External Drive Malfunction: Any Hope For Repair/Recovery?

Andre D.
Andre D. used Ask the Experts™
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Just for full disclosure, I've already posted this question on the Western Digital community forums, but I've come to value the level of contributions and input from the Experts' Exchange, so I wanted to share my experience here to see what else I might hear from any of you.

Recently, I discovered a disheartening problem with a piece of my equipment, and the prospects for straightening it out aren't great, based on my own research. Long story short, I have a WD Passport portable hard drive that has been working pretty decently for the better part of the last ten years since buying it at my college's bookstore. Unfortunately, I had a mishap while my device was in transit: carrying it in a box up a staircase, it started to slip out as I got up the stairwell; I managed to make it to the top in time, but the hard drive fell out just as I got past the threshold of the door. My intent was to hurry inside to carefully set the box down, or at the very least have the fall be cushioned by the carpeted floor rather than have it tumbling down the hardwood staircase. It seemed pretty harmless at the time, so I didn't check it immediately that night. but over this past weekend, I needed to hook it up to my computer, and I found that it wasn't working anymore. I immediately did some online digging and found that this is pretty common; not only that, I've seen WD forum posts from users saying that their hard drives became inaccessible or even died altogether in drops from far smaller distances than did mine.

More or less, I'm trying to get an idea of exactly what has gone wrong with the drive. My immediate speculation is that its a mechanical failure; likely, a component of the hard drive got knocked loose, instead of a digital failing like a virus or error. The general consensus I've found others suggesting to remedy such a problem is professional drive repair and/or data recovery, which generally has a floor of about $300 in cost. Others have suggested types of personal software for drive backups and/or data recovery, which seems less costly by comparison, but there's a lot of options for that, and too high of likelihood for scamola. Basically, I would like to ask for input from the Experts' Exchange: what is the exact problem (from your perspective), how good or bad the chances are for correcting the issue (from your perspective), whatever personal experiences you've had in damaging or fixing an external hard drive, any product suggestions or endorsements to remedy hard drive troubles---any contribution is valuable to me right now. At minimum, I'll understand what needs to be done, maybe do some comparison shopping, perhaps even save the equipment at some later point without slaughtering my pocketbook.

A smartphone video taken over the weekend has been attached to this topic, so that you can see the problem for yourselves. I've called the noise emitting from the drive "The WD Doomsday Alert," which was my first real indication that there was a serious problem going on. Maybe it'll help illustrate the issue a little better for everyone.

Thanks in advance to all who plan to comment from here...
WD_Doomsday_Alarm.wmv
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Top Expert 2013

Commented:
here you can see how to open it :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnNDSID1rJA
unfortunately, this device has the usb adapter built into the disk logic board, so there's little you can do.
btw - what do you want to show with the video???  it's unclear to me
If the drive spins up then there might be a chance of data recovery. However, if there are just clicking or crunching noises (I can't hear the video you posted) then it's likely that one or more platters have broken with the impact of the drop. The platter substrate is probably glass, which makes it more susceptible to impact damage. If a platter has broken then any data on it is perfectly secure - no-one will be able to access it, ever.
If the data is valuable to you, then stop playing around and get the drive to a recover centre. You might get a lot of it back, but not until you spend a LOT of money.

If the data is not that valuable, then by all means try removing the drive from the case, hooking it up to a SATA connector in a PC, and see if you can suck anything off it. I doubt this will be fruitful, and it will make subsequent recovery attempts more difficult.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
mal - that's just what he cannot do with this type...
Those WD with the usb interface boards were really finicky.
Really bad idea from WD.

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Commented:
My apologies for both my delayed response and whatever issues you all might've had in seeing or hearing what went on in the video. To answer the latter, in case you weren't able to see due to the bright light on my smartphone being activated with the camera's record function, the portable hard drive no longer appears as a drive in the "My Computer" folder (it would appear as "My Passport" once connected), and a repeating two-tone alarm-like sound can be heard from the drive once its USB is connected into the port. Again, full disclosure, I've consulted with the WD forum before commenting here. Doesn't hurt to have several sets of eyes on the same problem.

nobus and I have a bit of a history, so...welcome. I've looked at a few tutorials on YouTube already and trust me, I am NOWHERE near confident enough to crack open my own drive and tinker with it myself, but according to your own measure, it wouldn't work that way for my particular drive anyway. To respond to Perarduaadastra's assessment, I'm sure the drive is still spinning from what I can tell, judging from the vibration of the unit as though it were still spinning, but not connecting due to a probable mechanical flaw in the machinery, as a WD Community user seems to assert. I can only hope that it doesn't fall into that other category of a broken platter, which judging from your comment sounds to be irreparably permanent. In response to Mal's prognosis, fortunately, repairs can wait, since the lion's share of data on that drive consists of my old saved college assignments, and it seems like no matter what remedy I choose to apply, it will be costly, which I begrudgingly accept and would require a lengthy wait anyway until such repairs can be afforded. Besides, as nobus replied to you, I can't attempt any real self-repairs anyway, and like you've said, the risk is too great for me to try anything like that on my own without expertise.

And I agree wholeheartedly with pgm554: I've had any number of issues with the drives disconnecting with the slightest jostle, so "finicky" is the perfect word.

It seems that the path of data recovery firm seems near-inevitable, but it'll be a long way off; as stated originally, such professional  services go for about $300 on the lower end, so it'll be a while before I can manage. Has anyone here ever used one of these themselves to fix a drive?

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