November 13, 2008

Failed External Hard Drive
Pite┼čti, Romania

A few days ago Tatiana's external hard drive stopped working (previously: How to Salvage a Laptop Hard Drive). I was present in the room when she started having difficulties with it, but she was generally keeping quiet about them during the heat of the moment.

She'd plugged both her MP3 player and external drive into her diminutive Asus Eee PC so that she could transfer some music between the two—something that she's apparently done before—when she started complaining a bit about an achingly slow transfer speed. Not long after that the power went out for a spell (not an uncommon occurrence at our host's home in Apoldu de Sus) and the laptop switched over to battery power.

Shortly thereafter she canceled out of the transfer, and noticed that she couldn't read any of the files off the drive. I told her to give it all a restart, which marked the last time either of us have seen a file on the device since.

I can't get the drive to mount on either her laptop or mine. Windows 'computer management' says the drive isn't initialized, and when I try to do so (at the risk of formatting the drive in order to restore what might be a corrupted master boot record, I get the same I/O error that halts the process.

Without the ability to mount the drive, I can't use any software to help recover data or resolve the problem. From the looks of all this I'm going to venture a guess that there's been a hardware failure of the hard drive enclosure, or the hard drive itself.

I've opened up the enclosure and taken a look at the connection, but everything seems kosher. Perhaps her laptop couldn't supply enough power to both devices at the same time (especially with all three of her USB ports occupied), and the power fluctuation put the final nail in the coffin. Thankfully the MP3 player doesn't seem to be any worse for wear.

Bottom line is that this is a real pain in the ass for the both of us. Her Eee PC lacks the hard drive space to do anything without external storage, she might have very well lost some photos that weren't backed up (and certainly all of her entertainment media), and I've lost an important backup resource.

Having another backup point in a different backpack than my own has been a component of my data risk mitigation strategies of late (it's unlikely that both our backpacks will be stolen or damaged simultaneously), thus the failure of this drive has certainly impacted the both of us.


The United States


January 7th, 2009

I have 1 thing that *might* work for recovering the data. It is an old IT trick that I use when they begin to fail such as this case.

Buy a cheap tupperware-like container big enough for the drive. Cut a hole for the cables and reseal it with caulk or some sort of glue/foam to get as air tight as possible. Best place is out of the top of the lid.

Now, put it in the freezer all day or all night (say 6-8 hours). It needs to be as cold as possible. Once that is done run the cable out of the closed freezer and fire up the drive and connect it to your PC.

With any luck you can get some or all of the data back. You really have nothing to lose at this point so give it a try. I am told this works due to the physics of cold versus hot metals. The drive will warm up as you use it so be selective on what you try to copy first. You may be able to freeze it again and get more but I have found that you get 1 or 2 shots at it at most.

Let me know how it goes!


Craig |

January 17th, 2009

Thanks for your thoughts –

Though I'm not sure the hard drive itself is the problem yet. It could very well be the enclosure that's been damaged in some way, and cold certainly wouldn't resolve that issue. What I need is another hard drive or enclosure to isolate the variables… :(

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