Stupid External Hard Drive Question

Discussion in 'Techforge' started by garamet, Nov 24, 2020.

  1. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    I save docs in multiple places. Two laptops (one per room when I swap because I'm tired of sitting at my desk), and an external HD. Call me paranoid. I've lost too much stuff to computers that just quit for Reasons.

    Until recently, I'd email a document to myself until I'd finished it/sent it to the client, self-published it, so that I'd have it available on both laptops. Lately I've decided I was being too paranoid and saved the docs to the external HD instead of email.

    Worked fine. Have (had?) stuff on that HD for years. This afternoon I got "You need to format this drive before you can use it."

    Oh, fuck you, anyway! I'd gotten that message with thumb drives before and just unplugged/replugged them. But this thing won't budge, on either laptop.

    So does "reformat" mean "you just erased everything, idiot," or does it just tinker with things?
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  2. ed629

    ed629 Morally Inept Banned

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    Formatting the hard drive will erase everything.

    There are a few things you can try to recover the data on the drive, but it sounds like you've tried some basic stuff like trying a different machine. You could try plugging into different USB ports, but that is sort of what you've already tried.

    Some of what you could try is built into Windows, or you could try downloading some recovery software. Or if you don't want to do those, have a service do that for you, worst case scenario you could have the data recovered if the drive has shit the bed, but that can run from around a few hundred to a few thousand depending on the level of work needed.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2020
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  3. tafkats

    tafkats That'll put marzipan in your pie plate, bingo! Moderator

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    Don't reformat it -- that will erase everything.

    I don't know exactly what would cause two laptops to suddenly stop recognizing a drive, but you don't want to format it.
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  4. ed629

    ed629 Morally Inept Banned

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  5. ed629

    ed629 Morally Inept Banned

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    It could be a bad sector.
  6. Tuckerfan

    Tuckerfan BMF Staff Member Moderator

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    Okay, let's start from some fairly simple basics here: Is the cable on the drive built into it or can you swap the cable out? I would try doing a cable swap if plugging the drive into different ports on your machines doesn't work. Now, let's say that the problem isn't the cable, you're still not boned. If you're running Windows 10 on your machines, I would find someone who is not running Win10 on their machine (say a Mac, or an older version of Windows, or even Linux) and have them hook your drive up to their machine. Win10 is damned glitchy and it can cause problems like you're seeing.

    If all that fails, you're not out of luck. If you know someone who is fairly computer savvy, they can still fix your problem but they'll probably need a copy of Spinrite software[/i] to do it. It's way too complicated for me to explain to you how to do it, but if you take the drive to a recovery place, they'll most likely use Spinrite to fix your drive so if you know someone who is good with computers and you don't mind ponying up the $80 or so for Spinrite (if they don't already have a copy) you'll come out ahead, dollar-wise, than if you take it to a recovery shop.
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  7. ed629

    ed629 Morally Inept Banned

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    You should have at least two hard drives to keep your data on. One for primary use, then the second to back up to once a week. or less often depending on how often you work on and save files. Or you can back up your data to an online cloud storage. My laptop backs up to DropBox and Google. I use both services for different reasons. I think my data back ups to Google daily and to DropBox once a week. Both only back up files that have changed or are new files.
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  8. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    Hmm, the cord separates from the drive, but it's a weird shape, not like the other HD I have, which looks like a phone recharger. Might see if I can pick up a new cord on eBay before I freak out. Turns out I did save the doc I was working on on one laptop, not the other, so I'm good for now. Going back to sending email to myself. :bang:

    I'll keep y'all posted. Thanks! :)
  9. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    Aiiright. Just picked up this baby for under $4.00:

    [​IMG]
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  10. ed629

    ed629 Morally Inept Banned

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  11. Diacanu

    Diacanu Comicmike. Writer

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    Have you just been ripping the USB/flash drives out?
    You have to right-click to open the menu, and click "eject".
    "Eject", tells the computer the USB is turned off, and stops pumping power to it.
    Yanking it out with power going to it causes it to fritz out, and need a reformat.
  12. Diacanu

    Diacanu Comicmike. Writer

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    Oh, and if your pc/laptop has a SD/card drive, never just yank those out, run "eject", on those too.
  13. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    I don't even know what those are. :shrug: Only time I ever yank anything out is when a computer is completely non-responsive and I pull out the guts and donate the shell to the Vietnam Veterans of America for parts.
  14. shootER

    shootER Insubordinate...and churlish Administrator

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    Like this except the SD card pushes all the way in. When not in use there's a piece of SD card-shaped plastic that lives in the slot and protects it from dirt and damage.

    [​IMG]


    And as cheap as external drives are these days, I'd advise getting another one and backing up your work there as well. My personal archive is mirrored on three different external drives in case one of them fails.
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  15. Tuckerfan

    Tuckerfan BMF Staff Member Moderator

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    That hasn't been true since some time after the Win2K era. Trust me, I know. I yank shit out of my USB ports all the time and I never hit "eject."
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  16. K.

    K. Sober

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    Yes. The main reason one might still want to do it is that Windows sometimes postpones writing/saving to these devices when it's busy, so you might think you've saved your work, but lose it when you pull out the stick immediately.
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  17. Diacanu

    Diacanu Comicmike. Writer

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    My computer is old, I ain't yankin' shit.
    Better safe than sorry.
    :shrug:
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  18. Tuckerfan

    Tuckerfan BMF Staff Member Moderator

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    :shrug: I haven’t ran into that issue once.
    Mine’s around six years old and wasn’t cutting edge when new, so it’s hardly like I’m running the latest and greatest. I’m also likely to still be using the thing for the next five years and I don’t intend to change behavior.
  19. K.

    K. Sober

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    I have, quite a bit. When you do choose eject, it checks whether all processes for that data volume are completed, and sometimes it'll tell you they haven't, and make you wait; if you pull it out anyway (of course I had to try), files that were to have been copied to the drive are missing or corrupted.
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  20. matthunter

    matthunter Ice Bear

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    If the external drive makes a repeated ticking noise, it's at or on the point of failure. I lost a lot of data to a drive (fairly new) that expired like that over summer (Linux is more forgiving of bad sectors so I was able to very slowly copy off some of the files - smaller ones were OK but larger stuff got corrupted). That's for standard drives - SSDs have no moving parts so no ticking.

    I've bought a new PC since as the old one (although pretty powerful back in the day) was bought in 2011 and I've had some issues with it lately. New one is set up for RAID with two 4Tb drives (Windows running off a 512Gb SSD) to protect against data loss.
  21. tafkats

    tafkats That'll put marzipan in your pie plate, bingo! Moderator

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    Your computer's too old for PornHub?
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  22. Diacanu

    Diacanu Comicmike. Writer

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    :rimshot:
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  23. Bickendan

    Bickendan Custom Title Administrator Faceless Mook Writer

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    Sounds like the 5.25 incher's living up to be a floppy drive :meh:
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  24. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    Update: Yeah, the drive is fried.

    Fortunately I'd been using it as a backup for my laptops (two I use regularly; one itty-bitty notebook so old it's got Windows XP) "in case one of them croaks"... which has happened more times than I can count.

    Spent the weekend scrounging the laptops plus a thumb drive I'd forgotten I had and found all of the essential stuff - manuscripts and rafts of family photos, some of them over 120 years old and very fragile. I still have the original photos, but it took me forever to scan and save them and I'd hate to have to do that again.

    What did I lose? Mostly files for clients I haven't worked for in years, and some of them are still lurking on one laptop or the other. No loss, really. One time a client lost a document and asked me if I'd saved it - a year later. I had. Sent it to 'em. They were ever so grateful. A few months later they sent around a directive ordering contractors not to save documents once they'd uploaded them Because Hackers. :bang:

    Saved everything I'd scrounged to the thumb drive, and will probably copy everything to another thumb drive for safety's sake, and maybe a master file on each laptop. Reformatted the HD and will probably donate it to the VVA. They're really good at tinkering with busted technology.

    Thanks, everyone, for your help and recommendations. :mrsa:
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  25. Fisherman's Worf

    Fisherman's Worf I am the Seaman, I am the Walrus, Qu-Qu-Qapla'!

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    I really recommend cloud storage, as @ed629 suggested earlier. DropBox, Google Drive, and even Microsoft's OneDrive are all pretty handy, intuitive, and you get a lot of free storage.

    But if you have concerns about confidentiality of client documents or losing data, an alternative is to set up a network attached storage (NAS). The big hard drive manufacturers all make some version of a NAS storage device (a quick search shows it will run you anywhere from $150-$500). A NAS machine is basically a computer with a lot of storage hooked directly into your router, and it's sole task is to act as a network folder, so that other devices on your network can just save to the network folder. You can set it to run backups too.

    You don't even need to buy a specific NAS device from a manufacturer (though it's easier tech-wise). You could also just buy a small desktop with a few terabytes of storage (maybe even a 2nd hard drive to make backups), and set it up as a network drive. Though, this would probably run you just as much as buying a pre-built NAS machine, and it takes a bit more tech stuff to get it working, whereas the NAS machines tend to be rather plug-and-play.
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  26. K.

    K. Sober

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    ^^Excellent advice.
  27. Bickendan

    Bickendan Custom Title Administrator Faceless Mook Writer

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    I know what my next hardware purchase is!