How can I access the data inside a dead external hard drive?
September 11, 2019 2:53 AM   Subscribe

So I've got this Seagate 4 terabyte external hard drive. I don't use it all the time, but suddenly now when I plug it into my computer, it doesn't power up or connect. Seems like an enclosure problem, rather than a hard drive failure problem, right?. (I'm being optimistic here) What are my options for recovery? If I crack open the case of this thing, will I find a standard hard drive that I could plug into a generic enclosure? Open to suggestions.
posted by flod to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes, it'll just contain a standard hard drive. Probably a SATA drive. It should be straightforward to extract the drive from the enclosure and put it into a new enclosure, which are pretty inexpensive. An alternative is a USB dock, which is somewhat easier to use, but is only suitable for temporary use.
posted by pipeski at 4:29 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


Sometimes the enclosure can be really hard to open up. I've had 'external' drives that basically took wedging a screwdriver in seams and prying it open destructively. Hopefully your enclosure has an obvious way to open it up.

After that, you're good. New enclosure or USB dongle. It's probably SATA (and not old IDE), the only issue might be power. If it works with just a USB cable now, you're probably good. If the current enclosure takes a power plug the drive might need more power than USB can provide. My USB dongle thingy has SATA and IDE and a wall-wart to provide power for those old type disks.

Either way you can totally break it out of the old enclosure and hook it up to somehow if it's the enclosure that's broken and the drive is fine.
posted by zengargoyle at 5:02 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


If you don't already have a way to connect a bare SATA drive to USB, I'll heartily recommend Monoprice's SATA-USB3.0 adapter. It works well with large drives, downgrades smoothly to my USB 2.0-only machines, and is rock-solid. I use one full-time on my main machine, it stays up for months.

Best of luck, let's hope it's just the enclosure's power supply!
posted by sydnius at 5:19 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


N'ting that you'll find a standard hard drive inside with some version of a SATA connector.

My approach would be to make a copy of the entire drive onto other media as a first step before mounting it (or, if need be, while it is mounted read-only), just in case there's something intermittently bad in the drive itself. How you do that will depend on your OS and your willingness to temporarily boot other OSes. (If Mac or a usb-key live Linux is an option, and you can afford a larger new drive, "dd" is your friend. I've no idea how to do that in Windows, but it must be possible.)
posted by eotvos at 7:14 AM on September 11


Sometimes the enclosure can be really hard to open up. I've had 'external' drives that basically took wedging a screwdriver in seams and prying it open destructively. Hopefully your enclosure has an obvious way to open it up.

Yeah, be prepared to snap some plastic clips. I shucked some WD EasyStore drives a couple weeks ago -- clips everywhere.

One thing to be aware of is the 3.3V problem. I don't think most external drive adapters would have this issue but it's something to know about if it's still not working after you've removed the drive.

There are any number of external enclosures out there, but if you want a specific recommendation I have this one and it works quite well.

now when I plug it into my computer, it doesn't power up or connect

I assume this is one of those drives that uses the single USB 3 cable instead of separate power and USB? If you have access to another cable that's also worth looking into. Maybe it just isn't getting power.
posted by neckro23 at 8:14 AM on September 11


I did this recently, fortunately, it was just the enclosure's power supply that went bad. If youre unlucky, it could be the logic board on the drive itself, which will take a bit more elbow grease to remove and replace it with the _exact_ same board. (and hope it wasn't a major internal mechanical failure inside the HD, you can sorta tell if the discs are spinning when you have it on, so that would be at least an indicator things are at least spinning)
posted by edman at 2:05 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


« Older What to see and do in Durham, UK?   |   Old Houses Guides for New Owners? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments