My external hard drive is suddenly unreadable
January 5, 2007 10:42 AM   Subscribe

My Lacie Big D2 500gb external hard drive is no longer seen on my powerbook or pc – how would I retrieve the data off it without handing it to a data recovery company?

I have a Lacie Big D2 500gb external hard drive. For 18 months I have used it with my mac g4 powerbook and it has been fine. I recently plugged it into a pc to see if it could be used to transfer data cross platform. The pc wouldn’t recognise it, and when I plugged it back into the mac that wouldn’t recognise it either. I am guessing a file on it has become corrupted, causing this problem.
I am not sure whether I formatted it for mac only or whether it arrived pre-formatted as did my Porsche lacie 250gb external drive (which does work on both mac and pc, hence the experiment with the bigger lacie drive).

I need to retrieve the data off the 500gb drive – how do I go about this?
posted by Johnny Showbiz to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The absolute first thing I would do is reboot your Mac and reset the PRAM (hold down Command, Option, P, and R when you boot up until it beeps twice).

Does your Disk Utility just not see it at all?

Are you connecting to it via USB? If so, can you see it when you plug it in via USB Prober?
posted by bshort at 10:50 AM on January 5, 2007

The next step is to take apart the drive and swap the hard drive itself apart from the controller circuit to somwhere else, such as inside a PC or, ideally, into another identical Lacie enclosure. If that doesn't work you can decide if you are ready to go 4 figures to get the data back from a recovery outfit.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:00 AM on January 5, 2007

I have one of these drives, and have experienced similar problems with it. This seems to happen when the drive's USB firmware driver gets confused and needs to be reset.

Try these steps from La Cie's web site:

1. Disconnect all cables connected to the drive.
2. Connect the power cable to the drive.
3. Connect the USB-cable. First to the drive. Then to the computer.

If the drive is detected correctly the problem was probably caused by improper shutdown or un-mount (unplugging the cable without dismounting first, etc.). When this has happened, the USB-interface needs to reset itself properly. After this, reconnection should be no problem.


BTW, the drive can be used cross platform as you had hoped, but not without some hoop-jumping. Win XP won't recognize HFS+/extended formatted drives, and (IIRC) Windows won't format FAT32 larger than 32GB, and Mac OS X will read NTFS disks but won't write to them. There are several third party solutiosn to get around these various limitations, either for formatting large FAT32 volumes, or allowing Mac OS X to write to NTSF volumes, so you might want to explore one of these if you want to use the disk cross-platform.
posted by mosk at 11:04 AM on January 5, 2007

Does it show up at all in Disk Utility or does it just not show up in the Finder?
posted by nathan_teske at 11:05 AM on January 5, 2007

If the drive is not making unusual noises then the first thing to do is run Disk Utility's "repair disk" function, as has been suggested. That may or may not find errors and also may or may not fix them. If Disk Utility doesn't make the drive mount then the next step is to run Disk Warrior, which you'll have to buy or find a friend with a copy.

If the drive is making unusual noises then you can still try the same steps provided there is 0% chance you might consider sending the drive to the pros. If the drive is making bad grinding noises then it is destroying data and making the recovery harder (more expensive) for the pros. If it makes bad noises and you are considering paying someone for recovery then do not turn the drive on.

Another possibility is that the USB or firewire cable you're using is bad. Try a different one. Also try another power supply if you can.
posted by J-Garr at 1:25 PM on January 5, 2007

I second Disk Warrior...I've repaired and/or recovered most if not all the data from drives I was sure were totally unreadable on any number of occasions.
posted by nevercalm at 1:30 PM on January 5, 2007

Not to be pedantic, but as I posted above, I own this same drive and have experienced this same behavior several times. In each instance, the simple procedure LaCie lays out for resetting the USB interface, as quoted above, has worked perfectly, after which the drive mounts and behaves normally. The problem lies within the drive enclosure's USB interface, and not with the drive itself, so attempting to repair the drive via a utility will be fruitless, because the OS will not be able to see or mount the drive. Been there, tried that, which was what lead me to eventually discover the above procedure on LaCie's site.
posted by mosk at 2:46 PM on January 5, 2007

Did you unmount it by accessing the "safely remove hardware" tool in the system tray before you unplugged it. This is what could be causing the problem with the drive.

Also, mosk is correct that windows won't format fat32 volumes over 32GB. They'll read and write to them just fine, but they refuse to create them (this was to push people to NTFS). So if you want it to be cross platform, format it fat32 on your Mac or with a linux boot disk.
posted by crypticgeek at 4:48 PM on January 5, 2007

Also, mosk is correct that windows won't format fat32 volumes over 32GB. They'll read and write to them just fine, but they refuse to create them

This is true. However, with third-party utilities (such as Partition Magic), you can do what you want (up to 2TB).

posted by Gerard Sorme at 9:31 PM on January 5, 2007

Ok, so I reset the PRAM, and reconnected the hard drive as suggested, but still nothing. I tried this several times and nothing. Incidentally, I have tried the disconnect and reconnect routine on previous occasions when it wouldn't boot up and it worked fine, but it doesn't matter how many times you try this now, it just doesn't come up. And disk utility can't see it either.

It doesn't show up in disk utility or the finder.

I am at a loss as to what to do.
posted by Johnny Showbiz at 8:39 AM on January 6, 2007

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