Did I just blow my external drive?
February 4, 2019 10:18 AM   Subscribe

pls help me find out if I can get these files back or not

I took out an external drive and it wasn't being detected. So I thought maybe if I used a power source it would work. It had been a while since I used the drive so I forgot that the power source was optional and not necessary.

I went and got my universal power adapter and didn't realize I could adjust the voltage. It was set to 12v and I plugged it into the drive. After that the light on the drive wouldn't even turn on anymore.

I figure- crap.. I blew the drive. The problem is that there is confidential info on it so there is zero chance my boss is going to allow me to bring this drive to someone to fix it because the files on there are for certain people's eyes only. Any way I can get the info off this drive myself? Anyway to reverse whatever damage I may have done here?
posted by fantasticness to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You likely an IT department who can fiddle. They already have access to all the important files on your network and sign agreements not to disclose the information.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:24 AM on February 4, 2019

No IT department. as said only meant for the eyes of 3 people specifically. That's the problem. Boss will kill me if I give this to anyone that's not the vp, him and me.
posted by fantasticness at 10:26 AM on February 4, 2019

Hopefully the enclosure had a fuse and only that blow. You may be able to pull the drive out and install in another enclosure or computer internally.
posted by tman99 at 10:37 AM on February 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

There's a chance that only ("only"!) the electronics of the drive are hosed. Assuming it's not a solid state drive, the mechanical part might be OK. If you could get another drive of the same type you could take the circuit board from the new drive and swap it for the burned-out board on your old drive.
posted by anadem at 10:39 AM on February 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is the drive. How do I find out if it qualifies that way?
posted by fantasticness at 10:43 AM on February 4, 2019

It depends on the exact model you've got, but you might be lucky - it could be that you've just fried the power electronics but not actually damaged the hard drive itself. If you can take it apart enough to get at the hard drive internally, you can try it in a different enclosure. I've previously used this one, which is cheap, easy to use and USB powered.

  • The original symptom (drive not recognised) could well mean that the hard drive itself is damaged. This won't fix that.
  • You may have also damaged the hard drive with the power supply.
  • There are two common sizes of hard drive (2.5" and 3.5") so if you do buy an enclosure, make sure it's the right size. It's probably 2.5", but I recommend checking.
  • It's usually pretty easy to get at the hard drive inside the enclosure, but I don't know what drive you've got, so no promises.

posted by spielzebub at 10:46 AM on February 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding that it might just be the drive enclosure that's gone bad, not the drive inside it. If you can break that thing open, it might be salvageable.
posted by SansPoint at 10:49 AM on February 4, 2019

It's plausible (likely, even) that the hard disk inside is just fine, and it's the USB interface in the enclosure that got fried. Just disassemble the enclosure as gently as you can and you'll have to get another USB interface (something like this but there are tons of them out there) to plug the drive into.

(on preview, what spielzebub and SansPoint said.)
posted by neckro23 at 10:52 AM on February 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

There's a high likelihood that the enclosure itself is what conked out. Looks like there's probably a 2.5" HDD inside (not SSD), you can pop the enclosure off and pull the drive to put in another enclosure (or likely just SATA connect it inside a desktop if you have that option).

From there, you may still have the original symptom to deal with. Provided that the unrecognized drive wasn't also due to the cheapy enclosure conking out, you may have to do a bit of drive recovery on it. If you're lucky, it's as simple as rebuilding the drive Table of Contents - the files are still present, but the TOC might be corrupted and just unable to 'find' them. Check out guides like this that delve into the specifics of data recovery for the home user. There are also various Drive Recovery software suites you can buy that package an easy-to-use frontend to the same sorts of methods, you can spring for some of that if IT doesn't have something already.

And in the absolute worst case of the drive being totally fried and irrecoverable, you've still taken on a very valuable lesson on why vital files should be backed up on multiple separate storage devices!
posted by FatherDagon at 11:04 AM on February 4, 2019

This is the drive. How do I find out if it qualifies that way?

It's 80GB, 5400rpm, 2.5" and has a mini-USB connector. The first and last characteristic already hint at an older drive, the 5400rpm definitely indicates it's a conventional hard disk; solid state disks don't generally rotate at all, let alone at 5400rpm.

Although there are some conventional hard disks that have a native USB interface, I'm sure this one isn't (age again, and mini-USB, not micro-USB).

You need to determine the actual drive inside, Bipra just made the case and the box it was sold in. Inside you may find any 80GB 2.5" model from one of the then-active drive manufacturers: Seagate, Western Digital, IBM, Fujitsu, Toshiba and Hitachi (and maybe Samsung, although I'm not sure if they ever made 2.5" drives). There's also a small board at the rear of the case, converting between USB and the actual drive interface. If you're lucky that's the bit that's broken, and you can use any generic USB-to-IDE or USB-to-SATA (as applicable) to hook up the drive and get the data copied. IDE has a double row of pins, 44 in total, a SATA interface is much narrower, having two groups of contact fingers (15 and 7) in a plastic shroud. Most generic USB drive interfaces can connect to either type.

If the above hasn't worked the drive logic board is busted (most likely the converter is too, anyway), and you need to get another drive with the exact same model number and revision levels. The revision level is likely printed on the circuit board; I have a drive here that says 'CA21332-B44X' on the logic board with the '44' in different type, black on a white square (the rest is white lettering directly on the circuit board). In this case, '44' is the revision level. Even a board at a different revision level may not work, and different board models are extremely likely to not work. For specific info on where to find these markings you need to know the drive model first.

Also get a watchmaker/jeweller's screwdriver that fits the screws holding the logic board to the drive, and an antistatic mat with a wrist strap. The mat is your work area, the wrist strap goes on your non-dominant wrist, and there's another cord on the mat that should go to the safety earth on a mains socket. Mark the busted drive and its logic board, and remove the board from the drive. Connections between the board and the actual drive enclosure ('HDA') are most likely via contact fingers, so the board will come off just like that. Then remove the board from the donor drive, mount it on the failed drive, cross your fingers, optionally toss a drop of whisky towards New Zealand, connect the FrankenDrive to the generic USB adapter (remember, the converter board from the Bipra case should be considered dead), cross your fingers again and hook up the lot to a PC.

Good luck.
posted by Stoneshop at 12:21 PM on February 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I will mention that you are far from the first person to have confidential data on a drive that a data recovery service will have done work for. They have contracts and NDAs for this sort of situation, assuming you don't have anything outright illegal on the drive where the law would override a contract.
posted by Aleyn at 12:27 PM on February 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would call IT but ask them to come to your desk and help you. Don’t let them take the drive out of your sight, and once they get it to detect, just thank them and send them away before opening the drive up or viewing the files. They may be a bit sniffy about it but any professional IT department should accommodate this request. You may receive a sanctimonious lecture from them about backups and where to keep your files.
posted by pocams at 1:14 PM on February 4, 2019

Addendum: for the generic USB-HDD adapter I mean one like this. Drives that age can be IDE or SATA, and unless you know for sure whether it's one or the other getting a specific enclosure is not advisable. I'd strongly suggest not using the drive any more after you've copied the files off it anyway.
posted by Stoneshop at 2:07 PM on February 4, 2019

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