Please help! External hard drive problems.

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Aquarium Dreams, May 22, 2007.

  1. Aquarium Dreams

    Aquarium Dreams TPF Noob!

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    I've spent hours searching google and reading other forums trying to find an answer to this, but I can't find a problem specifically like this. So here it is:

    I have a 250gb external hard drive, which I had been using for about a month in my usb 1.0. It was slow, but it worked. Finally I managed to transfer all of my data onto it (about 40gb), and that night, my computer stopped recognizing it. I tried it in several other computers, which had usb 2.0, but they wouldn't recognize it either.

    While it's plugged in, I can't run any programs that might access the hard drive: I can't open photoshop, my computer, device manager, or even firefox or explorer. However, I can unplug it, open device manager, plug it back in, and it will show up. Device manager says it is working properly. Also, when I unplug it, it shows up briefly in my computer.

    I plugged it into a mac, and everything is there! I was so happy, could access jpegs, tiffs, etc, and preview them. I started to back everything up on a dvd. When about half the dvd was full, it stopped reading the data. Everything was still there and could be previewed, but the mac said, it "could not be read or written." I unplugged it, plugged it back in, no dice. I rebooted the mac, still no dice. Out of curiousity, I tried copying files onto disc that had already copied successfully, and now they wouldn't copy either. I bought a new cable for the hard drive, still nothing.

    I'm going to start chewing off my fingers! This is making me crazy! Does anyone have any ideas for other things I might try or better yet, can anyone tell by this description what the problem is and how I can solve it? Thank you so much!
     
  2. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I know my external HDD has a really cheap and nasty USB interface in it. It works pretty much when it wants to. The drive is fine, my computers are fine. But sometimes I plug it in and get nothing, sometimes i get everything, and sometimes it says this device has malfunctioned, or you have plugged a USB1.0 device in a USB2 port.

    I deal with these issues because it is out of warrenty. I suggest if you can take it back.
     
  3. Aquarium Dreams

    Aquarium Dreams TPF Noob!

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    It didn't come with a warranty and that particular model isn't even for sale anymore (should I be surprised?). So should I just keep plugging and unplugging it until the information pops up again?
     
  4. RacePhoto

    RacePhoto TPF Noob!

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    Are you just unplugging it or are you first telling the computer to dismount the device and then unplugging it. Some systems can go completely wacky if you just plug and unplug a device, without first clicking the icon to remove it. Sometimes they will just refuse to load the device drivers and the device will not work, because it was dismounted improperly.

    Open the drive case (not the drive, just the holder) check all the connections inside, like the cable that connects the drive to the USB interface. Cables go bad, or get loose. Unplug the cable and reconnect it.

    Easy way to see if it's the holder and something inside, and not the hard drive is go buy an empty external drive case. You can find them cheap. Put your drive into it. If it works fine, it's the case and interface. If it's still dead, it's most likely the drive.

    A USB 1 device should work on a USB 2 port just fine. I don't think it will make it any faster because the limiting factor is the slowest device in the chain.

    Last resort you can always connect the drive to a computer internally and get your data back. Run something like Spinright or Norton NDD and have it check the disk for errors. If there are bad sectors in the FAT sometimes you won't be able to read anything on the drive, and it will behave like you mentoned. However it's all still there.

    What you didn't say was, what's the operating system on the computer? Laptop or desktop? What kind of computer? Some older computers BIOS and Windows98SE can not support large drives.

    What brand of external? Was it bought as a case and the drive added, or bought as a unit?
     
  5. Aquarium Dreams

    Aquarium Dreams TPF Noob!

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    Hi Racephoto, thanks for responding. I've been unplugging it without doing anything else. I thought it was okay, because as soon as I plug it in, the "safely remove hardware" icon pops up on the toolbar. Now the hd doesn't even show up in my computer, so I wouldn't know how to go about telling my computer to dismount it.

    I opened the case and everything is connected. I think I'm going to try buying a new case like you mentioned, but I live in the middle of nowhere, so I can't just go to the store and buy one real quick to see if it works. I can order one, but in the meantime, I think I'm going to try installing it into my computer internally. You said it was a last resort, so is there more involved that I should know about? I have no problem opening up the computer, but I guess I thought it would be as easy as taking it out of the case, sliding it into one of the empty hd slots inside the computer, plugging it in, and firing it up. Is there more that I should know to do it right? (I really don't know what I'm doing, but I'm good at following directions:lol:)

    I've tried the hard drive with four computers. Three are desktop Dells running Windows XP. The two primary are a Dimension 4400 (hilarious, I know) and a Dimension DV051. (The Dells were not my choice.. it's a long story that ends with "free computer.") I've also tried it in a Mac laptop, which allowed me to access all the files. I managed to copy about 2g before the mac started giving me the "could not read or write" data message. After that, I could still view all the files, but couldn't copy them to disc or to desktop, including the 2g of files that had copied without any problem at first.

    The external drive is a Western Digital and the case is a Masscool:

    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/searchtools/item-detailsInactive.asp?Sku=THD-2500JB

    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?Sku=S457-1102

    Also, the hard drive is a usb 2. One of the Dells had a usb 1, but I've recently installed the usb 2 into the 4400, so all the computers now have usb 2, but it hasn't made any difference. I've been considering going to SATA, because I've heard that other people's computers would magically recognize their hds again after installing the SATA card. However, I don't know if I can convert this particular hard drive to SATA, or if either of the Dells will be able to handle it.

    Thanks for all the help on this.
     
  6. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Apple MACs have the ability to copy an image of a hard drive at the block level... it bypasses the O/S from interpreting the data into filesystems and files. This utility is "Applications -> Utilities -> Diskutility". Plug the drive in, run DiskUtility, select the USB drive, and create a new image. This will create a *.dmg file at the location you specified. After the image is created (assuming it is successful and it takes a while), double click the generated *.dmg file. You will see the *.dmg file "mounted" like it is another hard drive. See if you can retrieve your files from there.

    Another thing you can try....

    While connected to windows boxes, open up the cmd.exe (command windows) and try to run chkdsk against the drive letter assigned to USB device. chkdsk might be able to fix some of the corruption that has occured.

    Just couple things that came to mind.
     
  7. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I doubt the not unmounting could have caused this problem. It is mainly designed for older legacy devices. Part of the USB mass storage protocol was that when something is plugged in all delayed caching is disabled. This means that all data is written straight away and as soon as it's finished all handles to the device are closed. This applies even for the modern ipods which display a big warning not to unplug them. So far I haven't managed to break them despite how much I try :).

    Did you ever get a warning saying "Delayed Write Failure" in windows? This can happen if you suddenly loose connection with the device it is writing to (like unplugging the drive WHILE copying files). It can create a whole world of issues for what was plugged in.

    I second the notion to get a new caddy for it. They are very cheap.
     
  8. _SnapShot_

    _SnapShot_ TPF Noob!

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    One more vote for the new caddy. You are going to need it anyway.

    If you try to put the drive in one of your computers, don't forget to make sure the jumper is on Slave, if it has jumpers.

    CHKDSK may work and fix everything.

    The XP computer is your best bet for recognizing the drive without drivers and potential install problems.
     
  9. Peniole

    Peniole TPF Noob!

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    Sounds like the cache on the HDD may have bought it from unplugging without doing the "safely remove hardware" step. There is an option that turns off disk caching if you always just unplug (it will slow things down). In any case sounds like a new external is in order. I have a portable 80GB Western Digital HDD and haven't had any issues (knock on wood).

    Also I wouldn't depend on it completely for backup, if something is just absolutely irreplacable, then solid state storage is your friend CD or DVD.
     
  10. Peniole

    Peniole TPF Noob!

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    Actually the default is that disk caching is active for USB mass storage devices, you'd have to go through the device manager to turn it off. That applies to XP or Vista. Dunno about ipods, hate them, don't have one.
     
  11. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    o_O The only computer which ever had the option to leave caching enabled has windows 98se on it. It would be interesting to find out why our experience differs.
     
  12. John_05

    John_05 TPF Noob!

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    what file system is it formatted in? FAT32 or NTFS?

    its 4:40 am, so my memory isnt wanting to work, but theres size limitations with hard drives when theyre formatted in FAT32. i had a similiar problem a couple of years ago when i didnt format a FAT drive into NTFS.

    unfortunately, i had to have a friend fix it and i have no idea what he did to get it to work, and since hes gone now, i cant ask him.

    what i would do, is go to the computer cops forum and post there. those guys there know their stuff, and if anyone can help you, its them. just be prepared to wait a little while for a reply. they get very busy there, but its worth the wait.

    good luck!
     

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