is a data drive. As I mentioned, post screen shows the drive loaded. But once start up begins its a while different story under Uboot where I get an unknown -1 mb disk showing up.

    Any diagnostic run or even explorer window showing this drive causes a system freeze/major slow down.

    I can wait it out sometimes, but I just don;t have the patience after 10-15 mins.

    I just figure its dead, sorta stuck in some loop.

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    T-Shirt Guy ehidle's Avatar
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    Get a linux live CD and boot into that. Then run the smart diagnostics and post the results here.
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    On my TARDIScycle! KingTermite's Avatar
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    It ain't free, so only if the data is worth it, there is this solution.
    http://www.grc.com/intro.htm
    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    - it's pretty well established that Hitler was an *******.

  17. #17
    Senior Member shoerhino's Avatar
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    Have you run a checkdisk on it? Sometimes, especially with external drives, they can be disconnected before files are completely written and that can cause problems with the FAT table.

  18. #18
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    I'll be honest I am unfamiliar with linux live, so I'll give that a go after trying checkdisk again. As I mentioned the major pain is the system freezeup with the drive attached, and its difficult to spend an hour at a time to get things moving.

    I will try a checkdisk and then linux live when I get the next opportunity to work on this drive (most likely over the weekend). Thanks for all your efforts/knowledge, much appreciated.

  19. #19
    Crushing souls Hickeydog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wordbiker View Post

    What's frightening is how coherent Hickey was in posting that.

  20. #20
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stansarch View Post
    I suppose I should have been clearer, what I wrote in my last post involved the fact that I had removed it from the external case and loaded it as a master, then as a slave (with a master as well), and then finally both these under an ultimate boot. It is a western digital so pretty straightforward.

    I was not able to run any diagnostic on the drive as any access to the drive would cause the machine to freeze up. It acts very similarly to what it does as an external usb. Even though its "there," something is not sending information properly to let the PC know this is a data drive. As I mentioned, post screen shows the drive loaded. But once start up begins its a while different story under Uboot where I get an unknown -1 mb disk showing up...
    Oh, that "freezing up" part sounds like a hardware-problem then. BootCDs and repair utilities only work on drives with good hardware but corrupt partition/directory data. The symptoms you have might point at the controller-board being bad (I've got 2 big boxes of out-of-warranty WD400BB drives, about 230 of them or so). The only recourse you have now, if the data is that important, is to buy another drive of exactly the same model and swap its good controller into your failed drive. Will work fine after that and you can copy all your data off.

    And the GRC SpinRite software is simply magic! Of course, it assumes a good controller board and works on re-formatting sectors at the low magnetic-particle level. Simply ingenious and amazingly compact assembly coding too. The entire programme fits on a bootable floppy!

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