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External HDD problem

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January 24, 2012 12:35:13 AM

I have a 750 Gb Maxtor Onetouch USB 2.0 external that I use as a backup drive. Four times in the last two weeks, the drive has not read. "My Computer" says "local disk" instead of Maxtor. "Properties" says 0 b used, 0 b free, file system RAW instead of 100's Gb used and free with NTFS. Device status says device working properly. Computer management and other software report the drive being there, but either unused or unreadable. The USB normally plugs into a hub, but I've moved it to other ports with no change.
I'd like to know what's causing the problem and how to correct it. Thanks.

More about : external hdd problem

a c 342 G Storage
January 24, 2012 3:16:02 PM

With USB external HDD's, Disk Management may seem to report that the unit is "there", but what that really means sometimes is that Windows can detect a valid USB device on the end of the cable (the enclosure's electronics), but the HDD connected to that is NOT necessarily behaving correctly.

In your case, it MAY be that the problem is in the enclosure's electronics, or even just a poor connection of the HDD unit to its connector inside. To check this you can open the external enclosure and remove the HDD, then mount it and connect it as an internal drive in your desktop computer. THEN try to use it. (NOTE: doing this WILL invalidate your Warranty if it is still good, so maybe do NOT do this unless you don't plan to use warranty services.) If the HDD works inside, you have all your data back. If not, you will know the problem is with the HDD itself, and not the enclosure. If it does not work this way, post here what Disk Management DOES say about this "new" internal HDD. Maybe it has a problem that can be fixed with advice from others here.
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February 1, 2012 10:33:09 PM

Paperdoc said:
With USB external HDD's, Disk Management may seem to report that the unit is "there", but what that really means sometimes is that Windows can detect a valid USB device on the end of the cable (the enclosure's electronics), but the HDD connected to that is NOT necessarily behaving correctly.

In your case, it MAY be that the problem is in the enclosure's electronics, or even just a poor connection of the HDD unit to its connector inside. To check this you can open the external enclosure and remove the HDD, then mount it and connect it as an internal drive in your desktop computer. THEN try to use it. (NOTE: doing this WILL invalidate your Warranty if it is still good, so maybe do NOT do this unless you don't plan to use warranty services.) If the HDD works inside, you have all your data back. If not, you will know the problem is with the HDD itself, and not the enclosure. If it does not work this way, post here what Disk Management DOES say about this "new" internal HDD. Maybe it has a problem that can be fixed with advice from others here.


I cracked the casing open and connected the drive via SATA. Same responses. I used data recovery software and was able to recover most of my files. Seems the files are still there, but the registry was wiped out somehow. I suppose I could reformat/repartition the drive, but do I really want to keep a drive that has failed?
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a c 342 G Storage
February 2, 2012 2:46:02 AM

The drive itself MAY be OK. It is possible that a data error was written to the Directory and the file management tables, and that's why the data could not be read normally, but could be recovered with special software.

I assume that right now you do NOT need to preserve anything on that drive, so it is OK to wipe it clean. I propose you do that in a thorough way that also lets the drive fix any minor problems on its own, then test it. This is a Maxtor drive, and Maxtor is run by Seagate, so I'll recommend you get a utility package from the Seagate website.

On the Seagate website, look for a free download called Seatools. I comes in several forms, including a version that runs as a Windows app. You could use that to work on the faulty drive if you mount it in your desktop machine. But personally, I prefer the "for DOS" version. If you download the one for use with a CD-R, it will be an .iso image file. You then need some CD burning software capable of burning an .iso image to a CD-R disk - Nero is one, and there are others. You burn your own Seatools for DOS CD. Then you put it into your optical drive and boot from it. It loads its own mini-DOS Operating System into RAM and runs from there, even if you have NO working hard drives in your machine and can't use Windows. It has a range of tests and diagnostic routines, and some tools for doing things. All of these are run from a main menu system. Hint: if you're using the "for DOS" version from CD, you can disconnect ALL of your hard drives except the troubled one, to be VERY sure you don't tamper with the good ones by mistake.

When you run Seatools, first thing to note carefully is what it says about the SMART system. That's a monitoring system built into the HDD itself which can send out alarms if it has certain problems. If the SMART status is OK, smile!

I you're SURE you do not want to recover anything more from this drive, you can run a "Zero Fill" operation on it. This will take a LONG time - several hours - because it actually writes zeros to every place on the HDD. In doing so, it triggers a background activity of the HDD itself that will read the data back and check the quality of the signals from the disk. If it finds any weak, it will substitute good sectors for poor ones so you don't have to worry in future, and this will all be virtually hidden from you so you won't even know. When it is finished, every sector in use on the drive should be perfect.

If you want to be really sure, run the Long Test of the drive - it also is very long! It does read / write tests of everything and can tell you if it finds problems anywhere. In fact, since your drive may NOT have a big problem, maybe you should do this one first BEFORE the Zero Fill. If the Long Test says there are no problems, the Zero Fill probably is not necessary at all.

If all this says your HDD has no problems, you can stop worrying. Install it in your system just as if it were a new empty drive. Partition and Format it normally, and start using it for storage again. In fact, maybe you will want to re-mount it in the external enclosure.

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