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Unrecognizable WD External Drive

Posted on 2012-09-05
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Last Modified: 2012-09-07
I switched a WD external drive from one computer to another. The 2nd computer didn't recognize the drive so I switched it back to the original computer and now it doesn't recognize it either. The drive wasn't dropped in the switch and I have made sure the drive's driver was current. Though I can't see the drive in "My Computer", I can see it as an unallocated drive in Windows Explorer".  This is my 4th WD external drive to have gone bad in the last 5 years. Is there a better way to backup your computer? The drive had approx. 500 GB of photos on it.
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Question by:brightfarm
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by:Scott C
ID: 38369195
Here are a few suggestions to see if you can get the data off.  Put the HD in an air-tight ziplock bag and put it in the freezer for about 15 min.  Take it out and immediatley connect it to a computer and try to access it.

Another option is to lighty "tap" the HD with a small plastic handle of a screwdriver.

The freezing can slightly reduce the size of the inside components and get things moving.  The tapping can sometimes free up a stuck arm or spindle.

These are long shots but it's better than totally giving up on your data.

As for backing up...You can use a service such as Carnonite or burn DVDs.

I have a 1 TB drive and really need to get off my butt and burn the DVDs.  I'd be sick if I lost all of that junk.

The computers were completely turned off when you removed/reinserted the drive weren't they?
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by:rindi
ID: 38369315
When you remove the drive from the PC, are you sure you first either shut the PC down, or use the "Safely Remove" option, then wait for the OK from that option before removing it?

If you don't follow those rules, it'll be likely that you will corrupt your file-system on that drive and you won't be able to access the data on it...

Also, what type of WD drive is it? Some of their external drives need or will work better if they are connected to an external PSU, or there is an additional USB lead which you connect to an extra USB port on your PC so it gets more power. Sometimes connecting them to a powered USB hub can also help.

WD has a diagnostic utility (download it from their site) which you can use to diagnose their external drives.

Sometimes it will help if you use diskmanagement to delete the partitions on the drive and then create new ones. If after that you can access the disk it was a file-system error which caused your issues.

Generally backing up to external drives is a good option, but never only rely on one drive to backup to, but rather cycle between different drives. Drives can and will always die. They have mechanical moving parts and so they are prone to damage.
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by:Scott C
ID: 38369399
Before you delete the partitions and try to recreate them try my suggestions to see if you can get your data back.

Once you delete the partitions, your data is gone.

For static data such as movies, music, pictures, etc. I suggest burning to DVDs and then storing them in a safe location.

Dynamic data can be stored on re-writable media such as you are doing.  I don't know about you but most of my dynamic data can easily be stored on a 16 Gig flash drive.
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Nothing ever in the clear!

This technical paper will help you implement VMware’s VM encryption as well as implement Veeam encryption which together will achieve the nothing ever in the clear goal. If a bad guy steals VMs, backups or traffic they get nothing.

 
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Expert Comment

by:sno0401
ID: 38369769
I imagine you have already tried this, but thought I would mention it anyway. If you right click on My Computer and click manage you will be brought to Computer Management. In this window click Disk Management and see if your drive appears here. If it, right click on it and choose Change Drive Letter and paths. Choose a letter and this may be enough to get it going.
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by:Scott C
ID: 38370606
I had another thought...Try booting with a Knoppix distro.  This is a self-contained OS which is Linux based all on a CD/DVD.

You can boot with this disk, have your portable HD attached and see if the Knoppix OS can recognize the hard drive for you to at least copy your data off of it.

Here is the link to the Knoppix download.

http://knoppix.net/get.php

It is GUI based and fairly intuitive.

At first I thought you might have a hardware issue with your portable HD, but on thinking on it a bit more it might just be some type of corruption of the disk partition.
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Author Comment

by:brightfarm
ID: 38370723
I ran a diagnostic app from WD's web site and the drive passed every element except Spin-up Time. I have no idea what that means. Since all I did was unplug the drive from one computer to connect it to another, it's hard to believe that it's a hardware problem. Several of the responses above suggested that I back up the data on dvds but since I can't access the drive, I have no way to "backup" the data. Am I misunderstanding the backup suggestion? As it must be obvious, my computer knowledge is just basic (at best). I would appreciate further responses.
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by:David
ID: 38371047
I would think by now you have learned that 100% of disk drives fail, and copying data up to a drive that has 100% probability of failure doesn't protect against data loss .. it guarantees it. Sorry for not being PC, but i just can't fathom somebody who has lost 4 drives who doesn't make multiple copies of anything important.

Options
1. Get another HDD, and use the native windows software-based RAID1.  This doesn't protect against human error like blowing a file away by mistake, but it does protect against both a drive failure and also just an unreadable block.   Not only that, but you'll get a big performance increase on reads, and no reason to buy a controller.  

2. Go with a service like mozy, or one of many others that offers remote backup over the internet.  Or use google's limited free service to back up most of your photos for free.  Or buy a 3rd party remote backup product.  Your talking $50 / year give or take.

3. If you want to backup on your own site, don't back up to a single disk, a RAID-1 array appliance is better because it has redundancy.  They're only a few hundred dollars.  Or if you are good with unix, you can cobble together an old PC and turn it into an appliance.

4. If the pics are worth $500+, then contact a data recovery firm and get a free estimate (most have free estimates), and if you go to a company like ontrack, they'll give you a report of all the files they can restore.  .. with no obligation.
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by:rindi
ID: 38371155
To me it sounds like you just yank the disk out of the computer and connect it to another, without using the safely remove option, or first shutting off the PC you are pulling it out from first, like I mentioned earlier.

That is bound to corrupt the file-system, and often will make the disk unaccessible even though the hardware is still fine.

Just delete the partitions like I told you and then create new ones, format them and you should be able to access the drives again. After that make your backups again and then make sure you follow the steps I mentioned before removing the disk from your PC.
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Accepted Solution

by:
nobus earned 2000 total points
ID: 38371201
here is how i handle disk problems :
1- attach the disk directly to a sata - or IDE cable of a desktop, NOT over USB; AND VERIFY the disk is seen correct in the BIOS
**note : for some WD drives, this is not possible (built in USB on disk board)
2-connect it as 2nd drive - never try to boot from it, or write to it (eg by installing software on it)
3-with the drive attached to the pc as 2nd drive, the data can be accessed by windows, if not you can still use a bootable CD (eg for a non bootable laptop) -here a couple, i prefer KNOPPIX :
http://www.ubcd4win.com/                              ubcd  Win
ftp://ftp.gwdg.de/pub/linux/knoppix/KNOPPIX_V6.7.0CD-2011-08-01-EN.iso          Knoppix      

4-if still unsuccessful, try recovery software, here some links:
http://www.pcinspector.de/file_recovery/UK/welcome.htm      pc Inspector -FREE -
      http://www.piriform.com/recuva/download/standard            FREE  -  Recuva
      http://www.stellarinfo.com/                              Stellar
http://www.runtime.org/                              GetDataBack
http://www.ontrack.com/                              Ontrack
http://www.recovermyfiles.com/                              RecoverMyFiles

your question on "except Spin-up Time"  spin-up time is the time the drive takes when starting up, till it reaches operational speed

5-if still impossible, a recovery service is needed:
http://freedatarecovery.us/                              Free Data Recovery
http://www.lowcostrecovery.com/index.html                        data recovery Company
http://www.gillware.com/                                 "           "                   "
http://www.drivesavers.com/services/estimates.html                     "           "                   "

you can use my article on how to handle bad disk drives : http://www.experts-exchange.com/Storage/Hard_Drives/A_3000-The-bad-hard-disk-problem.html
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Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 38371557
Get to Windows Disk Management and take a screen shot of the window where we can see the WD drive. Post it here.
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Author Comment

by:brightfarm
ID: 38373995
Disk 4 is the drive that I can't access.
Disk-Management.JPG
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Expert Comment

by:rindi
ID: 38374216
Right Click it, select new simple Volume, and then you'll be go through the tasks of creating a partition, select the file-system for it (ntfs is to be preferred), assign it a drive letter, give it a label, and after that you should have a fresh, empty disk available to which you can save your backups. Just make sure you either shutdown your PC, or use the "Safely Remove" option and wait for the message that it is OK to remove, before removing the disk.
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Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 38374459
Was on it data before?
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LVL 88

Expert Comment

by:rindi
ID: 38375257
As far as I gather it was just a backup, which means the data is still there on another location. So there isn't much need of wasting time trying to recover the backup. That would only be necessary if the original data also had been lost.
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Author Closing Comment

by:brightfarm
ID: 38376761
Thank you
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Nothing ever in the clear!

This technical paper will help you implement VMware’s VM encryption as well as implement Veeam encryption which together will achieve the nothing ever in the clear goal. If a bad guy steals VMs, backups or traffic they get nothing.

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