13 May, 2009

Fixing a dead external hard drive

Here is the series of unfortunate events:

1. My computer gets a mysterious self-replicating virus
2. I decide to be a good boy, and wipe my machine, reformat, and start from scratch
3. I have an external backup drive with all my files, that is not infected, so I am good to go
4. After reformatting, I immediately restore my photos and music (but not My Documents)
5. A couple of days later, I *drop* my external hard drive, but think nothing of it
6. A couple more days later, I try to access my backed up documents, and drive is dead

This is that rare case where you get screwed because both your primary and backup are both lost. This sort of thing usually only happens in situations like tornado, fire, etc. But stupidity and bad luck work just like other sorts of natural disasters. After reading online, it was sounding like the most likely problem was a mechanical failure of the drive, not an actual software failure. This situation normally calls for one of two things: lose all your data, and move on, or pay someone a shitload of money to get your data off the dead drive. Depressing, and not worth it.

Of course, option number three is to ask the guy who is in the office across from you if he has any idea about the best course of action. The first thing he said to me was "You're gonna need to pay someone to do it for you, and it's gonna cost you an arm and a leg, and it is also charged according to size of the drive". Not encouraging. But the second thing he said was "Well, actually, once this happened to one of my external drives, so I cracked open the chassis, which reveals a normal hard drive just like you'd find *inside* your computer. Then I connected cables from the hard drive to the motherboard, just like with a normal internal hard drive, and 'voila!', the drive worked! It turned out that the problem was with the controller".

So I said "That really works? There's normal connectors on the thing inside that box?"

He said "Yes".

So I tried it. Had to go digging around through random boxes, which strangely were in my bedroom. Looking for random cables (SATA HD cables, which I theoretically shouldn't even have, since I don't own any SATA drives, so why would I have them? Answer: I bought a motherboard at one point that was compatible with such drives and kept the cables. If there's one thing I've got, it's cables. Come see me if you need any!). Found the cables, as stated. Disconnected one of my two DVD drives, to free up a power connector. Plugged the drive into a SATA port on the motherboard which, for all I knew, was not the right one, or would screw up the boot sequence, or any number of other bizarre possibilities. Smashed my head into the corner of my Ikea "Jerker" desk, causing me to wail in agony. Finish making connections. Turn on the computer.

Boots normally. And after booting, it immediately recognizes new hardware. The drive is fine! No data lost. No problem.

So if your external drive ever appears to be "dead", I recommend trying this solution before paying anybody hundreds of dollars to essentially do the same thing for you. Or, alternatively, you can pay me hundreds of dollars, and I will do it for you. Or maybe just buy me some pizza.

1 comment:

  1. inman wheelright27 May, 2009 13:26

    I always threaten with a ball peen hammer. That puts the fear o' God into whatever inanimate device I am dealing with.