November 20, 2009 5:58 AM   Subscribe

Is my external HD enclosure killing drives? Or is it bad luck?

I use a Mac.

I have this external enclosure for 2.5" drives. I put a new drive in there last year, but didn't use it until some months later (after loaning it to a friend). Drive was dead, and Disk Utility and Disk Warrior couldn't fix it. It was an extents error, and Disk Warrior alternatingly gave these errors: 2351, -36 and 2166, 2351.

My GF needed an external drive for Time Machine, and so we dropped in a new drive. Same errors, same lack of success with Disk Utility and Disk Warrior.

In each case, there has been no data on the drive, so I'm happy to pave them down to the lowest bits and bytes. A new drive is being sent by the retailer, but I don't want to kill it with the enclosure if it is at fault.

Is this an issue with the enclosure, or is this just bad luck with two different drives (by different makers)?
posted by Admiral Haddock to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
I've also had enclosures do very strange things when the power supply was less than perfect. IOW, my order of suspiciousness is: The drive itself is most suspicious, then the power supply, then the enclosure.

However, in order of ease-of-elimination, the power supply can be easiest to check. Most of these are ubiquitous 12V or 12-and-5V. Try another one if you can.
posted by krilli at 6:04 AM on November 20, 2009

Sorry for the stupid question, but have you checked those same drives outside the enclosure (as in, directly plugged into a computer)?

As krilli suggests, the power supply is often the problem. Or the power itself. When I was on some 220/240 power systems for a while, my drive (enclosures) became a lot flakier than usual. On return to the US (120V) things went back to normal.
posted by fake at 6:13 AM on November 20, 2009

Thanks for the tips so far. Maybe the power is a likely culprit, as this is a USB-powered portable drive, which would seem prone to wonkiness. It looks like the drive can take AC power, but an adaptor wasn't included. I used to have another version of this enclosure (also USB powered) and did not encounter this error.

Trying the drive out in a computer is not really an option. Although I have access to a MacBook (which is relatively easy to swap hard drives on), it is still a pain in the ass for someone like me who does not love playing with computer innards.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:56 AM on November 20, 2009

I believe usb powered devices are actually less prone to power fluctuations than adapters, but I may be wrong. It could be worth buying another enclosure, possibly from a place with a liberal return policy to test things out.
posted by CharlesV42 at 7:01 AM on November 20, 2009

Actually, I've had more problems with them, because USB ports can only deliver .5A of current. Many such drives come with a cable that has two USB connectors, so that they can suck a full amp.

I'd look for one of those connectors or a suitable power adapter before you go much further. I'd bet good money that one of the two approaches will solve the problem.
posted by fake at 7:26 AM on November 20, 2009

It's not pretty, but if you don't have a way to connect the drives directly to a SATA interface, maybe a docking station like this would be of use in testing them?

Also, more immediately, maybe look around for a USB Y-cable: they plug into two USB ports in order to deliver more power to the 2.5" drive. Mac users tend to make up large portion of such drives online reviews because of such issues, and it looks like your enclosure didn't come with one.
posted by unmake at 7:34 AM on November 20, 2009

I'll Nth the idea that USB power can be flaky - it varies from computer to computer, and even port to port, and if the port gets damaged over time, the power levels may change. While there is theoretically a standard on how much power a USB port gives, in practice, it varies. MacBook Airs have more power (to be able to run the external DVD drive - it won't work on other Macs), and phones that charge by USB on some computers (or their included USB charger) won't charge on other devices.

Bumping up the power available to the drive should be a quick and easy test, and hopefully a fix.
posted by GJSchaller at 7:44 AM on November 20, 2009

I'm gonna bet that the circuit board in your enclosure is dead. They are more likely to fail before your drive, especially if your friend wasn't super nice to it, or if it was cheap to begin with. I have this enclosure (but it was $8 when I bought it, I think...) for my old laptop hard drive. I wanted a small portable style enclosure, but knew I would have problems with my mac's underpowered USB ports. My solution was to get a powered USB hub.

Is there any indicator or power light on the HD case? Does that come on when you plug it in? Try the drive on a desktop computer, (or any computer thats not a mac laptop), and see if it powers on. If not, get a new enclosure, they can be very cheap (if you stay away from best buy).

If it does power on, you need a USB Y cable (which draws power from 2 ports, and data connection to one) or a powered USB hub, or find an AC adaptor for it.

If that doesn't work, your drives are dead.
posted by fontophilic at 7:47 AM on November 20, 2009

It's the enclosure, it's the enclosure, it's the enclosure.

Don't even get me started on these things. I've bought numerous (5, maybe?) external enclosures over the years, and every single one of them has had preposterously cheesy build quality. Different brands, bought at different places and times, and every single one failed in short order. They burned up, they just flat out didn't work, the drive couldn't be physically fit into the enclosure, the enclosure fell apart, etc, etc, etc, etc.

I don't know why, but I have never been able to find a non-crappy version of this particular product.
posted by madmethods at 8:47 AM on November 20, 2009

It is the enclosure. I had the same problems, and the disks worked fine in other enclosures.
posted by procrastination at 10:44 AM on November 20, 2009

Update: Bought a Transcend enclosure from Newegg for something like $15. The HD worked fine in the new enclosure. Lesson learned!

Thanks to all!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 4:47 PM on November 29, 2009

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