External hard drive problem with XP
August 19, 2008 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Can I get my WD external hard drive back to the way it was?

Last year, I bought a WD5000C032 My Book Essential 500GB external hard drive. It's plug and play, so I plugged it in, formatted it, Windows assigned it as drive I and all was good. I got XP Service Pack 3 a few weeks ago and all seemed well. Also, XP is set up to automatically update, I use CCleaner about 2x a week, and I've got AVG 7.5 as my virus detector.

Last Friday, while on my computer, I got the data write error message. I'd never seen that before. There was only one folder in it when I checked the drive. I shut down, unplugged everything and rebooted. Then I replugged. Nothing. In the device manager, it's detected as a device, but disk management doesn't detect it as a drive. GetDataBack listed the device as a 2TB drive, which it isn't. Upon starting the data retrieval procedure, it gave me an "I/O error 23," showed 10 bad sectors and then stopped responding.

I've looked up on the the Windows XP support site and on various tech forums for a solution, but none seem to work. I also downloaded the WD drive manager from the support page, ran it and nada. The drive manager doesn't even see the drive.

Am I screwed? I will have a straight-up fit if I lose the media on this drive.
posted by droplet to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a hardware failure, which means either professional recovery ($$$ + time) or Spinrite ($ + time), depending on the type of damage. If you hear any sort of scraping or grinding noise when the drive is on, your only hope is a pro-place with a clean room.

Running a recovery tool against a drive with a configuration you know isn't correct may have damaged the data further. Never run a tool that doesn't know what it's trying to fix.

For best spinrite results, you need to crack open the USB case, and attach the HD directly to a mobo whose BIOS reports back the correct drive configuration (size, numer of platters/heads/etc), and then let it run. For a 500gb drive, expect it to take a long long time.
posted by nomisxid at 11:05 AM on August 19, 2008

The problem is either with the drive or with the enclosure. If it's with the drive there is a whole host of things you can do, none of them that successful to recover the data. If it's with the enclosure the only option is to remove the drive and install it in either another enclosure (risky) or in your desktop pc. It could also be a combination of the two.

If I were going to work with this drive on my tech bench I would remove it from the enclosure, and plug it directly into a desktop machine. From there I would try and recover the data.

My gut sense based on the "write error" and the loss of the drive from disk management is that the file system has become corrupt.

You can try recovering your data, but in my experience data recovery almost never works in cases like this. If you data is invaluable you can try one of the for-pay data recovery services out there...

Remember, storing your files in one place, whether on your computer, or on an external drive is NEVER a true "backup" solution. If you had invaluable files on this external drive you should have mirrored it to a second place. Sorry.
posted by wfrgms at 11:11 AM on August 19, 2008

I recently had a similar problem with a WD drive which was fixed easly with this free Testdisk software. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully.
posted by merocet at 11:17 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Probably an obvious question, but are you using the original USB cable that came with the drive? I know I had problems with my WD Passport after using a different mini-USB cable, they draw a lot of power so sometimes require more specialised leads.

Good luck anyway.
posted by hnnrs at 11:24 AM on August 19, 2008

Response by poster: Hello.

I'm using the original USB cable. Testdisk also thought the drive was 2TB, so I aborted the process. I've sent an detailed email to WD Support and I'll find out what they have to say for themselves. I'll wait for their response before I crack open the enclosure. As it is, there's 2 SATA drives and 3 IDE drives in the computer, so I want to make sure I've exhausted all possibilities before I do anything.

Thanks so much for your answers thus far.
posted by droplet at 12:18 PM on August 19, 2008

You probably don't need to hear this now, but it's important to remember that external hard disks will generally fail as often as internal hard disks. By that, I mean that they have to be backed up just as often.

I personally buy externals in pairs and have one set to automatically mirror to the other each night. Then if one fails, I've got the backup. And no, this doesn't replace actual periodic archival backups.
posted by c0nsumer at 2:21 PM on August 19, 2008

Response by poster: If I pop the enclosure and remove the drive, do I have a chance at salvaging anything if I hook up the drive directly to the mobo?

It's not so much that Windows doesn't see it as a drive that scares me as much as somehow it's being seen on data retrieval software as a 2TB drive when it isn't. I'm hoping it's some connection problem between the drive and the USB interface that can be bypassed when I remove the drive form the enclosure.
posted by droplet at 8:18 AM on August 21, 2008

If I pop the enclosure and remove the drive, do I have a chance at salvaging anything if I hook up the drive directly to the mobo?

You won't know until you try.

The benefit of taking the drive out of the enclosure and installing it directly on the motherboard is that you eliminate USB, cable, and enclosure problems from your trouble-shooting checklist.
posted by wfrgms at 10:16 AM on August 24, 2008

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