Save my data before the disk asplode
June 3, 2008 1:21 PM   Subscribe

My external hard-drive's on the fritz. What can I do to make sure I get all my data off it before it goes?

I've got a 250GB hard drive which I put in an enclosure (cheap CompUSA one). It's got a red light and a green light. Recently, the red light will come on after a little bit and stay on (so not the blinking "transferring data" signal).

After the light comes on, the USB connection freaks out - if it's connected, it freezes, if it's not connected and I plug it in, it refuses to connect. (Disk Utility will show the drive, but not the partition. The partition refuses to mount, and the icon doesn't show up on the desktop).

What steps should I take to make sure I don't lose everything (it's my main music'n'movies drive...)?

I'm assuming that at some point it will be beneficial to pop the drive out and test in another enclosure, but assuming that doesn't work (worst case scenario and all), what should I do? i.e., the disk itself is suffering issues (plus, it's probably very good to have a backup anyway...).

I'm on OSX Tiger, if it helps, and have access to another 40GB or so (another external drive). The drive is currently sat disconnected on my shelf, not even powered.
posted by djgh to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
 
From the symptoms you list, sounds like you're don't need advice on a quick data transfer but rather on data recovery.

Partition refusing to mount and drive icon not appearing is not good news.

First off , try a Linux Live CD to see if that sees the drive. If not you might want to try the
"freezer trick" (google it) - its can be quite sucessful for a situation like yours.

Forget about the enclosure - thats rarely the problem.
posted by jacobean at 2:23 PM on June 3, 2008


Start by mentally preparing yourself for the loss of all that data. Did you have backups?

You said the red light would come on 'after a little bit'. Does the drive operate correctly prior to that? Can you copy off your files a little bit at a time?
posted by jockc at 5:36 PM on June 3, 2008


I would try connecting it to another computer, to see if it exhibits the same symptoms there. USB ports on PCs can flake out, or not provide enough power (although you presumably have external power for this drive).

Assuming that it is a problem with the drive, and assuming you have more stuff than'll fit on the unused 40 GB drive, you should go get another drive ASAP in the hope that you can get the first drive working temporarily. The "freezer trick" mentioned by jacobean worked for me too before. Feel free to go big - you can get nice already-enclosed 1 TB drives for less than $200!

In the future, I'd recommend that you look into some sort of duplicate storage functionality, like a RAID array or something else that'll rely on multiple drives. For less than $100, you can get something like an NSLU2, which is a teeny tiny Linux server that supports two USB drives, and can automatically back up drive 1 to drive 2.
posted by me & my monkey at 5:37 PM on June 3, 2008


I second the suggestion to get another hard drive & copy what you can before it fails. Specifcally, here are instructions for using ddrescue on Tiger. This will quickly log multiple attempts.better than copying individual files over, I think. Rebooting the drive seems like a given.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:19 AM on June 4, 2008


Thanks for the advice. I can't transfer files a few at a time on my regular system, so I'll try the other suggestions.
posted by djgh at 3:39 PM on June 6, 2008


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