External HD crashed, what next?
May 2, 2014 8:58 AM   Subscribe

External HD crashed, what next? What do do before sending it to a recovery service?

Powered it up and now the green light just blinks at a regular rate, about 1x per second and with a very faint click each time. Hard Drive is not recognized or seen by my PC. HD is a Western Digital 1600. It's 10 or 11 years old, I should have known better!

It had acted up a few times over the past several months. After turning it on it would blink like this and if I remember correctly would make the spinning sound a bunch of times. I would power off and back up and it would work right. Should have seen the signs.

No such luck this time around, just the blinking and faint click each time.

Anway, is there anything I should do before sending this to one of those expensive recovery services? There is a lot of important data on the drive. I see lots of home remedies online, but I would rather not make the problem worse!
posted by Salvatorparadise to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You did make a backup, didn't you?

Assuming you didn't, you could try something like Stellar Phoenix (try the free version to see if it'll recover anything before considering the paid version).

Once or twice I've had some luck refrigerating the disk for an hour or two before attempting to recover files. Sometimes drives will revive for a while until they warm up.

In future, you need to assume that any hard disk (or SSD or memory card) can fail at any time, taking your files irretrievably with it. There won't necessarily be any warning. For most people, it takes the loss every file they own before they see the wisdom of spending a small amount each year on a cloud backup service or a second drive for backups.

Best of luck.
posted by pipeski at 9:06 AM on May 2, 2014

Sounds to me like the drive is failing to spin up. If you're lucky, a data recovery service can replace the motor in the drive and get the data off of the platters. But that's going to be expensive!
posted by dobi at 9:13 AM on May 2, 2014

The one other thing you can try is putting it in a new enclosure (or open bay in a desktop).

At 10 years, I do suspect it is the drive, not the enclosure. But they do have a tiny board on them that can go bad. It's a long shot, but should only cost $15. And that new enclosure can be the home to your new backup drive!
posted by fontophilic at 9:32 AM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding trying another enclosure or open bay in PC. After that the homebrew remedies are iffy, freezer trick maybe I would try. Board swap would be tricky since its so old and you need an identical circuit board revision drive to swap from.

The recovery places are very expensive and not guaranteed, so the data may just be gone, sorry.
posted by TheAdamist at 9:36 AM on May 2, 2014

Are you willing to spend $2,000+ to recover the data? If so, don't risk irretrievably damaging the drive with a failed home remedy like freezing, just call a data recovery company.
posted by Sophont at 10:03 AM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding Sophont, you're better off looking into a recovery company now than risking more damage to the drive. Also whatever you do, do not ever for any reason open the drive itself to expose the platters. This has to to be done in a particle free environment (a spec of dust can easily wreck havoc as the drive head never actually touches the platter).

Typically, depending on where you are geographically you're looking at ~$600 for the state it is in now. Some places will even look at the drive beforehand and provide a free quote.
posted by samsara at 10:14 AM on May 2, 2014

Response by poster: thanks everyone. Will send it in somewhere. Not gonna mess it up doing something stupid like opening it up, since I don't know a thing about this stuff. Thanks again!
posted by Salvatorparadise at 10:21 AM on May 2, 2014

DriveSavers came through for me 7 years ago. They said my platters looked like swiss cheese, but they recovered most of the files i needed. It cost about $1800.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:00 AM on May 2, 2014

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