external usb drive suddenly slow. recovery approaches?
September 29, 2011 5:56 AM   Subscribe

my external hard drive is suddenly really slow. I'm pretty anxious. What now?

The external usb enclosure/disk (off which I play iTunes) suddenly started hiccuping on song changes. So I opened it in explorer and it was loading the root directory structure painfully slowly. So I disconnected it, reconnected it, and I can see the directory structure and can open files but it takes forever (I just tried one image file in a subdirectory)

So I did 'safely remove hardware' and disconnected it from the computer. What now?

I imagine I want to do something like

a) copy whatever I can, I guess I should buy another external disk cause my laptop hd is too small
b) check for errors

Right? Any programs or approaches or sequence I should use? I'm using Windows 7
posted by the mad poster! to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hmmm. Sounds like a hardware problem, but doing an error check might help.

If it is a hardware problem you need to backup pronto before it dies completely (by the sounds of it, not very long)
posted by 0bvious at 5:59 AM on September 29, 2011

how? Do I want to clone it in some sort of safe boot mode? Something like that? What software would I use? I don't just want to be copy/pasting in explorer

I just realized I have Acronus True Image, had bought the full version... might that help?
posted by the mad poster! at 6:01 AM on September 29, 2011

btw 'painfully slowly' / 'forever' means 30-60 seconds.. so it wasn't taking like 30 minutes or anything (yet)
posted by the mad poster! at 6:04 AM on September 29, 2011

You might need to be pretty ruthless about what to save on the drive. If it has a hardware problem, then it could die halfway through your backup.

Just copy what you NEED
posted by 0bvious at 6:33 AM on September 29, 2011

A. Get your data first.

1) Go buy a new external USB drive that is as big or bigger than your current external drive.
2) Plug in both drives.
3) Drop to Windows command line and create a new folder on the new drive called "Old" (or anything you want).
4) Use xcopy to copy all data from the old drive to the new folder on the new drive.

B. Troubleshoot old drive.

1) Use chkdsk on the old drive and see if it finds any bad sectors. If it does let it fix those sectors.
2) Use SMART utilities to see what else may be wrong with the drive.
3) Use the diagnostic utilities disc for your model of computer to see what else may be wrong with the drive.

Note: I would avoid use Acronis for the time being.
posted by dgeiser13 at 6:47 AM on September 29, 2011

I suggest that you buy two new external drives as long as you're shopping (or two bare drives and a USB dock). You should always have two or more copies of everything that's precious to you, and preferably one of those copies should be kept offsite. You might also explore some form of online backup. Here endeth the unasked for lecture.
posted by dust of the stars at 7:01 AM on September 29, 2011

I just realized I have Acronus True Image, had bought the full version... might that help?

What I would do is first copy off anything absolutely essential from the drive, the few things on there that you most don't want to lose, normally without any special tools. Then use True Image to do a full sector-by-sector backup which will copy everything that can be copied from the drive. Then you can use that image to copy whatever else you can out of there, even if some percentage of the data is corrupted. Only after that would I do any kind of error checking on the drive itself.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:18 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

thanks for the responses. I crossed my fingers and logged in another account and plugged the enclosure in--this time with both USB cables for power instead of the single one I usually plug in--and it seems to have been a false alarm; I copied like 2 gigs (6k files) off it pretty quickly onto my SSD.. however I'll be sure to keep it unplugged for now and do a copy to another drive before doing anything else just out of extra caution

thanks for your step by step instructions dgeiser13 that's just what my knotted stomach needed.
posted by the mad poster! at 7:58 AM on September 29, 2011

As an update; the drive did fail a month or so later, but I got all the data back using ddrescue to make an image that I can mount with OSFMount.
posted by the mad poster! at 7:14 PM on May 10, 2012

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