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External Hard Drive Issue

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December 11, 2011 5:08:57 PM

Hey all,

I've recently encountered a problem with my external hard drive that I have been using for the past 2 years.

Two days ago I was playing some videos off of it, and was working fine, until suddenly windows media player froze. In an attempt to resolve this, I closed the program and reopened it, which lead to a failure to play any of the files on my external hard drive. I then unplugged/re-plugged it in with no avail, and finally rebooted my system.

Up to this point even with the problems, my hard drive showed up in "My Computer," "Disk Management," and "Device Manager." However following the reboot of my computer, it no longer shows up anywhere in any of those 3 places. I cannot uninstall/update/disable it since it will not appear in device manager. To double check it is not simply an issue with my computer, I plugged it into my own laptop, and my roommate's laptop, but the issue was not resolved.

It appears now regardless of what computer I plug it into, it fails to even register as connected into the USB drive. What can I do?

*Edit* Model: http://www.amazon.com/Seagate-Expansion-Desktop-Externa...
a b G Storage
December 11, 2011 6:16:47 PM

It sounds like your drive has experienced hardware failure. The question is it the drive itself or is it the enclosure it came in? If you can swap the HDD to another enclosure or perhaps connect it to an internal SATA port then you can determine what component is likley causing the failure.
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a c 104 G Storage
December 11, 2011 11:28:42 PM

Hi there,

The fact that you had the external system fail while you were using a file, speaks more of a hardware issue than a software corruption issue you see in external HDD's that are disconnected when the cache has not been flushed.

Remove the HDD from the enclosure, and connect it directly to you computer by a SATA port, assumming it is a SATA drive inside a USB bridged enclosure. That removes the "enclosure chips and bridge" as the culprit. Then check your BIOS to see if it is recognized there. If it is not recognized in the BIOS, there's not a lot you can do to recover the files, other than sending it to a Data Recovery Company, which can be expensive.

Hopefully you have a backup of those files, you can fall back on, or an image of the disk to restore to a different HDD.
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Related resources
a b G Storage
December 12, 2011 12:39:41 AM

I once had an issue when HDD didn't appear in BIOS, Device Manager or Disk Management. I had then just tried Linux based Parted Magic http://partedmagic.com/doku.php?id=start This is to be run from CD (no install is required). My HDD was visible in Parted Magic and I was able to recover my Data. I then formated the HDD from Parted Magic itself and everything went fine thereafter.
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December 12, 2011 1:55:03 AM

I know this is perhaps wishful thinking, or even pointless, but I was wondering is there any other possible attempts to fix it without opening the enclosure? Granted this drive is no longer under warranty, I was hoping I could test something out before I remove it from its enclosure. For example you mentioned that it most likely is not a corrupted drive, but if it were corrupted, is there any free software that you all would recommend to attempt to recover it?

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a b G Storage
December 12, 2011 2:16:32 AM

The program I mentioned above is free and has functionality/tools to test HDD too. No harm giving that a try.
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a c 104 G Storage
December 12, 2011 11:24:48 AM

Hi again,

If your HDD is not seen in the BIOS by the Motherboard, and as you said, not even on a different computer system, you can't do anything with it.
So you have to determine if the problem is with power spinning up the drive and powering the enclosure chips, if it is with the bridge chips in the enclosure converting the USB protocol to SATA, or if it is within the HDD itself (PCB or internal parts).

When it is connected to your laptop, put your ear near the external HDD, and listen for the HDD spinning up. If no spinning sound, the HDD isn't getting the power it needs. (Some are powered by the USB plug, some by an external power block). Try both sequentially if available.

Next for completeness, change the USB cable. Not probably since the drive had problems when you were using it actively.

Then determine if it is the enclosure chips and power, or the HDD itself. That requires taking the HDD out of the enclosure, connecting it to your desktop or laptop with a SATA cable (assumming the HDD is SATA), and connecting the power to it by a SATA power connector. Easiest on a desktop model where the cables are easily attachable. IF it is now seen in the BIOS, then you know it was the enclosure electronics rather than the drive.

Don't be afraid of removing the HDD enclosure. It's usually 4 little screws, then pulling the HDD away from the power/data connector. You can always purchase a new enclosure if that is the problem, and just place it in a new enclosure.

If the HDD still is not recognized by the motherboard BIOS, it may be physically attached, but not electronically connected.
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December 12, 2011 10:18:01 PM

Hey thank you all for the quick and informative replies. I'll have to give it a try this weekend when I get some free time.

*Edit* Keeping this post open until after this weekend.
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December 27, 2011 6:55:39 PM

Hey sorry for taking so long, its been a hectic few weeks. I finally got a chance to take apart the enclosure and hook up my HDD and some interesting things have surfaced.

First off, the HDD was not seen in the BIOS when I booted up, however, once I started windows it installed the driver software. It seems to have installed properly since it is listed as an ATA device under disk drives along with my computer's HDD with my OS on it. But when I enter disk management, Disk 0 is listed as an unknown disk of size 3.86 gb that not initialized and unallocated.

This is a problem since my HDD I know is a 1.5 tb drive. So now I am wondering if the hard drive itself has failed? Is there a way to test that? And if so, I take it recovering the data myself is going to be a trivial endeavour.
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a c 104 G Storage
December 27, 2011 9:29:09 PM

Hi again,

When you boot up your system, without the questionable HDD, look in Disk Management, and see how Windows sees your present HDD and OS. It should be listed as Disk 0, and may have several partitions if this is a commercial computer, Dell, HD, Acer, etc. One partition may be set by the manufacturer for recovery files, or backup and depending on the OS, a small 100 MB partition at the beginning.

Then connect the questional HDD, and recheck Disk Management. I would guess it is not recognized and not funnctioning. Should be HDD 1 or HDD 2 depending on what is installed on your computer.
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December 27, 2011 11:06:07 PM

Mine is actually a custom built computer and my existing HDD with my OS is Disk 1 if I boot it without the external HDD attached. It does indeed have the 100 MB of reserved partition in the beginning. When I attach the external HDD and boot it up it becomes Disk 0, the unknown one. So I think it does recognize it, it just is not functioning properly?
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a c 104 G Storage
December 27, 2011 11:52:40 PM

Not sure how the OS disk would be recognized as Disk 1, with only that HDD attached. Unless you have another hard drive attached, the BIOS will recognize the single HDD as Disk 0. Might just recheck for accuracy.

It also sounds to me like your external HDD is not functioning properly.
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December 28, 2011 12:51:04 AM

I think (big huge guess here) that it might have to do with what SATA port it gets plugged into on my mobo? That's the only thing that I can think of. Regardless, is there anything I can do at this point for my external HDD in terms of getting data off, or is it a lost cause?
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Best solution

a c 104 G Storage
December 28, 2011 2:08:46 PM

There are a couple Data Recovery Software products that are free, such as Aeseus Data Recovery Wizard, and the TenorShare Data recovery product, which you could try.

My favorite is the Aeseus Data Recovery Wizard (Data, Partition, Deleted File Recovery Wizard), the Home Edition is freeware, Commercial Ed $69.95.
You can download it at www.easeus.com/datarecoverywizard.

Make absolutely sure you are working on the "questionable" Hdd, not your Primary HDD, when you use it. If recoverable, you can copy data from the questionable drive to a folder on your good drive.

Don't initialize, partition, or format the "questionable" drive prior to attempting to recover data from it.
If not successful, hopefully most of the data is on your primary HDD which you can locate to recreate the failed drive.


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January 9, 2012 4:22:50 PM

Hey thanks for all the help with my HDD issue. It was very useful!
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January 9, 2012 4:23:00 PM

Best answer selected by bozoisundead.
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a c 104 G Storage
January 10, 2012 12:57:39 AM

bozoisundead said:
Hey thanks for all the help with my HDD issue. It was very useful!


You're welcome. Happy to help.
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