Swimming in a sea of bland jpeg files
April 16, 2010 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Please help me regain access to the data on my external hard drive after laptop crash caused files to "disappear".

I have a WD external hard drive (500GB My Passport Elite). One day, while the drive was connected, my laptop (PowerBook G4, running 10.5.8) crashed. After rebooting, I got an error message telling me I was a bad boy for disconnecting the hard drive without first ejecting it, and that I might suffer data loss if I wasn't more careful in the future (or some such). Of course, the crash had prevented me from ejecting the drive properly. The problem is, the next time I plugged in the drive, sure enough it was read as blank.
The good news is that the files are there. I have since used something called FileSalvage to retrieve the more than 7000 items (mostly music and image files) that are on the disc, and I've burned those salvaged files to a series of DVD's. The problem is, I now have 7000 items with sequentially assigned numerical names (photos are "0172.jpg" and music files are "2167.mp3", for example), all created on the same date. On the hard drive, the photos were sorted into folders by when/where they were taken, or by subject, and the music was in iTunes, with album and track names, album art, ratings, etc. My guess/hope is that this is a minor digital glitch; some "0" somewhere got flipped to a "1", and if I can somehow flip it back, all will be well -- at least in my dreams it is so.
The fly in the ointment is that there were some pr0n files on the drive. I don't care about those files -- it's the personal photos and music that I'm anxious for, but I'm reticent to take the drive to someone else to have it diagnosed/fixed. Can anyone recommend a fix that I can do myself (I don't have any experience/expertise at diagnosing/fixing computers, but I'm pretty good at following instructions) that will get me back my folders and EXIF/meta data?
I have contacted WD; they were no help. I am aware of the mountain of bad word-of-mouth on the internet for WD, or at least for this type of drive (I wasn't at point of purchase), but I am not sure how that helps me in this situation; I have not been able to find mention of someone with quite this scenario (even minus the pr0n).
Thanks in advance for any and all suggestions.
posted by segatakai to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
I believe that iTunes will put them in the right folders and rename the files based off their id3 tags. This is however problematic as many peoples mp3s are not correctly tagged.

I don't have a solution for the images though. Maybe you could write a script
posted by runit at 7:03 PM on April 16, 2010

DiskWarrior has saved my data numerous times over the years. It's not a cheap solution ($100) but it's probably the top Mac recommendation for the kind of directory damage you describe. However, there's no way to know for sure if it will work until you try it. Maybe a friend has a copy you could borrow to try.
posted by Amaterasu at 8:02 PM on April 16, 2010

Sounds to me like the crash may have corrupted your file allocation table for the drive, thus loosing all the folder structure. If that's the case, you will have to rebuild your photo directories manually.

Itunes, however, will most likely be able to re-read the meta data - ID2/3 tags - stored in the actual mp3 files and re-sort them the way iTunes usually does.
posted by rwheindl at 8:41 PM on April 16, 2010

If nothing else works, DriveSavers saved my data after a catastrophic hard drive failure (think platters like Swiss cheese). they're crazy expensive, though. don't know what their prices are like for less mangled data.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:53 PM on April 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far!
Amaterasu: Has DiskWarrior saved your data, complete with metadata? I already paid for Filesalvage, so I'm hesitant to bite down again, but would do so if I felt there was a good chance of getting all my info back in it's original (or close to it) state.

runit: write a script to do what, exactly?

follow up: what's to say this isn't going to happen again, a week after I spend 2 months renaming files? What's a fella to do? I guess I'm supposed to buy 2 drives, and back up to both, in case one goes belly up? Know any good links to back-up strategy posts??
posted by segatakai at 10:09 PM on April 16, 2010

That's exactly what you should do. Backups are the best option. Apple has a tutorial on using Time Machine for backups.
posted by rwheindl at 5:50 AM on April 17, 2010

You've run a recovery on the disk - this pulled all found files off it into wherever calling them whatever.

Have you run a chkdsk on the actual drive though? I'm not a Mac user, but PC-wise this is what needs done; ' rwheindl' has it above - the FAT for the folders is most likely the culprit rather than actually being a data loss scenario (requiring recovery)...

I would suggest you run a chkdsk / Mac equivalent on the disk and plug it back in - you might be surprised to find the allocation tables being rebuilt makes everything ok again? Worth a shot at least.

This happened to me with an ext. 500GB drive of music - I nearly died on the spot - but chkdsk did its stuff and all was well, fortunately...
posted by DrtyBlvd at 8:25 AM on April 17, 2010

Fortunately, your mp3 files should have ID3 data attached to them, and iTunes will take care of sorting/renaming them.

Photos will be a bit trickier, but not all hope is lost! Assuming that the EXIF data is intact, most photo importing programs can import/sort photos by Date, which should be "good enough" for your purposes. I know Lightroom can do this, and believe that iPhoto can as well.

Alternatively, this Automator action and accompanying tutorial, though somewhat technical, should be able to sort your photos for you as well.

You may want to manually sort out the pr0n first. You'll be surprised at just how quickly you'll be able to do this if you set up the Finder to have big thumbnails.
posted by schmod at 9:50 PM on April 17, 2010

Response by poster: thanks again, all...
I haven't been able to find the equivalent of a chkdsk for mac. I have run Disk Utility to no avail (though there's no certainty I've run it properly).
I haven't tried the music files yet, but when I load the jpgs into iPhoto, the date associated with all pictures is the day I salvaged them off the drive.
My friend has a PC; I'll try connecting it to her PC and run chkdsk.
...slight derail (and I doubt anybody's around anymore), but, why are drives set up this way, such that unplugging them without mounting them can cause catastrophic failure? I'd think that this would be one of the first things they'd design out of the second generation external drive.
posted by segatakai at 4:28 AM on April 18, 2010

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