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External USB HDD freezing Windows Explorer when trying to access it.

Posted on 2010-01-12
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Last Modified: 2013-11-14
I have a 250Gb Seagate HD connected to my PC via an USB external enclosure.
This enclosure is also powered through the mains and has an ON/OFF switch. It also has a blue light that shows when the enclosure is on, and a red light that goes on when the HD is being accessed from the computer.

The problem is that this HD has now stopped working. I was playing via iTunes some music tracks (just copied onto this external HD, received from a friend - maybe containing virus?)  that were stored onto the hard disk, when the track I was playing started jumping like the old vinyls. My PC (which runs Windows XP) had also frozen and it did not get unstuck until I switched off the hard disk enclosure.
Since then, every time I turn on the external HD (and the USB cable is plugged into my PC) the red light of the enclosure goes on constant (and you can hear the buzzing noise of the HD being accessed), but the drive does not appear on My Computer. Every time my computer freezes and when I turn the HD back off in can see in the Folders List of My Computer the icon of a disk drive appearing briefly (for 1 second max) marked with a red question mark. As soon as I turn the power off on the HD enclosure, my PC revives.

If I turn the enclosure on without being plugged into the PC, only the blue light goes on (not the red light) and no intermittent buzzing noise of a functioning HD can be heard.

I have tried the following:
-using a different PC (still with XP) to access it. Same result
-using a different USB enclosure. Same result
-using different USB cables to connect the enclosure to my PC. Same result
-connecting it through firewire instead of USB. No change whatsoever.
-disabling the autorun function. The only difference is that the computer does not freeze straight away, but maybe half a minute later when I try to somehow access it via My Computer.

It could be that the HD has just decided to give up on me, but I have suspicions on that music track I was playing of being a virus. What can I do to restore my HD to healthy state and recover all my precious files?

Many thanks
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Question by:the3amigos
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24 Comments
 

Expert Comment

by:RedFernCreative
ID: 26298751
Sounds like the HDD has gone bad. Try throwing the disk in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, then try it again. I know it sounds crazy, but the same thing happened to me and I was able to recover some of my data this way.
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Author Comment

by:the3amigos
ID: 26298808
OK, I'll give it a go
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Author Comment

by:the3amigos
ID: 26299072
I have now tried after 15 minutes in the freezer. It made no difference, as soon as I turn it on, it looks like it's being accessed by my PC, but the drive never actually appears within My Computer.
RedFernCreative, given the symptoms I've described, are you ruling out the virus as a possible cause?
Is there any way to recover files from it even if you can't actually see the drive within Windows Explorer? Is there any other way to access it?
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Expert Comment

by:RedFernCreative
ID: 26299119
when you plug it in can you hear the drive spin? does it make any clicking noises?
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LVL 49

Expert Comment

by:dbrunton
ID: 26299141
It could be the enclosure that has gone.

Remove it from the enclosure and directly attach it a PC as a slave disk.

Boot the PC and see if you can then access it.  Check the BIOS as it is booting and see if the BIOS recognizes it.
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Author Comment

by:the3amigos
ID: 26301224
RedFernCreative: yes, I can hear the drive spin, but it does not make any clicking noise.

dbrunton: I did also try with a different enclosure with identical results, and therefore I would rule that out. However I don't see why not try attaching it as a slave disk anyway, I've got nothing to lose I suppose.
I'm not sure how to do that and how to access it from the BIOS, but I'll give it a go this evening when back from work (in about 10 hours) and then I'll let you know.

Thank you.
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LVL 3

Expert Comment

by:Crolack
ID: 26301348
Well, just need to see if CMOS sees it. So connect it as a slave, then hit "DEL, or F1, or F2 or F12" when you turn on your computer to get into CMOS. The 'General Settings" section should list the hard drives that it sees.

Getting into CMOS is manufacturer specific, I listed all the common keys.

But yes, sounds like the drive took a dump and the 'lockup' is because windows is attempting to read from it but can't.
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 26301496
If he sees the drive in Explorer that is freezed when accessing it then it is detected by CMOS.
Does Windows Disk Management see the drive? Also, can you afford formatting it loosing data from it?
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LVL 49

Assisted Solution

by:dbrunton
dbrunton earned 400 total points
ID: 26301501
Yep, sounds like dead hard drive.

If not seen in BIOS look at this site http://www.deadharddrive.com/

Note what he did to recover his drive.  If yours is an electrical problem you could go the same way.  No guarantee that it would work.
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LVL 92

Assisted Solution

by:nobus
nobus earned 800 total points
ID: 26302133
yes - best connect the disk directly to an ide or sata connector; that way you have no interface layers in between.
to set it as slave (only for IDE drives, you must change the jumper  : http://www.seagate.com/ww/v/index.jsp?locale=en-US&name=ata_jumper_settings&vgnextoid=cbc974850ce0e010VgnVCM100000dd04090aRCRD

then verify if you see it in the bios -  if not, no software can help you.
you have to use a data recovery Cy like this : http://www.gillware.com/

if it is seen, try HDD regennerator free trial: http://www.grc.com/spinrite.htm      
and check if it repairs the 1st sector - then buy it
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Author Comment

by:the3amigos
ID: 26330854
Thanks all for your suggestions, I've had a chance to try them only this morning.
I connected the HD directly as a slave (which on my Seagate appears to be no jumper at all), went into the BIOS and the PC correctly recognises it as a slave.

Then tried to boot the PC and Windows XP did not start, it remained stuck on the Windows XP initial loading screen for several minutes until I decided to turn it off. Therefore at this stage my questions are:

1.How I can run a recovery software on the drive if it stops me from starting the computer?
2.What software do you experienced folks suggest? I've had a look at SpinRite that nobus had suggested and I'm happy to give it a go, but I thought I'll ask for everyone's opinion on that first.

Thanks
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 26330973
Do you know the model of this HDD? Is it Seagate or Western Digital? Or maybe Maxtor?
Anyway find the mode and vendor then go to vendors web site and get the HDD test tools made by vendor. They are boot CD tools so you can run them without booting to Windows.
If the test passes correctly then you need to adjust the OS to boot from this hardware. The fact that is stuck at logo screen indicates that Windows has boot problems:
1)Boot record
2)Boot.ini
3)Drive letter of system partition wrong
4)system partition is not active
5)MBR issues
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Author Comment

by:the3amigos
ID: 26331029
noxcho, I'm not sure I understand your answer.

As I said it's a Seagate, but I have the impression you misread my post.
The HDD that I'm trying to recover was used as external storage and it's now connected as a slave on a PC which would function properly if it hadn't this slave HDD attached to it. Does this not mean that the OS is healthy and is only the slaved HDD that stops it from booting?
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LVL 47

Accepted Solution

by:
noxcho earned 800 total points
ID: 26331081
Hmm, looks like I misread it. Then, are you sure that your OS is trying to boot from correct drive?
Also, was there OS on this slaved drive previously?
Try to boot from this CD and see via File Transfer Wizard if your data is readable: http://www.paragon-software.com/home/rk-express/
Download the file and execute it. the CD will be burnt automatically. When done boot the PC from it with slave connected and get to File Transfer Wizard.
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 26331269
if you need the data, i suggest replacing the logic board of the disk with one of the same model and Firmware version
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Author Comment

by:the3amigos
ID: 26332907
for noxcho:

1. I'm pretty sure the OS was trying to boot from the correct drive because from the BIOS I could read:
    Primary IDE Master: [Maxtor ....] which is my good HDD with Windows on it.
    Primary IDE Slave:   [ST325 .....] which is my Seagate faulty HDD.
    And in the "Boot Device Priority" page my good HDD was first on the list.
    Now that I've unplugged the faulty HDD from the ATA cable and power, the PC boots up as normal.
    These are the symptoms I described in my 1st post, when I was connecting my HDD through an USB enclosure and it was freezing my Windows Explorer.

2. No, there's never been an OS on this slaved drive

3. I will have a go later at trying to boot from the Rescue Kit CD you suggest, but I have the suspicion that the slaved HDD will not allow Windows to operate.

for nobus:
what you suggesting is exactly what this guy on this site (that dbrunton suggested in an earlier post) did: http://www.deadharddrive.com/
To me it looks like in that case it was appropriate for an electrical fault where the HDD wouldn't power up. Do you think it could help also in my case, where the disk seems to spin, but there is something in it that freezes any PC it's connected to?
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 26333014
When booting from Rescue CD I suggested you do not need to boot to Windows. It works from Linux and DOS as far as I know.
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Author Comment

by:the3amigos
ID: 26333037
OK, fingers crossed.
0
 
LVL 92

Assisted Solution

by:nobus
nobus earned 800 total points
ID: 26334085
since the system freezes, it has a problem on the disk interface, - so yes it definitely can help.
the only way to know for sure is try it.
you can buy the board separately, or buy a disk with the needed specs (you can always use it, if it does not work)
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Author Comment

by:the3amigos
ID: 26337180
I tried with the Rescue CD with no success. When booting from it, it reached a graphic interface where I could choose the option to transfer files from one location to the other, but the faulty HDD wasn't shown in the list.

I then slaved the HDD on a different PC (still with Windows XP) and the computer slowly booted after finding some errors in the disk and running chkdsk (which is somehow a progress from what was happening using the previous PC).
However, when it had finally completed the login onto Windows and had come to a rest, it did not show the presence of the slaved drive in My Computer nor in Windows Disk Management.
I've now turned the PC off and will try later with the Rescue CD on this PC...
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LVL 49

Assisted Solution

by:dbrunton
dbrunton earned 400 total points
ID: 26337443
At present I'm experiencing faulty problems with my (former) hard disk.

What seems to be working is to slave it to a separate IDE channel - that is nothing else on this channel.  I've also set the channel to PIO mode (well, actually Windows downgraded the channel down from UDMA to PIO probably because of all of the errors).  Data is coming off slowly and I mean very slowly but this is doing the job.
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LVL 47

Assisted Solution

by:noxcho
noxcho earned 800 total points
ID: 26339032
Looks like the drive is really bad. Either controller or physical damage. If the data on it is worth of paying for recovery then use local data recovery shop in your city.
This will increase chances of data restore if you stop your attempts to get it.
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LVL 92

Assisted Solution

by:nobus
nobus earned 800 total points
ID: 26339270
try HDD regenerator - it can help  :http://www.dposoft.net/
0
 

Author Comment

by:the3amigos
ID: 26375942
Thanks all for your help.
I managed to see part of the directory of the files stored onto the HDD using the File Transfer Wizard of the Rescue Kit software.
However, after a very long (hours long) struggle and failing to save any of those files, I've decided that maybe I can do without them (sour grapes anyone?). I had a 1 year old backup of most of them, and I've convinced myself that they hadn't changed much in the meantime.
Thank you.
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