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Unexpected I/O error has occurred (external hard drive)

Posted on 2014-02-13
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I have a 3TB hard drive, which is just over a year old, in an external enclosure.
I connect it to my Windows 7 desktop via eSATA.

The other day it disappeared from Windows, I had to power down the enclosure for a few minutes and restart Windows to get it working again. I didn't think much of it as this has happened several times before.

Yesterday, I was copying some larger files (about 5 files around 200MB each) onto it and on the last file I got an error, and found that the hard drive had disappeared from Windows again.
Again I powered down the enclosure for a few minutes and restarted Windows. This time the drive didn't show up.
I left it powered down for a while and restarted, finally the drive showed up.
However, I could not browse any files, it just hung and after a while I got an error "Unexpected I/O error has occurred".
I powered down the drive and restarted again, this time the Windows showed a message indicating that the drive needed to be formatted.

At this point, I hoped it was a problem with the enclosure's interface card.
I thought that the power problems may have corrupted the file system.
As well, the hard drive was not making any noises indicate hardware failure.

I went out and bought a new enclosure then connected it to my desktop.
Again Windows showed a message indicating that the drive needed to be formatted.
I ran chkdsk with the /R option. It fixed a bunch of indexing errors.
I quit the process during stage 4 (verifying file data) as it was taking fairly long.

The drive showed up in Windows and I was able to browse through my files.
I opened some as spot checks.

I left the drive alone for a while then went into a folder I'd already accessed since running chkdsk but this time encountered the I/O error again.

This is leading me to believe something is wrong with the hard drive.
Before I go out and buy another hard drive, I wanted to ask the following questions:
Is it possible that a problem with a file could cause the I/O error?
If so, would stage 4 of chkdsk fix this?

If the hard drive is the problem, what is a good utility to copy as much data off the drive as possible? I would like something that indicates files that could not be copied.

I am running chkdsk now, again at stage 4, I think it will take about 50-60 hours to complete at this rate.
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Question by:bejhan
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Seth Simmons earned 168 total points
ID: 39857926
have you tried a different method of connecting if the enclosure supports it?
i'm thinking of USB 3...or trying different eSATA cable?
possible it could be the drive...a year old i would look at RMA for it if other cables don't make a difference
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by:bejhan
ID: 39857938
I've tried both eSATA and USB 2, with various cables and even a totally different enclosure.

It's more like a year and a half, the date on the drive is something like May 2012.
How long is RMA allowed? And will they do data recovery?

Is there any method which would verify it is a problem with the drive?
I suppose if I let chkdsk finish it will tell me?
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by:bejhan
ID: 39857945
I found this listed as one of the reasons for I/O error on the NTFS-3G site, gives me a bit of hope:

Corrupt file system. Most often they are caused by unexpected power outage, improperly detaching external storage devices, uncleanly shutting down the operating system, file system drivers, partitioners, security software, viruses, root kits and other malwares. If the problem is definitely not hardware related then run CHKDSK /f DRIVE: on Windows.
This situation describes exactly what happened to me, *fingers crossed*.
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by:Seth Simmons
ID: 39857948
depends on the manufacturer; i had a seagate with 5 year warranty so almost 2 years for yours should be fine

likely don't do data recovery; usually an expensive task if you have to take it that far though there are some software products that could help when there isn't physical damage (from water, etc.)

depending on the manufacturer, there are usually tools available.  intel has ssd toolbox for their drives; i've used seatools on seagate drives

are you able to install the drive internally?

ntfs-3g is for accessing ntfs partitions on a mac or in linux

are you also ejecting the drive from windows first prior to turning off the enclosure (when it is working and doesn't disappear from windows)?
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by:bejhan
ID: 39857958
i had a seagate with 5 year warranty so almost 2 years for yours should be fine
This drive is Seagate, do I need anything besides the drive to start RMA?

likely don't do data recovery
So I'll still have to buy another drive to salvage what I can before doing the RMA.
I guess I can use the replacement drive they send me to do RAID so I don't run into a situation like this again.

are you able to install the drive internally?
I could put it into my desktop. Do you think the enclosure is still the issue, even though it is brand new?

ntfs-3g is for accessing ntfs partitions on a mac or in linux
I know, but in dire circumstances we must cling to any hope we have!

are you also ejecting the drive from windows first prior to turning off the enclosure (when it is working and doesn't disappear from windows)?
Yes I am, but there has only been one time, since this problem occurred, that I removed without an error condition.
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by:Seth Simmons
Seth Simmons earned 168 total points
ID: 39857979
you would actually have to open the RMA and send the drive to them first (had this happen on an external 3tb drive a couple years ago)

if you can install it internally, see how it works
i would still lean towards the drive itself but interesting to see if there is any difference when mounted internally
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by:bejhan
ID: 39857995
I'll let chkdsk run over night, if it doesn't get stuck I'll let it finish over the weekend.
Otherwise, I'll put it into my desktop and see if that makes a difference before chalking this up to a bad drive.

Do you know of any utilities for copying data off a bad drive?
Preferably something free which indicates the files that could not be copied.
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by:Seth Simmons
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by:nobus
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when using an usb connection - there is no correct error handling; so the errors can mean anything.
if you want to know what is wrong, i suggest to connect the drive directly to a sata port, and run it's diagnostic - NOT chkdsk, which is a filesystem utility
before RMA'ing, seagate will ask you to run its diag anyway : http://www.seagate.com/support/downloads/seatools/
i alwaus run the DOS version from a bootable cd :  UBCD :http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/      

for repairing drives, i use HDDRegenerator (not free)  :  http://www.dposoft.net/hdd.html
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by:bejhan
ID: 39858434
I am running chkdsk because I am hoping the problem is due to file system corruption.

I will try Seagate tools next, with my drive connected through SATA. Is eSATA enough or do I need to put the drive into my desktop?

How does the program repair drives? I thought it to be a hardware issue if the drive is bad.
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by:nobus
ID: 39858690
>>  I am running chkdsk because I am hoping the problem is due to file system corruption.
  <<  ok - but what is the problem ?
eSata will work fine

>>  How does the program repair drives?   <<   read the info on http://www.dposoft.net/hdd.html
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by:bejhan
ID: 39859162
ok - but what is the problem ?
As I said above, the drive was not recognized by Windows due to power failure during write.
chkdsk stages 1-3 fixed up indexes and the drive was usable again.

However, I still encounted some I/O errors.
I was hoping stage 4 (verifying file data) would fix this.

Unfortunately, chkdsk has been running all night and I am only at file 782 of 29936.
It has indicated that it replaced bad clusters in some files.
I think it may have stalled. I will wait a bit longer to see if it progresses.
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by:nobus
ID: 39859206
then use the methods and soft i posted.
but if the disk is physically bad,  no soft will help
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by:bejhan
ID: 39859284
Seagate tests are failing. I'd better buy a replacement drive and start data recovery immediately.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39859301
I am running HDD Regenerator prescan at the moment.
Do you think there is any point after failing Seagate tests?
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by:bejhan
ID: 39859640
I put disk into my desktop (took out enclosure) and HDD Regenerator told me to backup data immediately, I guess that's confirmation that the drive is bad.

I am going to buy a replacement but in the mean time I will let it run and regenerate the sectors it can. So far it has scanned 816MB and already encountered 4 bad sectors. I'm not sure that this will do much.
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by:nobus
ID: 39859668
>>  Seagate tests are failing  <<  did it say on what it fails?
if it is an i/o error, chances are it is in the logic board; you tried another cable (for the usb device)?

>>  So far it has scanned 816MB and already encountered 4 bad sectors.   << that looks VERY promising for recovery. I've had cases where i had several hundreds of errors, (mostly in one section of the drive) and all was running 100% later

i'm curious to see the outcome
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by:bejhan
ID: 39859781
did it say on what it fails?
It fails on the short sequence test during the inner scan.

if it is an i/o error, chances are it is in the logic board; you tried another cable (for the usb device)?
I've tried different USB cables, different eSATA cables, and now I even have it in my desktop.

that looks VERY promising for recovery. I've had cases where i had several hundreds of errors, (mostly in one section of the drive) and all was running 100% later
The hard drive disappeared from Windows partway through the test.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39860022
I want to copy my data but the hard drive keeps disappearing from Windows.
I've noticed it gets pretty hot, I suspect this is the cause of my issues.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39860222
I've put it back in the enclosure because I could not get Windows to recognize it while it was in my desktop. It is showing up in Windows again but I cannot browse the files. chkdsk even hangs.

I tried that EaseUS utility but it also hangs.

Any suggestions?
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by:bejhan
ID: 39860683
I created a LiveUSB of Ubuntu and booted into that.
I am currently attempting to copy the data via ddrescue.

It has been about 5 minutes with 0 bytes rescued.

Yesterday, I was able to access the files I spot checked, so I'm hoping there is still data to be saved. I hope that running chkdsk and HDD Regenerator did not totally kill the drive...
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by:bejhan
ID: 39860984
I ended up running chkdsk again, in an attempt to restore the file system.
It allowed me to view directory listings in Windows.

I attempted to copy via rsync in Ubuntu but the linux NTFS driver did not allow me to even view directory listings.

Currently, I am using TeraCopy in Windows to retrieve what I can.
I have a cold pack under the hard drive enclosure, it seems to be keeping it from disappearing from Windows.
It is going slow but I have been able to copy some files!
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by:nobus
nobus earned 332 total points
ID: 39861003
suggestions :
Never use an usb enclosure for recovery - it adds only an interface hardware, and software, and removes error handling - leave it directly connected to sata port

>>  I've noticed it gets pretty hot,  <<   cool it  as best as you can :
put it in a sealed bag for anhour in the freezer
then connect it for data copy operation.
be sure everything is ready -  it may only stay 5 minutes up

you can also point a fan to it for cooling
Do NOT run chkdsk on a bad drive -  it only corrupts it further !
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by:bejhan
ID: 39861697
Never use an usb enclosure for recovery - it adds only an interface hardware, and software, and removes error handling - leave it directly connected to sata port
For some reason, Windows will only detect the drive via USB, not eSATA or directly plugging into desktop. What could be the reason for this?

cool it  as best as you can
Having the cold pack under the drive seems to keep it relatively cold.

Do NOT run chkdsk on a bad drive -  it only corrupts it further !
The reason I had been running chkdsk is so I could actually access the files in Windows and attempt to copy via TeraCopy. I was able to recover 40GB with this method but it stopped working after a while.

I am going to try Acronis True Image with ignoring error option.
I can't seem to get it to see my device though.
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by:nobus
nobus earned 332 total points
ID: 39862334
>>  What could be the reason for this?   <<  as i said - improper handling, and improper error management ; you see it, but can't do anything.
you can also try to connect it to older style sata controllers - some may show more options, because they handle it differently
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by:Seth Simmons
ID: 39866555
Do NOT run chkdsk on a bad drive -  it only corrupts it further !

that's ridiculous
if any files are corrupt or 0 bytes in size after chkdsk it's because the file was corrupt from the start and chkdsk fixed either an MFT entry, relocated a bad sector that had part of the file, etc.  it doesn't go in there causing data corruption

any further progress on the data recovery?
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by:nobus
ID: 39866697
@seth : it is NOT ridiculous.
try running chkdsk on a reported bad drive - by the diagnostic program
what do you think will happen ? answer : you don't know
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by:bejhan
ID: 39870864
TeraCopy is able to partially copy folders, but it seems to halt upon encountering a bad sector. So aside from going file by file it isn't much help (with ~30K files this isn't really a viable option). At certain points it would be transferring ~20 MB/s then it would drop to ~500 KB/s then to ~40 KB/s at which point I believe it halts. What would be the cause for it to drop speed but continue working for a while? I thought if it encountered a bad sector it would just halt.

I tried to make a backup with Acronis True Image, ignoring bad sectors, but the process never seemed to start. This program created a bunch of other problems (computer freezing, other programs not starting, etc.) so I removed it.

Next, I tried to make a backup with StorageCraft ShadowProtect (Desktop Edition), it apparently ignores bad sectors by default. I was able to get about 10% through the copy when my new drive disappeared from Windows, then appeared again, causing the backup to fail. I'm thinking this is due to the RAID enclosure the new drive is in. I will put it directly into my desktop and try again.

Another program I was thinking to try is HDDGuru HDD Raw Copy Tool, which does a sector by sector copy of the drive, ignoring bad sectors.

Any thoughts?
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by:nobus
ID: 39870925
>>  What would be the cause for it to drop speed   <<  these are the bad sectors; the system retries a number of times (maybe up to 20 ir more)
it never halts -because then it would be less than useless.

now- did you let hddRegenerator finish? that was not clear to me
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by:bejhan
ID: 39870964
As I said in a previous post, the bad hard drive disappeared from Windows partway through the the HDD Regenerator processing. Do you think I should try again?
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by:nobus
ID: 39872608
did HDDREg give an error? which one?
i never had problems with it, , so yes, you can try it once more
it can be a bad contact in the logic - causing the disk to vanish
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by:bejhan
ID: 39874029
did HDDREg give an error?
It was complaining about too many bad sectors and indicated the drive should be replaced immediately.

I've had HDDGuru HDD Raw Copy Tool running overnight and it is at 20%, I will let it continue.

If it fails, I will try HDD Regenerator again.
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by:nobus
ID: 39874180
if it runs in the thousands of errors - then yes it is useless
a couple of hundreds of errors can be handled in most cases
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by:bejhan
ID: 39877523
I've tried HDD Raw Copy about 3 times, it continually fails between around 18%.
One of my colleagues suggested that it may be the logic board, there are some on eBay for purchase.

I will try HDD Regenerator now.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39877741
I ran HDD Regenerator, it got to 0.02% and then complained about a seek failure.
Then it indicated that the drive is not ready.

The # of scanned sectors is SLOWLY increasing though.
What does this mean?
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by:bejhan
ID: 39877901
HDD Regenerator halted, and indicated that some bad sectors cannot be repaired under Windows.

Should I attempt to do so with bootable CD?
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by:nobus
ID: 39878872
no it won't help.
you can try by replacing the logic board, but i must warn you i never saw a success on modern drives (200 GB and more); it seems the bad sector info + other info is stored in the board itself - but you're free to try. Be sure to getone with  the same model and firmware number
if you do so, - post your findings.
if you NEED the data - and are willing to pay, a data recovery service is the only way to go, here a couple of links - but you may find others in your town too.
http://www.lowcostrecovery.com/index.html                        data recovery Company
http://www.gillware.com/                                 "           "                   "
http://www.drivesavers.com/services/estimates.html                     "           "                   "
be sure to ask for their recovery policy, and fee !
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by:bejhan
ID: 39879319
I was lucky enough to find an exact match logic board on eBay for $50. I think it's worth a shot, I'm interested in trying, for experience if nothing else. I will definitely post my findings, I'm sure I will have some questions as well.

The data on the drive isn't important enough to warrant data recovery service, as I understand it is very costly.
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by:nobus
ID: 39879406
ok; waiting for results then
don't be surprised if it sees the drive as another size
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by:bejhan
ID: 39893263
I've been using robocopy to attempt to retrieve data off the drive while I wait for the PCB. It has actually been quite successful. So far I have retrieved 700 GB / 2.5 TB with only 47 file CRC errors so far.

My progress has slowed quite a bit, files are still being transferred but VERY slowly.
What does this indicate?

Do you think it will remain slow or am I just on a bad platter or something?

I am thinking that swapping PCB will not solve any problems, and may just return it.
Any thoughts?
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by:bejhan
ID: 39893951
A lot of the slowness is due to CRC errors, and the fact that Windows takes forever to detect them.

Any thoughts on decreasing the Windows disk read timeout? I know this can be potentially dangerous and can't find much information, aside from a blog post.
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by:nobus
ID: 39894164
the slowness is caused by the bad sectors - causing retries.
>>  decreasing the Windows disk read timeout?  <<  never did that; what blog are you referring to?
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by:bejhan
ID: 39896117
the slowness is caused by the bad sectors - causing retries.
If the sectors are bad, how does copying of the file eventually progress?

Some of the "slow" files are successfully transferred.
Other times, it gets to some arbitrary percent, very slowly, then finally fails with CRC error.

never did that; what blog are you referring to?
http://blogs.msdn.com/b/san/archive/2011/09/01/the-windows-disk-timeout-value-understanding-why-this-should-be-set-to-a-small-value.aspx?Redirected=true

I'm not sure if this even applies to non-server editions of Windows. Or if it will even help my problem. But things are getting really slow now, only 10GB of transfer since I posted yesterday.

Not sure if this is a factor, but the first ~600GB were larger files (700MB - 2GB). Now I am onto a smaller files (70MB - 300MB).

Also, could the transfer benefit from giving the bad hard drive a break (i.e. turning it off for a day or so)?
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by:nobus
nobus earned 332 total points
ID: 39896842
>>  If the sectors are bad, how does copying of the file eventually progress? <<  i don't know the exact algorythm, but it uses multiple reads, at different read level amplification, to reconstruct the data as best as it can.
>>  could the transfer benefit from giving the bad hard drive a break   <<  if the drive does not feel hot, i would let it continue.
when you cool it off - you just don't know what the result will be - better or worse
you decide  -of course
  >>  if this even applies to non-server editions of Windows  <<  you can check if the key exists. Less reads will speed it up, but probably result in less recovered sectors
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by:bejhan
ID: 39924149
Since there was no real resolution to this issue, I assigned points to answers which were helpful to me.
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