Help me revive a Western Digital hard drive
March 30, 2007 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Is there any way to get my western digital external hard drive to properly display the disappeared files & folders on it so that I can back them up?

I've been backing up stuff to a Western Digital My book essential edition 500 GB drive for a few months now. It was working fine (under os 10.3.9), until I made the mistake of installing os 10.4 on my mac. Now the drive icon still appeared on the desktop, but when I double-clicked it to open it, the computer stopped responding. I then connected the drive to my xp laptop and ran the western digital diagnostic tool, which told me that the drive was functioning properly. After I ran that diagnostic, I could see what was on the drive (without freezing), but now the only thing present was a folder called "Folder.502" that was empty. Nonetheless, both the pc and the mac reported that about 200 GB was in use on the drive. I am moderately hopeful that the drive can be resurrected, but unsure as to how to resurrect it. I've been looking at data recovery services, and they cost in the thousands of dollars. Is there any way to get this drive to properly display the files & folders on it so that I can back them up?
Extra info: mac is a 5 yr old g4 867 Mhz, drive is connected by USB 1.0
posted by pantufla to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Have you tried using your copy of Disk Utility? If that fails, perhaps you can get a copy of DiskWarrior to rebuild the directory structure on your external drive.
posted by jaimev at 11:15 AM on March 30, 2007

Mount the drive and then check the Trash. If you accidentally sent everything to the Trash at some point, the files won't show up on the disk but they'll still take up space.

You can also use Terminal to give you a more wide-ranging list of files on the drive (including hidden files).

cd /Volumes/"your disk name"
ls -laR

the 'ls' command will show you a detailed list of all files in all subdirectories on the drive.
posted by danblaker at 12:32 PM on March 30, 2007

Hmm, I just realized I misread yr question. I second the Disk Utility advice. Then check the Trash.
posted by danblaker at 12:42 PM on March 30, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the info! Well, I tried booting up from the os x install dvd and running disk utility, but if I have the problem drive connected, the cursor spins indefinitely and doesn't list any drives. However, if I turn off the problem drive, then all the drives appear, including the one I turned off. I tried turning it back on again in hopes of running the disk utility on it, but when I select its icon in disk utility, there are no active options to do anything. I also booted up from the disk warrior cd, but the problem drive doesn't appear in the drive list. I tried danblaker's suggestion about using terminal, but the problem disk did not show up under volumes. This sucks as I spent the last 3 months filling the drive up with 200 GB of music, movies, books, etc. I'd be grateful for any further suggestions on how to revive this drive. From my amateur standpoint, it seems like the drive's list of files somehow got corrupted, but that the files are still there. I'd love to get access to them again. : (
posted by pantufla at 2:36 PM on March 30, 2007

It's interesting that Disk Utility hangs up when the drive is connected. Try booting up with Disk Utility, with the external drive powered off but connected to the Mac and then power it on, and see if it then shows up under Disk Utility.

Try ruling out that it's not the USB port on your Mac that's not flaked out - try connecting the external drive to another USB port and see if it's recognized by Disk Utility or Disk Warrior.

Also, would it be possible to take out the IDE drive from the Mybook enclosure and put iit into the G4 and see if it's recognized that way? I'm not familiar with the G4 to know if it actually has support for a 2nd IDE drive.
posted by jaimev at 4:38 PM on March 30, 2007

Are you running 10.4.0? then I would probably upgrade to 10.4.9 first as there were some enhancements to the Disk Utility somewhere along the updates. And if you are not repairing the startup disk, there is no need to start from an older (and inferior) disk utility on the CD.
posted by KimG at 3:09 PM on March 31, 2007

To echo jaimev, you'll have better luck getting the drive back if you take USB out of the equation. USB 1.0 is pretty awful for things like external hard drives. If you can crack the external drive enclosure, installing the new drive is as easy as following Apple's instructions.

There's a chance that installing the drive internally will cause problems on startup. In that case, you'll want to boot into Single User Mode and run fsck from the command line.
posted by danblaker at 10:37 AM on April 2, 2007

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