Corrupted external hard drive - is there hope?
June 6, 2006 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me, in words of one syllable, get my new external hard drive working again or at least rescue my music and pictures?

About three weeks ago, I got this SimpleTech 250 gig external hard drive and proceeded to put all my music and image files on it. It started having problems right off the bat: the whole computer would freeze when I was playing music with Winamp and it emitted an unholy screech from the speakers, but then I deinstalled & reinstalled Winamp and that seemed to solve the problem. Until a couple of days ago, when suddenly, every time I tried to access it, it told me that D: was not accessible, files were corrupted. I just ran chkdsk f/ on it and that told me "corrupt master file table, chkdsk aborted." Now, the error message on D: is "The wrong diskette is in the drive" which seems odd to me, since there's no way to put a disk in the drive, but whatever.

I would really like to get my data back, particularly the music, but nothing on the drive is worth *that* much money to me - if I even had extra money right now, which I don't. Is there any way to a) recover my music and b) save the drive? I really need the storage space. It has a manufacturer's warranty; should I just box it up and send it back? I am not the most tech savvy person in the world so please, please phrase your help in slow and simple terms. Thanks!
posted by mygothlaundry to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Is there room on your main drive to store the music during a recovery? If so, you might be able to try using one of the linux versions that runs right off the cd (knoppix is a good one). Basically, you'll boot the computer off that cd straight into linux. Then, you have a fighting shot of being able to see the attached drive. Not a guarantee, but a shot... (And if you decide to try this route, I'm sure we can give you more drawn-out steps to take.)

Unless someone has a better idea.
posted by inigo2 at 11:09 AM on June 6, 2006

It sounds like the filesystem is corrupt. A filesystem 'type' (such as NTFS, which is what most Windows OSes use) tells the drive how to store data, and present it to a user. Errors such as "corrupt master file table" would lean me in that direction.

I'd go with inigo2's suggestion. This site gives a nice walkthrough with knoppix. Also, so does this site. The only problem I see is this: most linux distros can't mount a NTFS (again, the Windows XP filesystem) hard drive.

However, this is an easy solution to try. Download the ISO, burn it to a CD, and reboot. If it automatically sees both of your harddrives, you're in the clear. Copy the data over to your main drive, and send the bad one back to the manufacturer.
posted by triolus at 11:56 AM on June 6, 2006

The only problem with this solution (besides it's inherent scariness) is that I don't have a working CD burner. I forgot to mention earlier that the computer is a generic model built by a friend of mine a couple years ago, running XP.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:36 PM on June 6, 2006

You can boot Knoppix off a USB stick, too.

But, truly, the easiest way would be: Call a geek friend. Promise a nice dinner. Let him/her bring Knoppix over and try to get your data.
posted by brool at 3:48 PM on June 6, 2006

No point using Knoppix when you're friendly neighborhood MeFi geeks have better tools at our disposal. Email me.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:07 PM on June 6, 2006

FWIW, I had one of those drives too, on a Mac, and it did the same thing, several times. Get rid of it as soon as you can. Complete POS. I was using it strictly as a back up to another external (an EZ-Quest, which has worked fine), so I didn't need the data and made no big effort to salvage it. On a slightly happier note, I bought mine at Costco, returned it over a year later and got all my money back, no hassle at all.
posted by Bron at 5:38 PM on June 6, 2006

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