I am going to eat my own left leg if I can't sort this.
January 12, 2006 10:00 AM   Subscribe

How can I access my hidden external Hard Drive data? PLEASE HELP or I might have to cry my ass off, and that's harder than it sounds

I bought a Maxtor External Portable 160GB Hard Drive 3 months ago and it's been working fine in my Windows XP PC. Yesterday I used it in a Mac OS X. Only because I knew it was compatible with both operating systems because it SAYS SO IN THE PRODUCT CRITERIA.

So anyway. I came home and tried to use it in my PC and guess what? It isn't working.
Basically it recognises the drive absolutely fine. I can open the folder, and if you view the drive Properties, it informs you that 70GB has been used, which is correct. I have 70GB of data saved onto the drive.


*The folder appears empty.* It looks like an empty folder. I can't do anything to make the files in there appear. It's almost like they're set to hidden or something, except they're not, obviously. I've tried 'showing all files and folders' (a really stupidly obvious one but I was desperate by this point) which didn't work. I've tried using a different USB cable. I've tried it in a different PC.

And to add insult to injury, I went back to try it in a Mac again today, and the files don't show up in there either.

So, sob sob cry whine cry and all that. Can anyone please PLEASE help me here? It's not even like they've been erased, they're just being invisible! It's like being told there is a really cool lollipop in the cupboard but nobody will give you the key for the door. Or something.
I just want my files back dammit!!

Thanks in advance =D
posted by angryjellybean to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
does OSX and XP use different filesystems?

XP uses NTFS (or FAT32)...

I know its offtopic. but still....just wondering
posted by xospecialk at 10:07 AM on January 12, 2006

Uh... I don't know. However, the properties of the external hard drive indicates that it is FAT32.. and it's been working fine in my NTFS pc so far.

Unless, I don't know, the Mac changed it to FAT32 or something. On another note, I hate Macs. Burn them.
posted by angryjellybean at 10:10 AM on January 12, 2006

Wow. I'm not sure what's going on, but we should get one thing out of the way. On the Mac, did it gripe about the Windows hard drive needing formating? If so, did you let it do it?

I don't think the Mac will do that on a non-empty hard drive, even if it's formatted for Windows (which means it's probably a VFAT/FAT32 format, which the Mac can read and write to fine).

One thing I would try on the Mac: plug the drive in, open "Utilities:Terminal.app," and at the command line type ls -la /Volumes/[name-of-angryjellybean's-harddrive].

Do you see any data if you do that? I'm sure their is an equivalent command in the brain-dead windows cmd.exe, but I haven't used DOS is so many years I don't remember it. (I think you run "cmd" from "Start:Run," and type dir [path-to-angryjellybean's-harddrive], but I don't remember what the path would be in Windows {a drive letter, I think}, and I don't know the switch to "dir" that shows all files).

With that, you could rule out any "user-friendliness" hiding the files from you. But to be completely honest, I'm kind of nervous that your data might be hosed.
posted by teece at 10:16 AM on January 12, 2006

On preview: You external hard drive should have been FAT formated. I don't think it would work in the Mac if it was not. Well, a cursory Google search indicates that maybe the Mac does support NTFS. I dunno. But most external hard drives will come FAT-formatted, IIRC, as it's more universal.
posted by teece at 10:18 AM on January 12, 2006

Does FAT support 160GBs?
posted by xospecialk at 10:22 AM on January 12, 2006

See, I think you're saying that you had files on the drive when it was in your PC, and you put it in the Mac and you were able to see/copy/etc. the self-same files. Now you put it back in the PC and the files are not visible.

I think the first thing I would do is look at it from the command line, not from Explorer. Do you see your folders? Can you CD to them and see the files?

Now, each folder should have a couple of hidden files. DIR /AH should display them. DESKTOP.INI and possibly THUMBS.DB, which hold the display settings for the folder that Explorer uses. It's possible the Mac corrupted these files in trying in its clumsy Cupertino way to manipulate the awesome Redmond technique of storing a resource fork equivalent. DEL /AH DESKTOP.INI may "reset" the folder so you can at least see its contents in Explorer.

If you do NOT see the files from the command line -- something weirder may have happened, like the Mac setting its own partition, which you're now looking at. In that case you'll want more technical assistance, I'm afraid.
posted by dhartung at 10:26 AM on January 12, 2006

xospecialk: FAT (FAT16) didn't, but FAT32 does. XP does not format FAT16 unless you tell it to.
posted by dhartung at 10:27 AM on January 12, 2006

I remember reading about an external hard drive corruption problem in OS X Panther. You might want to read about it here if you don't know about it/could be affected.
posted by splice at 10:33 AM on January 12, 2006

FYI: the Panther bug splice mentions was on Firewire drives (it was a problem with some Firewire firmwares that Apple stumbled over, if i remember correctly), and should not have affected a USB-connected drive. It also destroyed the formatting of the drive completely, so it does not seem like a likely candidate.

The Mac absolutely would NOT have done squat to the partition, or changed the filesystem type, or reformatted, without asking you (and giving you a stern warning about destruction of data), unless you found some major, major bug (unlikely). That's why I was wondering if it asked you any such things.

Resources forks: Mac OS X doesn't use them as much any more, and it knows not to use them on a FAT filesystem. If it needs such functionality, it creates hidden files that start with "._" which can ugly up the folder in a Windows system, but they cause no harm.

Your drive was almost certainly formatted for FAT32. Mac OS X 10.3.9 and 10.4.x can read NTFS, but not write to it. I think the average external hard drive comes from the factor formatted with FAT32

What did you do with the drive while it was connected to the Mac? Was it just reading files? Was there writing of files? With what software?

Dhartung's advice seems pretty sound on the Windows side.
posted by teece at 10:52 AM on January 12, 2006

Get OnTrack EasyRecovery for the PC, install it, and run it on the drive. It works like a charm.
posted by twiggy at 2:05 PM on January 12, 2006

R-Studio also works well.

If at all possible, make a drive image of the problem drive (R-studio can do this for you) and then do the recovery against the image so you have an extra copy in case you screw something up.
posted by Good Brain at 7:11 PM on January 12, 2006

So are you ever going to give us a clue as to what happened, angryjellybean, or is this a hit and run AskMe?
posted by teece at 9:22 AM on January 13, 2006

It's still unfixed, however, I have downloaded EasyRecovery and am trying that - it takes a long time to scan though.. Hopefully I can retrieve the info.... thanks to everyone who replied
posted by angryjellybean at 2:36 AM on January 14, 2006

Any update Angry Jelly Beans?
posted by dance at 8:38 AM on July 6, 2006

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