Broken external harddrive
March 20, 2009 2:41 PM   Subscribe

External hard drive fell off table, have I lost all my data?

I tripped over the power cord and yanked my external hard drive from the table onto the floor and improperly ejected it from the computer (mac). Now when I plug it in and the computer recognizes that something is there, but it won't show up as an accessible drive in Finder or My Computer. I've tried on macs and pcs. My mac tells me that the hard drive is unformatted but the repair button is shaded out. Is there anything I can do to get the data?
posted by Nickel to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There are some things you can try. Take the actual hard disk out of the external enclosure and put it in another compatible enclosure or internal hook-up (if you have a desktop) and see what happens. That should at least rule out problems with hardware other than the hard drive itself, leaving you with some sort of disk-write screwup or damage to the actual hard drive as possibilities. That's about the extent of my knowledge, and I'm sure others have better suggestions.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:44 PM on March 20, 2009

I'm sure there will be lots of good (or obvious) suggestions to follow. If you're still stranded after picking all the low-hanging fruit, then you should decide how valuable the data is and look into specialized data-recovery services. It's amazing what those guys can do, but they're not cheap.
posted by randomstriker at 2:49 PM on March 20, 2009

If the disk was in the act of reading or writing at the moment it was knocked over, then you might be in for some bad news. I'd try leaving it connected to your mac for a while; theres a check-disk routine worked into the automount in OS X, so if it does see a problem it might take a while for it to mount and be accessible, and even then it might mount read-only. If disk utility sees it as unformatted, though, it might be beyond that. I'll second trying the drive in a different enclosure to see if it mounts up then. If not you're probably looking at some expensive data recovery.
posted by kid_dynamite at 3:00 PM on March 20, 2009

The corrupted serial number in that screenshot implies that the USB interface hardware is damaged.

Does it still spin up without making any unusual noises? If so, chances are the disk itself is probably OK. Open the enclosure, remove the disk, and put it in a new enclosure.
posted by Mwongozi at 5:56 PM on March 20, 2009

I would try Mwongozi's suggestion to try a new enclosure first. Alternatively, just put the drive in a spare bay in a tower PC/mac, if you happen to have one.

If all else fails, there's always DriveSavers. They've done some pretty amazing work, but it comes at a steep, steep price.
posted by zachlipton at 6:23 PM on March 20, 2009

Is the drive actually 2TB? If not, then Mwongozi may be right--the USB enclosure is failing to properly interface with its internal hard drive (which is probably SATA). 2TiB could correspond to a drive capacity of 0xFFFFFFFF sectors with a 512-byte sector size, so the value is suspicious.
posted by Galvatron at 6:31 PM on March 20, 2009

It is actually 1 TB. I thought the 2 TB was strange but didn't know what it could mean. It does make the normal whirring noises when I plug it in, so hopefully the drive is okay, I will try using a different enclosure.

Thanks everyone!
posted by Nickel at 6:51 PM on March 20, 2009

Ha, no, it isn't even 1 TB. I'm getting my 2 external drives confused. This one was 512MB.
posted by Nickel at 6:59 PM on March 20, 2009

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