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Problem reading external hard drive

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#1 latarone


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Posted 28 February 2013 - 11:30 AM

I have a very strange problem no one can seem to answer for me. I had an external hard drive (a My Book), which one day crashed. Here’s the odd thing about it. It is still turning. But when I plug it into any of my three computers, none can read it. “System Information” tells me it is “working properly.” The device manager sees it. But the two Windows computers can’t read it – they see it, they recognize it’s there, but they can’t read it. Even the “device manager” shows it’s there, but nothing can read it. For istance – the “safely remove hardware” icon reocgnizes it’s there when it’s plugged in, but the computer can’t read it. I have two other externals plugged in. One is drive M, the other is drive N. When I plug the damaged one in, the computer sees it, but doesn’t assign it a letter.

To make things more complicated, my third computer is a Mac (an old G-4). Someone told me Macs can sometimes read things Windows machines can’t. So, I plugged it into the Mac. Lo and behind, it WAS able to read it. So, I started pulling folders from it to save them. Then, all of the sudden, the Mac stopped reading it. I’ve bought four or five different recovery programs and none of them work – but they still show me the hard drive is turning (and I can hear it turning) and everything that was on it is still on it. But nothing can read it.

The main computer I use has Windows XP; another I have has Windows 7. And the problem is the same in both.

 It’s the strangest problem I’ve ever seen. Anybody have any idea how I can get what’s on this hard drive off?

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#2 IAmNotABot


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Posted 28 February 2013 - 11:34 PM

It sounds like the hard drive could be failing.  Im leaned toward this as one of your computers stopped reading it while it was transferring.


If it is possible to remove the hard drive from its case, I would do so and put it in a different external box.  Ideally, just use the interface of the box, and dont close it up.


As a last recourse, I have had some luck using a freezer.  If you can not remove the hd, this might be the only way.  Double and triple seal a bag, along with using a straw to remove as much air as possible when you do this.  Leave it in there for at least 8 hours, but overnight would not hurt.  Before you remove it from the freezer, already have your cable plugged into a computer.  Do not allow it to warm up to the enviroment befor you plug it in.


On the computer that you are going to use this for, go to Disk Management and have it on the screen before you plug it back in.  It is possible that it could fail again as it is warming up, so time is critical.

#3 James Litten

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 11:05 AM



I do not think you can remove a MyBook from the enclosure as it often has encryption on by default that uses a ROM chip on a circuit board in the enclosure. When you remove it from the enclosure, it will not be readable. That is unless you reformatted it completely when you first got it to remove the software that was originally on it.


Putting it in the freezer is an old trick to cause metal parts to shrink slightly allowing for a condition called stiction (the read/write heads stick to the platters) to be repaired without opening the hard drive's case and contaminating the platters. It never worked well and you do not sound like you have a problem with stiction.


You may be able to see the SMART data on the drive which could hold some clues as to what the problem is.


Get a copy of GSmartControl for Windows
Unzip it and run gsmartcontrol.exe

If you see the problematic drive, double-click it and click the VIEW OUTPUT button and copy and paste the resulting report in your reply so we can look at it.


#4 latarone

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 01:52 PM


Thank you for the responses. I have tried the "freezer trick" with an internal hard drive which froze years ago. It didn't work. In this case, since this one is turning, I don't think that will help, but I may try it anyway.

I did take the hard drive out of the My Book enclosure. It stopped being readable while inside of it, so I figured I had nothing to lose. Oddly, it was after I took it out and stuck it into an enclosure that the Mac DID read it temporarily. 

A friend of mine has a piece of hardware he says will read it. So I will try that. I'll let you all know whether it works.

But I hadn't heard of GSmartControl for Windows. If this reader my friend owns doesn't work, that is my next step.

Thanks again.



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