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Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working

Fred McCormick 30 Nov 09 - 06:40 AM
Simon G 30 Nov 09 - 07:05 AM
Fred McCormick 30 Nov 09 - 08:44 AM
Bernard 30 Nov 09 - 09:05 AM
JohnInKansas 30 Nov 09 - 12:44 PM
Acme 30 Nov 09 - 02:33 PM
JohnInKansas 30 Nov 09 - 07:00 PM
fumblefingers 30 Nov 09 - 10:45 PM
EBarnacle 30 Nov 09 - 11:30 PM
GUEST,DWR 01 Dec 09 - 12:30 AM
Bernard 01 Dec 09 - 02:25 PM
Bill D 01 Dec 09 - 02:40 PM
Bernard 02 Dec 09 - 07:26 AM
Acme 02 Dec 09 - 10:26 AM
Bill D 02 Dec 09 - 10:42 AM
EBarnacle 02 Dec 09 - 11:03 AM
JohnInKansas 02 Dec 09 - 11:43 AM
Bernard 02 Dec 09 - 11:57 AM
Bernard 02 Dec 09 - 12:00 PM
Desert Dancer 02 Dec 09 - 12:15 PM
Bill D 02 Dec 09 - 01:22 PM
Bernard 03 Dec 09 - 05:03 AM
JohnInKansas 03 Dec 09 - 08:02 AM
Bernard 03 Dec 09 - 09:18 AM
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Subject: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 30 Nov 09 - 06:40 AM

My external hard drive came up with a message yesterday which told me that the disk needed to be checked. It's done this several times recently and then just run the check. Which usually takes several hours. Afterwards it has continued to work as normal.

This time though, the computer appeared to abandon the check after about twenty minutes and instead I got a message saying "Drive not accessible. Acess denied."

The external hard drive icon still appears in the computer window, although the Total size and Free Space volumes show up as blank.

Everything is backed up, so there's no loss of data. However, if anyone knows how I can get the drive working again, I'd be most obliged.


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Simon G
Date: 30 Nov 09 - 07:05 AM

It sound like a deteriorating drive that finally kicked the bucket. Although the final message doesn't really tally with that.

I'd take the drive out of the box and dispose of it and replace with a new one.


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 30 Nov 09 - 08:44 AM

Ok. Panic over. In desperation I tried re-formatting the disc. It worked and I'm now reloading all the files from backups.


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Bernard
Date: 30 Nov 09 - 09:05 AM

Don't rely on it, though, Fred - it could well be a problem that's linked with overheating, and it will probably do it again.

Take Simon's advice and replace it.


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 30 Nov 09 - 12:44 PM

I must agree that the symptoms suggest a failing drive, and concur with the recommendation that you look for a replacement. While considering whether to replace the drive, you may want to back up even more frequently than usual. I've found that trying to make "special backups" because you're paranoid often results in schitzoid backups, but it's worth considering.

A remotely possible alternate explanation for what you've seen could be with your USB controller (assuming your external drive is a USB). I've seen a significant number of recent complaints about USB anomolies, apparently due to "USB Stack Corruption," in which the computer fails to recognize a USB device, or recognizes it as something other than what it is.

The USB problem seems most common in Vista, and Microsoft gives no help there other than links to "discussion groups" where most of the discussion is illiterate. For WinXP there is a KB article at KB310575 that you might want to look at. When I open the article, the site detects that I'm running Vista and says that this solution "may not be applicable" but doesn't offer anything else useful.

Disconnecting/reconnecting the external drive - or some other USB devices - without using the "safely remove" button could corrupt the USB stack. Once the stack is fouled, the drive connection could be affected even if it's not the device that caused the corruption.

The only really common reason for Windows to ask for a disk check is if the drive stops - even intermittently - with data still in the buffer. An ABEND (Abnormal End of a process) due to computer power supply dropout would be the most common cause, but a computer power supply drop likely would affect more than the external drive. Improper shutdown procedure could also cause a demand for a disk check.

Since the USB connection supplies the power to run USB devices, and has very limited capacity, if you have several USB devices running the USB port power may be insufficient. Your external drive may have a separate wall wart, but the data part of the connection still may demand power from the USB port. (Your computer may have several USB connectors, but it's common for several connectors to share a single port, so that there's only one USB power supply for multiple devices.)

Historically, at least since Win98SE, Windows "green machines" have had problems with USB. The USB devices typically "don't wake up" correctly when the computer comes out of sleep, standby, hibernation, or other powered down modes. If you are using one of these modes, you might want to consider disabling all of them and using a full shutdown when you're not going to be on the machine, with full boot to resume use. (It's not clear whether Microsoft has "solved" these problems or whether they've just decided to ignore them.)

Having lost four HDs in the past couple of years, I'm possibly a bit more than normally nervous whenever one of mine burps; but the symptoms described would make me run to the shop for a replacement drive. (I would probably keep the old one for "scratch" use until it either fails or justifies more confidence in its condition, but by the time I regain confidence in one it's usually too small to be useful, and I get a new and bigger one instead of putting it back on line.)

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Acme
Date: 30 Nov 09 - 02:33 PM

I have an external drive I haven't used much in a while that used to be connected to the old format on this computer (I had to rebuild it over the holidays last year after a catastrophic OS crash). Prior to the crash it had stuff on it, and was hooked up with the firewire. The device actually has a USB 2 and firewire, and they recommend using both, simultaneously, to get the best speed. It shows up as empty. I should give it a test by moving something over thee to see if it holds anything.

I have had good luck, since purchasing this external Western Digital drive, in buying enclosures and hard drives and making my own external drives. (I put the previous hard drive for this computer into one so I wouldn't have to move stuff or waste a good drive.) Memory is cheap and these boxes aren't very expensive. They are aluminum and act like their own heat sink. Make sure they have good ventilation and don't move them around when they're turned on.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 30 Nov 09 - 07:00 PM

Stilly -

I've got several USB boxes that I've had standard internal drives in, but have had rather poor survival with them. My main reason for using them, originally, was so that I could move them from one computer to another occasionally and take one - larger than my laptop had - along to festival. I'd rephrase your warning about "don't move them around when they're turned on" to "don't move them at all if you want them to last more than a week."

You probably would get better survival using 2.5" drives if you can get a box to house them, since it's generally assumed that those drives will be for "portable" computers. Although the small (physically) drives are significantly slower (usually) than desktop-sized ones, they're usually significantly more rugged.

I've gone entirely, for new external purchases, to the ones that are specifically specified as "portable," although I do still have two or three "desktop-in-a-box" utility drives that have been running on the desk for quite a while.

Putting a desktop drive in a USB box makes it "disconnectable," but my experience indicates that it doesn't make it "movable."

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: fumblefingers
Date: 30 Nov 09 - 10:45 PM

I had one like that. After reformatting it a couple of times, only to have it fail again; I tossed it and got another one.


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: EBarnacle
Date: 30 Nov 09 - 11:30 PM

Was your external drive designed as an external drive or was it a transplanted drive from an old computer? Everything, unfortunately wears out. If you want to have an external drive, consider getting either an external housing for a laptop drive or backing up to a CD-RW on a consistent basis for when the next one fails.


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: GUEST,DWR
Date: 01 Dec 09 - 12:30 AM

I agree with John about the portable externals. Yes, they are slower, but they are "FAST ENOUGH" for most purposes. You can listen to music, watch video, just about anything you want to do.

No external power needed, and though I don't advise testing them for ruggedness, yes, you can sometimes drop them and get away with it.

I knocked a Western Digital 320 off a low table, about three feet and I thought "OH NO!" but you know what? I picked it up off the floor, plugged it in, and away it went. I've had a few other mishaps with no discernible damage to any of my drives, all of which are still operating perfectly.

I should say though that I also agree that Vista is more problematic with its treatment of some drives. I get errors or inconsistent operation, but then I take the drive to an older machine and it works perfectly. So I regard this as a Vista problem, not a drive problem.

There are SO many advantages to a shirt pocket drive. Load it up with the portable version of your favorite browser, complete with your own bookmarks and preferences, add your other favorite apps, plug it in to just about any strange machine, and it's just like you're at home!

I have done this with a Seagate Free Agent 320 and for lighter tasks, a Sandisk Cruzer 8G, which is practically indestructible. I feel that the slightly higher price and slower operation of an external is more than balanced by the ruggedness and portability.

But the main rule is always this: KEEP MULTIPLE COPIES OF ANYTHING YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO LOSE OR THAT YOU FEEL YOU'D RATHER NOT DO WITHOUT.


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Bernard
Date: 01 Dec 09 - 02:25 PM

I, too, have a Western Digital 'Passport', the 250Gb one. I've been using it mobile for over a year, now, and it still behaves impeccably.

I do occasionally have trouble with it on some PCs because it needs more current from the USB than they are prepared to give, but WD Support sent me a dual USB lead which solved the problem. Beats me why they don't include it as standard... it can't really be that big a cost saving, surely?!

The most common problem with external drives seems to be running too hot, but I've got a couple of Toshiba 1Tb units (Stor E alu) that are always cool to the touch. I don't carry them around, though - one is on my desk at work, and the other at home. Not the fastest external drives I've seen, but reliable (so far!). They have the brightest blue LED I've ever seen fitted to such equipment!

If you're buying an external caddy to put a drive in, make sure the heat dissipation is good. One with a plastic case won't do as well as one with an aluminium case.

I have some Netgear SC101 Network Attached Storage devices in my home studio. Each can take two IDE drives either in 'mirrored' configuration, or the total capacity of both drives.

One of them failed a while ago (under warranty), although the drives survived. Interestingly, the replacement has been redesigned to incorporate a couple of small thermostatically controlled fans.


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Bill D
Date: 01 Dec 09 - 02:40 PM

We have two Iomega USB drives connected to my PC. They have been running flawlessly for 2-3 years. They 'can' be moved, and I have a few times to move some large amounts of data. These need an external power source.

Iomega also makes some models which are USB powered only and marketed as 'portable'...with extra sturdy construction. My wife got one, but has not done enough with it yet to report on.

They have a really wide selection of gadgets for storage...


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Bernard
Date: 02 Dec 09 - 07:26 AM

Yup... Iomega were the people everyone else followed for a long time, but then they lost the plot a little. The original 100Mb Zip Drive was an industry standard even 'for non-computer' things such as the Boss BR8 digital recorder, which meant that its files could be edited easily on a computer unlike a lot of its peers. Okay, you needed to download some software to interpret the files, and you couldn't then put them back on the BR8, but it's a lot simpler than the Tascam 788, for example.

However, the rot set in for Iomega when they tried increasing the Zip drive capacity to try to keep up with the rapidly increasing hard drive capacities. The 250Mb and 750Mb Zip drives could read, but not write, the 100Mb, and were very short lived. USB fobs were really the last nail in the coffin, I think.

Anyone remember the 40Mb 'Clik' drive? I've got a couple of them in my 'museum'!

It was intended for photography use, but never caught on because cameras quickly needed far more capacity which flash memory cards could easily provide.

I like to keep examples of these outdated storage systems, because occasionally someone needs data of one, and they've nothing to read it with...!


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Acme
Date: 02 Dec 09 - 10:26 AM

I still use a number of ZIP disks around here. I like the ability to treat them like the old floppy disks but with the higher capacity. Most of mine are 250meg but a friend gave me some of his old 100meg also. But it is basically a closed circuit; I can't take them many places and have anyone else able to read or write to one still. I use them for my own backup for carrying between a couple of my computers.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Bill D
Date: 02 Dec 09 - 10:42 AM

ZIP drives? When those were being touted, I bought SyQuest drives.... I have two working SCSI SyQuest drives and maybe 15 cartriges .......for Win 3.1...*grin*...all linked in a SCSI chain with a SCSI slide scanner. None of this is useful, because I cant find a mouse that will work with the Win 3.1 machine.. (old parallel port connector.)

Hey Bernard...want Syquest for your collection?


(I think Iomega has gotten over the hump and into new lines...at least mine are going fine)


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: EBarnacle
Date: 02 Dec 09 - 11:03 AM

My problem wih iOmega is that they stop supporting their old technology as soon as the new one comes out. I began using their stuff back in the 80's and even got a couple of their drive systems. Unfortunately, they made too many changes too quickly. When I recently contacted them about a relatively recent drive, they referred me to an outside company for "help."


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 02 Dec 09 - 11:43 AM

Iomega still shows ZIP drives on their site, and now have a fairly full line of desktop, laptop, portable, etc drives; but a quick look at their line doesn't indicate whether they're still using "Bernoulli disks" in any of them (other than the ZIP?).

I used a couple of "advanced computers" at EAC years ago that had no storage other than "floppy media." One was a DOS machine (fortunately with IBM BASIC in ROM) that had one 5" 2D floppy slot, and another, with Win 3.10, had a removable (bootable) 8" IOMEGA disk that had to be locked in a "secure vault" when not in use.

We used ZIP disks for several years for shipping (by snail mail) large files to/from clients of LiK's business, but some IOMEGA "quality problems" resulted in most of the clients refusing to use them, all within a very short time. The newest crop of drives would eat and destroy a high percentage of the disks, and the newest crop of disks had a high probability of failing and ripping the read/write heads out of the drive. IOMEGA replaced three drives for us, under warranty, but we were forced to abandon the whole concept.

Serendipitously, the problem came at about the same time that premium $ervice provider$ began permitting enormous emails with attachments up to a whopping 1 MB, so we had a work-around, although it required sending chapters (or sometimes sections of chapters) in separate emails instead of sending complete books.

In my memory, IOMEGA is most notable for the (printed) instruction saying "DO NOT CONNECT YOUR NEW DRIVE before reading the complete installation instructions," with additional fine print buried at the end of the print instruction that informed you that the installation instructions were accessible ONLY on the included ZIP Disk.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Bernard
Date: 02 Dec 09 - 11:57 AM

Yes Bill, I'd be delighted! PM me with your whereabouts, and I'll see how I'm fixed over the 'Christmas Break'

At the risk of shooting myself in the foot... I've got some serial meeces if you need one! They work with Win3.1 machines...

EB - I found that Iomega's software could be somewhat flakey at best... I had an issue with a Windows 2000 machine (okay, who didn't!) and my Zip 750, where I had to uninstall a SmartCard reader before the thing would boot... all I got was blue screens! As you also found, Iomega's helpline were less than helpful... it seems it was my own daft fault for wanting to actually use the thing!!

Hey ho!


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Bernard
Date: 02 Dec 09 - 12:00 PM

Ah yes, John, I remember that one, too! I think I still have the box... maybe I'll drag it out and scan it for posterity!


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 02 Dec 09 - 12:15 PM

Iomega is on my blacklist now, after purchasing a $800 RAID-4 1TB drive for our lab, and then finding that when the power transformer died after about one year, it could not be replaced. Fortunately, now replacements are much cheaper.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Bill D
Date: 02 Dec 09 - 01:22 PM

Gee...everyone is scaring me about Iomega! (I really think they are way beyond Bernoulli disks..)

(I have a LOT of wood I can knock, and no problems at all so far.)

Bernard... I'll take a pic of my defunct mouse connection and post it.. If I can make the 3.1 PC work, there's a few things I'd like to get from it before I dispose of the SyQuest drives


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Bernard
Date: 03 Dec 09 - 05:03 AM

Hmmm... let's be fair about this... Iomega couldn't possibly have the industry standing that they have without doing something right... but I do believe their advertising hype is a contributory factor.

There have been a few 'lemons' which may only be high profile because Iomega is a 'name', but most of the stuff they make is good. Okay, some of it may be overpriced, but that's a different story.

To be honest, I've never had much of an opinion about Western Digital, as I've seen more of their internal drives fail than all the other makes put together (since the Quantum brand disappered, that is!). However, the little Passport 250Gb USB drive is probably the best portable drive I've ever owned... so it can't all be bad!


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 03 Dec 09 - 08:02 AM

EBarnacle said consider ... ... backing up to a CD-RW

I have recently completed dumping ~480 CDs (or at least the roughly 60% of them that were readable after about 4 - 8 years) to one 500 GB Passport external hard drive, plus full backup of the current documents etc from four running computers (7 HDs total). There was room left to save off all of what I could read from the last of my old 1.7" HD and 2D floppies (almost, but not quite, 30% readable at around 12 years max for the oldest).

The whole bunch of trash is duplicated on a second identical HD, and I generally alternate backups of the running computers between the two, so that a single backup drive failure doesn't lose anything - no matter how useless it all is.

Both drives are about half full.

Before the arguments start, the CDs were "reduced" by starting with the oldest ones and overwriting later versions for duplicated files. Without eliminating duplicates, 60% of 480 700MB disks would have been a couple of hundred GB, but the actual "save" was closer to 110 GB.

My current main (C:\) documents would need 120 CDs for a complete backup - and it's one of my smaller ones.

(And it's all critically important information, of course. (?))

With my new printer/multipurpose that automatically feeds and scans directly - through OCR - to .pdf, when I cut the pages out and run them through I should be able to get rid of at least half1 of the 5200 lb of books I moved to the new house in the last trailer load out of storage - but I may need another HD before I get that all done.

(Anybody need 38 fairly rotten bookcases?)

1 I probably won't be permitted to cut up her books, but quite a few of my tech reference archives will definitely go through the feeder.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: External Hard Drive Stopped Working
From: Bernard
Date: 03 Dec 09 - 09:18 AM

I dread to think what would happen if my house was burgled... I'm seriously considering re-locating my network attached storage units under the downstairs floorboards. Maybe that would offer a certain amount of protection against fire, too.

My photographs are backed up on at least six different drives, two of which are here in the office at work, and one I carry around with me. The remainder are at home.

Audio projects I'm working on are also carried around with me as well as being on the NAS, but older stuff is only at home, both on audio CDs and the NAS.

Remember when a 1Tb drive was merely a dream? Now they are a nightmare!!


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