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Recovering Data from external HD?

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November 9, 2011 6:43:32 PM

I have a 320 GB WS My Book Essentials HD which I used to keep most of my personal data on i.e. photos and research for my work. Unfortunately most of these files were not backed up elsewhere (yes, I have learned my lesson on that front!). I have had this drive for a couple of years now and it’s always worked perfectly with no issue at all, the only thing is that it was recently getting a little full. The drive failed very suddenly and still spins up and isn’t making any noise at all.
The other day I was just unable to access the drive at all. The disk did not show up in My Computer but did show up in device manager and looked fine and it also showed up in disk management but it did not have a drive letter assigned to it. I tried to assign the drive a letter but it wouldn’t let me as the drive was not initialized, when I tried to initialize it that also failed saying could not initialize due to an i/o device error. As the drive is not mapped and doesn’t have a letter I can’t run chkdsk on it.
After this I tried connecting the external HD to another vista pc, a vista laptop and windows 7 PC to no avail. Again the HD showed in device manager and in disk management as uninitialized but not in my computer.
I then tried various data recovery software to try and see if any of my data was retrievable while many of these such as R-Studio and Recover my files were able to detect my WD external HD they seemed unable to read the disk or recover any files, r-studio did give the i/o error again. R-Studio was also unable to create an image file of my WD drive.
After these failed I cracked open the enclosure and removed the HD and put it into and old XP PC which was the only machine I had with an IDE connection. It was slaved to the internal HD that held the operating system although I didn’t do anything with jumpers as I wasn’t sure about that, it was slaved in the bios though.
When I booted up the PC it did recognise the new HD but again it didn’t show in my computer or disk management this time but did still show in device manager . Again I had the same issue with the recovery software detecting the drive but not being able to read or scan it. R-Studio still gave the i/o device error.
I did then try to boot from a live disk with ubuntu and then xubuntu but the pc I was doiung this on was low in ram and pretty old and slow so it I didn’t get to do anything much of use such as try and find and mount the WD hard drive which didn’t show up automatically as the other drives did.
So far I have done what I can. I am going to order a usb 2.0 to IDE adaptor kit with power supply so I can try and run ubuntu live disk in a more powerful pc which will hopefully let me do a bit more in linux to find the drive. I don’t know much about linux but I suspect that as the disk is still spinning and not making any noise the issue is with the file system and that maybe ubuntu can skip over that.
Other than that I don’t know, freeze the HD? I did look into professional recovery which I cannot afford at the moment. The HD is expendable but the data is very precious to me and I’m pretty sure it’s all still on the disk I’m just not able to access it. Any advice on anything I can try would be very gratefully received.
Thanks!
a b G Storage
November 9, 2011 6:59:01 PM

In my experience an I/O error generally means that the HDD has failed at a BIOS level which means it will be unable to communicate with your PC. The fact that you have tried all those various steps with the same results supports this. It is likely the platters on the disk have survived so the information is still there but the BIOS on the HDD has failed making it impossible to access without serious technical intervention. Normally such a drive has the platters removed and replaced into a functioning chassis or perhaps the BIOS chip could be replaced allowing the drive to communicate. The cost for the first option is prohibitive but the drive manufacturer may have a process for replacing a faulty BIOS on their drives. It can also be the case that the enclosure that the drive was in has its own method of communication with the HDD and uses a slightly different file system and moving the HDD to a computer can sometimes destroy the data. This is common on NAS units for instance. It could be the enclosure is the issue but only an identical enclosure can read the drive. Contact WD and get their advice. They are probably the only ones able to assist.
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November 9, 2011 7:22:29 PM

Thanks for your reply Wamphyri. Is there anyway for me to replace the bios chip myself? The HD is well out of warrenty and I'm sure WD will not be able to help. I will email them though. Thanks again.
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a b G Storage
November 9, 2011 8:06:43 PM

Replacing the BIOS would be difficult especially if it involved opening the drive. Exposure to air particles would damage the platters. When they replace a drive housing it is done in a specialised unit that creates a vacuum so that no dust or particles are present. WD could help possibly but it is a matter of money. Warranty would not help as the normal procedure would be to just replace the drive or provide you with a repaired drive. Data retention and or recovery is another matter entirely and is unlikely to form part of any standard warranty. WD will have the means and the parts but again it comes down to cost. That is where you need to make your decision.
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