External Hard Drive Failure
February 28, 2005 4:56 PM   Subscribe

I purchased a 160GB external LaCie USB 2.0 drive last month from CompUSA, and today it quit working. I have an iMac G5 running OS X 10.3.8, which told me the drive could not be recognized, and whenever I turn on the drive, it gives me a pulsating screeching sound as it tries to access itself. I called LaCie, who says its a hard drisk mechanism failure (read: "our shit crashed and lost your data") and will repair the drive, but everything on it is lost unless I recover it beforehand somehow. DriveSavers is going to cost me some $2,000 or so which is outrageous, considering I'm a college student, and the drive was investment enough itself. It has some 40GB of music, and almost 100GB of video -- I'm looking for a service that can recover my data cheaply, and without voiding LaCie's warranty would be a plus. Does anyone know of any alternate solutions, have you heard of this happening to someone else or has it happened to you? WTF?
posted by jruckman to Technology (11 answers total)
This may be a long shot but have you tried using Data Rescue? It may or may not be able to see your drive.
posted by btwillig at 5:14 PM on February 28, 2005

I'm pretty sure those external USB drives are just standard IDE hard drives with a USB interface. Have you tried popping it open and plugging the drive directly into a computer?

Note: that will probably void the warranty, but you should be able to pull it off if you remove the enclosure sneakily enough.
posted by cmonkey at 5:16 PM on February 28, 2005

If you void the warranty, LaCie will not replace it under warranty.

You might try btwillig's suggestion, but Data Rescue repairs files from file system damage, not physical damage.

Unless you're willing to risk your warranty coverage, unfortunately, from my experience, data recovery shops are your only option, from the symptom you describe.
posted by AlexReynolds at 5:32 PM on February 28, 2005

As a LAST RESORT, try this tip from PC World

Here's a last-gasp trick for copying data from a drive that won't read or spin: Place the disk in a Ziploc freezer bag and pop it into the freezer for an hour. Seriously. Cooling the disk can subtly change the geometry of the head and platters, enabling the drive to pick up data for a brief period of time. Make sure you have a new hard disk installed, as well as mirroring software like Norton Ghost ready to make a one-shot transfer of the old disk's contents.

Still no luck? Here's your final--albeit slim--hope: Use a Torx driver (a screwdriver with a star-shaped head) to remove the cover from the hard drive and then give the drive heads a gentle tap. Hook the drive to your system (yes, with the top off) and see if you can access the disk.

Best of luck.
posted by River Boater at 5:38 PM on February 28, 2005

Please remember that running a partially dismantled drive can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS especially if the drive is failing.

As far as your question, you're probably out of luck... sorry.
posted by maniactown at 7:02 PM on February 28, 2005

I had the same thing happen to my mother's external LaCie on her iMac a few years ago. I...er...told her I'd fix it. It's still in the closet, after all reasonable (ie, other than freezing it) attempts failed. I'm hoping she'll forget it.

But maybe I'll freeze it now, just for funzies.
posted by waldo at 7:44 PM on February 28, 2005

Thanks all -- I left it off for a few hours while I went to campus and got dinner. I just turned it on w/ Drive Rescue ready to go and it loaded just fine without me even trying anything. Believe me, I tried reseting it several times to no avail earlier this evening -- must have needed some time to meditate. For future reference, my drive crashed while running Quicksilver B35. I was typing in a search keyword, and it was accessing the disk (I have the external drive catalogued) -- something got confused and the system became unstable. I did an OS-controlled computer reset which led to the above problem. Not to suggest it was Quicksilver's fault -- probably just the wrong place, wrong time. (If anyone has had disk troubles w/ Quicksilver, however, I'd be interested to know).

O.o Whew...
posted by jruckman at 8:08 PM on February 28, 2005

Two things:

1. You're not out of the woods, in case you didn't know. Don't trust that drive again!

2. Another last-resort option (if it appears the drive mechanism itself is failing) is to swap the platters into a working identical drive. That costs the price of a new drive, though, and the resulting creation isn't something I'd trust for long even if it works. But, it's cheaper than $2k. Haven't tried it myself...
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:18 PM on February 28, 2005

Copy your data to a new drive NOW while you still can.

Send the drive in to LaCie afterwards for replacement.

Seriously. Drives that make screeching sounds are on notice the first time they make it, no matter that they might work after a rest.
posted by tomierna at 8:41 PM on February 28, 2005

No worries -- copying as we speak.
posted by jruckman at 11:03 PM on February 28, 2005

We had a LaCie drive with all of the edits to one of our films on it- when it crashed, we eventually got all of our data off by alternating freezing it and copying some stuff off. Believe it or not, it does work.
posted by thethirdman at 8:06 AM on March 1, 2005

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