7/14/06 Help, my external hard drive is not recognized by my PC
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) - 7/13/06 1:38 PM
I have a Dell Dimension XPS running at 750MHz, with 512MB of RAM and a 37GB SATA hard drive. I have Windows XP and use a LaCie 80GB external hard drive for storage. I have antivirus and antispyware apps and a firewall that I update regularly. The computer became very sluggish, and I decided to reformat the hard drive. I was advised to pull the USB 2.0 cable of the external hard drive from the computer before reformatting, which I did. After the reformatting process, the computer runs fine. However, it does not recognize the LaCie external hard drive, yet the button indicating power is on and lighted, and I can feel the drive spinning. I tried the external hard drive on different computers, and again it is not recognized. My questions are:
1. What went so wrong?
2. Can this be avoided in the future?
3. How can I retrieve the data on that external drive?
I hope somebody can help. Thank you.
Submitted by: San L.
Hi San, I am not really sure where to start here because I am a little confused about your setup here. It seems you made a great choice to keep Windows and your data on separate drives. Your primary hard drive is a really fast SATA Raptor drive, which is great, but I would never use an external hard drive for general everyday data storage. Many will probably disagree with what I have to say, but external hard drives should really be used only for temporary backup. I would never suggest using an external hard drive as your only copy of your data or for regular everyday use. There are several reasons for this:
1. External Hard drives are generally slower than Internal Drives.
2. Many of them come preformatted with Fat32, so you are limited to files no larger then 4gig.
3. They are more likely to fail because they are normally subjected to a greater likelihood of accidental bumping or dropping.
4. Many external drive enclosures are not properly cooled for continuous usage and thus lead to premature failure.
5. You often have no idea what brand of hard drive is actually inside the enclosure.
Dont get me wrong, external hard drives are wonderful and I use them all the time. I have three LaCie 160 gig drives myself that I use all the time for temporary backup, but I rotate them so that I have 3 consecutive backups and would never use them (not just Lacie but any external drive) as my only backup or as a primary data drive. And yes, I have had to replace a few of them due to failure.
So to address your specific questions:
What went wrong?
1. Bad Cable - Well it is probably unlikely, but I would first try another USB cable just to make sure the cable is not damaged.
2. Power Supply - Try another power supply if you have or can borrow one.
3. Controller Failed The Controller inside the Lacie has failed.
4. Drive Failure The Hard Disk inside the Lacie has failed. Drives typically have an average 5 year lifespan, some last longer and some can fail much sooner. Unfortunately, you rarely have any warning, thus the need for backups.
NOTE: If the drive is under warranty, Lacie will repair or replace it, but they will not recover any data and usually will reformat the drive during the process. So you best try to recover your data before sending it back.
Can this be avoided in the future?
NO, you can not prevent a disk failure, but the effects of a drive failure can be minimized through careful planning and implementation of a good backup strategy.
You can reduce your probability of failure by paying close attention to cooling and avoid any bumping or dropping, especially when the drive is running.
To reduce the chances of data loss, many manufactures recommend ejecting your external hard drive before unplugging the USB cable or turning off the power.
I would recommend installing a 2nd internal hard drive in your computer for data and using your external drive for backup only.
How Can I retrieve that data on that external Drive?
1. The first thing to do is try plugging the drive into another computer which you mentioned that you already tried.
2. Double check disk manager to see if the drive is being seen, sometimes you may have to reassign it a different logical drive letter. Click on START > CONTROL PANEL > ADMINISTATIVE TOOLS > COMPUTER MANAGEMENT > DISK MANAGEMENT
3. As I mentioned above, try using a different USB cable.
4. Try replacing the power supply if you have access to one.
5. Occasionally, heating or cooling the drive can help. Placing it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes will sometimes allow you to access the drive for a short period of time.
If you still are having problems, you may still be able to get your data back depending on the nature of the failure. You can try it yourself, but if the data is extremely important to you and you dont mind spending anywhere from $300-$3000, I would suggest sending the drive out to a data recovery house that specializes in this kind of problem. I have sent several customers to http://www.diskdoctors.com and had good results, but there are many others out there. If you want to try it yourself, keeping in mind that you may do more damage, I would suggest the following:
1. Download and try one of the many data recovery products available. I have used many data recovery programs and each one seems to work sometimes and not others depending on the exact nature of the problem, but I have found that getdataback seems to work the most often for me and I have had really good luck with it on all kinds of drives and memory cards. You can download it for free to see if it will work, but you will have to pay for it to actually recover any files.
If you still can not access the drive, I would suggest removing the hard drive from the Lacie USB enclosure and installing it into another external enclosure. You can find these online for about $29. Here is an example of one from CompUSA
1. You could also pull the drive and install it as a slave drive in you desktop and try that. Keep in mind that you may have to change the jumper settings on the drive for this to work.
2. If none of these ideas work, then you are pretty much stuck with losing your data or sending the drive out for data recovery.
IN THE FUTURE
As people increasingly save tons of music, photos, email and documents on their computers, backing up their data is becoming more important then ever. It also seems that as the hard drives are getting more use due to streaming video and music, they tend to be failing more often. I know you all have heard it before but the key is BACKUP BACKUPand BACKUP AGAIN and then check your backup to make sure it is good.
Submitted by: Dana H. of Wayland, Massachusetts