My Dying USB Hard Disk Drive

My precious, 60 GB disk drive is dying on me. It often doesn’t get recognized by my computer any more and when it does, it promptly crashes.

I wasn’t very smart and put a lot of important files on there from my Lost episodes and my entire music library including rare CDs that have been stolen or destroyed since ripping them to photographs that no longer exist on film. It also includes things like my CV, research papers from college (such as my linguistics thesis), and teaching materials.

I don’t think I can get it to stay open long enough to pull all of my files onto my computer’s hard disk drive. Is is possible to get it fixed without needing to reformat the drive or to salvage my things off of it?

It might just be the USB enclosure that’s broken, you might just be able to move the hard disk into a new enclosure. If you bought the hard disk already contained in an enclosure you might need someone brave with a big screwdriver to help you.

Or do you have a wobbly plug ?

If what BFM said doesn’t fix it, take a look at some of the links here

The plug’s cool because I’ve tried the drive with different USB cords and the USB cord with other external drives. I will try a new home for it, though. Perhaps there’s a pin loose or something in the box it’s in now. Thanks for the advice!

I bought a nice new Phillips case for it. I got it to stay up long enough for my DVD decoder program to run a 2-hour movie (by holding onto the case and praying), but the moment I started playing songs, it crashed.

Does anyone know where I can find a shop that does repairs on Hitachi hardware? Inexpensively?

I normally wouldn’t even care, but it figures that it would crap out before I could download the season finale of Lost. :frowning:

I think what you should be doing with that valuable window where you are in contact is to transfer everything to a new one. Now!

My desktop is dying in front of me as I tap on the unfamiliar Macbook. I stupidly didn’t transfer everything when I could.


I have 50GB of stuff on my dying USB HD drive. I have 4 GB of space available on my laptop. I’m not that good at math, but the word impossible seems apt for this situation. I don’t think my drive will stay up long enough to transfer things to a new HD drive anyways. My best options are repair or…well. Let me amend that to my only option. If I can get it fixed, then I can transfer things in case it goes wonky again, but for the time being, my hands are tied.

If you got a new one - around NT$4,000 I’m guessing based on prices in HK - then the 2 hours you spent clutching it while you watched a DVD would be around 119 minutes more than you needed to transfer everything over.


Yes, but one program decoding a DVD is less taxing than all of the programs, a few thousand songs, scores of movies and TV episodes, hundreds of photographs, and countless documents that are on the drive.

Besides, it usually crashes when I try to open any video or audio files so I sense that it would do the same thing trying to transfer it. As a matter of fact, it is the reason why I couldn’t burn episodes of Lost on disc for MJB.

I really want to just transfer things. Believe me, I would if I could. Dropping $4000 is nothing compared to the anguish of losing so many important files. But doing so is futile without getting the drive repaired as I would need my drive to not crash immediately upon trying to transfer things.

I know this doesn’t solve the immediate problem, but next time you might want to consider a RAID I array; it comprises 2 disks which the computer writes the same data to, thus making an identical copy in case one disk dies. Particularly good for people who aren’t good about regularly burning CD backups. I just learned about this myself and am buying this setup in my next computer.

You could take the drive to a friend and put it on their computer. I have 1Tb of hard drives in mine (2x 500Gb Raid O) and have plenty of room.

You can also remove the drive from the enclosure and install it into a computer. This will not help a lot if it is the drive itself that is dying.

But transfer the stuff NOW!, before you use it any more.

If the drive is still somewhat working, you might be able to revive it with the program Spinrite. It’s a pay program and can take a long time to run but it’ll get it back working if at all possible. Basically what it tries to do is to read and rewrite the entire disk. On damaged parts of the disk it can read multiple times and do a statistical analysis to restore the contents. I bought it a few years back when I had a 250gb Maxtor disk that was nearly unusable and it revived it to the point that I got off all but two files undamaged. I’ve since used it on other drives that weren’t as severely damaged and it’s always gotten everything working.

Is it overheating?

No. The tards at my school knocked it off a table on several occasions, I suspect. No one admits it, but it worked perfectly until I started taking it to work. I knew what had happened when the xiao laoban told me not to leave my drive on the table since people tend to knock it down. By the time she mentioned it, it had already started its meltdown.

Do I need to download Spinrite? Can I buy it in a store? Is there a free similar app online?

You can buy it on their website. As far as I know the only free alternatives are for Linux.

Can’t you just buy another drive and enclosure and, when it’s working well enough to run a two hour movie, say, transfer the files over? Most computers have two usb ports now I think.

You might not be able to get all the files at once but you might have a good chance of getting the specific ones that you want.

If It’s been knocked off a table too many times and it’s basically hooped, I don’t see how a software solution is going to help.

I disagree with this. While a RAID1 would protect you from a physical failure of the drive, it won’t protect you from a user error (e.g. accidentally deleting something, or accidentally saving over something). If anything, I think the latter is a lot more common than the former. You’d be better off with two separate USB drives, using one as your main drive and then copying everything over to the second drive every once in a while (everyday if you’re paranoid, once every several weeks if you aren’t.)

Do what canuckyutuk said. Get another USB now and try to copy what you can over, starting with the stuff you can’t recreate (college papers, pictures) and then your music and movies (which, if absolutely necessary, could be redownloaded). Then, buy ANOTHER USB drive and copy everything over to that. After that, you should be really careful to always have two copies of everything that you don’t want to lose.

Isn’t there any free/cheap place on internet where you can back up your files? It will take some time though, but the files should be safe until you get a new HDD.

I have tried hooking it up to a computer that had more space on it than my drive. I tried, innocuously, to download just one folder of my current teaching documents (for this year’s classes). It crashed after three files.

While I truly appreciate the advice given about recovering my files, it is becoming more and more obvious that a repair is necessary in order to do any kind of recovery work. I can use the recovery information later, but my priority now is to get my drive fixed.

Please, please, please someone point me in the direction of competent repair people who won’t cost me an arm and a leg or require me to ship my drive off to some remote country.

I’ve had experience with those “repair techs” before in America and I can tell you that it’s not going to be cheap! You are looking at prices in the thousands of USD (at least in the US it was).

And it takes a few days.

Have you tried running any diagnostics on it? Is this a PC or Mac? Checked for errors on the drive? Assuming all this is moot and it’s a physical error, the only thing I’ve heard (never tried and I don’t fully recommend) is sticking your harddrive in the freezer.

As everyone else said, it’s a temporary solution and the BEST thing to do is recover as much as possible of the most important data on the drive (since I don’t think you’ll have enough time to copy everything off of it). I think you’ll not enjoy seeing the actual “repair” prices. Plus, they don’t repair your drive. What they’ll do is recover data from your drive and put it on DVDs/CDs or another hard drive that you must pay for.