1. Sign-up to become a member, and most of the ads you see will disappear. It only takes 30 seconds to sign up, so join the discussion today!
    Dismiss Notice

External Hard Drive Failure - Advice needed

Discussion in 'Computers' started by RodC, Dec 16, 2009.

  1. RodC

    RodC Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2001
    Messages:
    60
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Thanks in advance for anyone willing to make the attempt to read and understand my tale of woe below. :) Most of this may be unnecessary background info, but after a string of unfortunate events, I'm hoping to possibly uncover the culprit, and recover some data, as well. Over the past month, I've had a string of bad luck with 3 external hard drives (all Maxtor, FWIW, of various capacities.) One of the drives is formatted NTFS, the other 2 HFS for MAC use. I run the MAC DRIVE software on my PC, to allow me to move the HFS formatted drives between the PC and MAC platforms, and still be able to write to them. The drives are connected to a USB hub, so all I need to do is disconnect and reconnect one cable to the hub, to whatever machine I am working on, and it will have access to whichever drive I need that is connected to the hub. I try to make a point of dismounting them from my MAC and safely removing them from my PC, properly. In haste, every now and then, I would goof, and get messages about improper removal. Right before the problems began I lost connectivity to my wireless network. Quickly came to realize that my router had been reset back to factory defaults. Odd, but no big deal. As well, the oven or the microwave settings needed to be reset, too...so I am thinking this was relative to a power surge or the like, and possible cause of problems below. So, all that said, the problems begin...

    The first to go, seemed to start exhibiting problems as if the file system was compromised, I was able to copy off much of the data, and reformat the drive with little resistance. I've been reluctant to use it too much, since I am not certain if the format corrected issue (150g Maxtor II, I think.)

    The next drive to go (500g Maxtor III,) started by giving me errors when copying music to my iPod. Initially, I thought it might have been my iPod, that is, until the drive began to make the dreaded click-of-death. As such, the drive now appears to be unrecoverable and is out of warranty.

    Soon after, I thought I would copy the contents of my ipod to yet another external hard drive, to try and recover as much of my iTunes library as my iPod contained. Unfortunately, the entire library is not on my iPod. (80g iPod versus about 150g data) Went to connect drive #3 (Maxtor One Touch IV, 750g) Now this particular model, does not have an on/off switch on the enclosure, so I plugged it in to power it up. I can here the drive begin to spin up, then there is a click, and then it sounds like it's powering down. At no point does it get far enough into it's power-up cycle to be seen by the computer. Here is my quandry....the drive is under warranty. But based on this minimal activity does it sound like it is the drive? Or perhaps the enclosure itself. If it's the enclosure, I can pop the drive out and connect it to another machine as a secondary drive, BUT at the cost of voiding my warranty. There is a chance I will get the drive out, and find that it is the drive, in which case, not only will I have lost even more data, but voided my warranty and eliminated the possibility of a replacement drive.

    So a couple of questions... given the behavior of this 3rd drive, any reason to think, that since the drive does not sound like it is powering up completely, that there may be a shot at recovering the drive at the expense of voiding the warranty by removing it from the enclosure? Part of the problem is that the drive failed with no warning, and I am desperate to remember what was on there.

    Any reason to think the problems are as a result of how I am using the drives connected to the hub, and in between machines of different platforms?

    I'm at a loss, literally. :)

    Thanks for reading,
    Rod
     
  2. Christian Behrens

    Christian Behrens Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2000
    Messages:
    714
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    Real Name:
    Christian Behrens
    Rod,

    A clicking sound like you describe comes from the drive itself, not the enclosure. If you don't care too much about the data, have it replaced under warranty. If you DO want the data, you'll have to get in in touch with a data recovery company and be prepared to spend the big bucks. The drive would have to be opened in a clean room environment and the heads exchanged. As long as you didn't experience an actual head crash, i.e. the head(s) touching the actual platter surface, the chances of getting your data recovered are actually quite good, but again, for a price.

    -Christian
     
  3. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    3,181
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Real Name:
    Brett Andrew DiMichele
    Any time a hard disk starts to spin up and clicks and then stops, it's usually either the platter motor or the read/write head motor has went south. Can you recover the data? No.. Can the data be recovered? Yes.. You need to send the drive out to a data recovery specialist who will remove the platters in a clean room and install them into a similar drive enclosure, and will then spin the drive up and get the data back. Costs are very high to do this and it's completely up to you if it's worth it.

    Here is a site that says data recovery starting at $179.00
    http://www.rapid-data-recovery.com/?gclid=CKeBs9KL3J4CFYJx5Qod4WZjJA

    I have no affiliation with the site and can not recommend them, just posting as information.
     
  4. Christian Behrens

    Christian Behrens Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2000
    Messages:
    714
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    Real Name:
    Christian Behrens
    Actually, most of the time the platters will not be touched, but instead the read/write heads replaced, as to not have to re-align the platters, which is apparently A LOT more difficult than replacing the read/write heads.

    And the recoveries for "only a few hundred $" typically refer to logical recoveries, i.e. someone deleted important data or formatted/partitioned a drive by mistake. For these cases there is DIY software available that does the same thing; an actual hardware repair as needed by the OP will NOT be this cheap.

    -Christian
     
  5. RodC

    RodC Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2001
    Messages:
    60
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Thanks guys. I knew the one drive was a total loss, barring a costly recovery effort, given the repetitive clicking. I was slightly more optimistic about the third drive, which would only click once, moments after it started to spin up, and just prior to it shutting/spinning down. Was hoping it might have been a power issue with the enclosure, and the click being the heads parking themselves safely, or something along those line....but Brett just squashed that hope! LOL! :(

    Guess I know what I should be asking Santa for Christmas...either new drives or gift certs to Ontrack et.al.

    Happy holidays!
    Rod
     
  6. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    3,181
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Real Name:
    Brett Andrew DiMichele
    Rod,

    Well if you haven't eliminated the enclosure as the culprit I certainly would do that first. You can remove the drive from the enclosure and hook it up sans enclosure to the PC, you will likely have to buy a drive slaving kit from new egg, many manufacturers they are all inexpensive and allow you to hook up to SATA, Standard ATA and Laptop ATA sizes. I use one at work in my day to day job it was an Advantec and cost $20.00

    Even if the drives are still bad, that adapter has lots of future use potential.

    Christian,

    They certainly do remove the platters when the platter motor is the culprit, and they still remove the platter to change the read/write heads, unless they use some magical method to remove the R/R Heads from the enclosure that I've not seen (because I've done platter swaps on my own).

    You can't say what that recovery service does without contacting them. Recovery of formatted data is a joke and can be done at home by a non professional with readily available recovery tools. I'd hope any business that claims it to be a recovery service, provides more than the average layperson.

    Recovery usually isn't cheap, lots of these companies charge a stater fee plus a fee per KB,MB,GB etc. But it never hurts to check!
     
  7. Christian Behrens

    Christian Behrens Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2000
    Messages:
    714
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    Real Name:
    Christian Behrens
    Brett,

    I agree that the enclosure should be tested to rule out as the culprit.

    However, a friend of mine does data recovery for a living and I have spent enough time in the lab with him to know that the clicking sound is in 99% of the cases caused by problems with the read/write heads. From what he tells me replacing the heads is also the number one procedure he performs, and to my knowledge he does not have to remove the platters to exchange the heads.

    Some great photos of the insides of a typical drive can be seen here:
    http://hddscan.com/doc/HDD_from_inside.html

    Notice how in one shot the head stack assembly is removed with the platters still in place.

    As for the pricing, they always say "starting at", but when it comes to opening up drives and replacing parts, I don't think anyone does that for under $200. Again, judging from what my friend's company charges, those prices are reserved for the "easy cases", i.e. accidental deletion/formatting/partitioning.

    It's like with oil changes on your car, it's not that hard to do it yourself, yet most people (myself included) prefer to have it done by a professional.

    -Christian
     
  8. RodC

    RodC Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2001
    Messages:
    60
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    At this point, the sting of losing the drive is fading, but the curiosity of what has been lost is burning bright...I don't think it will be long before I can't resist busting open the drive in lieu of voiding the warranty, just to satisfy my need to know what exactly was on that drive. If it is only the enclosure, and assuming I find the both drives are SATA, then I could pop the 'possible/hopefully' good drive into the other enclosure with the drive that is clearly clicking beyond repair. Of course, if this drive end up being shot, too, then I will kick myself knowing I could have gotten it replaced under warranty. This is why I don't gamble! lol

    I sense a weekend-cooped-in-the-house-due-to-snow project in my near future.
     
  9. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    3,181
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Real Name:
    Brett Andrew DiMichele
    Christian,

    I am not trying to argue so please don't take it as such. But I work in the IT field and I've done head/platter swaps before. Typically the heads do not retract past the end of the platters (for reasons obvious to anyone that knows how a hard drive works) and thus, the platters and heads come out together at the same time. Now I am speaking of modern drives that I've had apart, I can't speak for old 10" drives or larger drives, just modern 3.5's (I've taken 2.5 drives apart too, but never to swap parts and I likely couldn't as they are just too small).

    Now I am sure since your friend does it for a living, he has a way to extricate the R/R heads easily off the platters, but for me, it's never been something I could do without removing the heads and platters together, to avoid damage to the platters.

    I agree the sound is typically a hardware issue inside the drive, but I've also seen power supplies that were partially bad and would cause a hard drive to power up, but not have enough power to spin up to operational RPM, a great example is plugging a non powered external enclosure into a Laptop USB port, I've had drives spin down in that exact scenario and also generated warning messages in the OS that the drive could not supply enough power.

    Rod,

    If it's under warranty I would probably not want to void the warranty, but unless they have a special "Warranty Void" sticker across the enclosure, how are they going to know you had it open?
     
  10. Christian Behrens

    Christian Behrens Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2000
    Messages:
    714
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    Real Name:
    Christian Behrens
    Brett,

    I'm not trying to be argumentative either, but I'm afraid you make a couple of misrepresentations with regards to data recovery procedures that I don't want to let stand in order to avoid that people are getting the wrong impression.

    First of all, if the data is valuable at all, an actual drive (not the enclosure) should only be opened by a professional in a clean room (or at least clean box) environment, as any piece of dust that gets into the drive can cause data loss. I trust that when you did your platter swaps you did so under the proper conditions.

    Secondly, in order to remove the headstack assembly (HSA), the stoppers will have to be removed first, so that it actually CAN be moved outside the platters and subsequently removed. All this can be seen on the pictures on the page I linked to in my previous posting. One picture shows where the platters are still in the drive while the heads are already removed. This is from a modern 3.5" 1TB Seagate drive, btw, all described in a lot of detail on that page.

    I also confirmed all this with my friend, who says that unless there is a spindle problem (which is fairly rare), you DO NOT want to remove the platters. In the five years he's been doing this, he had to remove the platters maybe about 20 times, and he sees several drives coming in during a typical week, both 3.5" and 2.5", internal, external, RAID setups, you name it.

    With regards to opening Rod's enclosure, external drives from the drive manufacturers themselves very rarely can be opened without breaking the enclosure in some way or form (typically plastic tabs that hold the case together). A quick Google search shows indeed that Rod's Maxtor One Touch IV is no exception there, so it really does come down to be willing to experiment with the actual drive in a different enclosure (or straight inside a computer), or having it replaced under warranty.

    Your call Rod!

    -Christian
     
  11. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    3,181
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Real Name:
    Brett Andrew DiMichele
    I think we clearly covered the "Clean Room" environment in the beginning of this thread. I have nothing further to add.
     

Share This Page