Dead external HD

My wife has an Edge Diskgo! external HD that she keeps her scads of digital pictures on, and the other day she tripped over the cord and it fell off the table.

Last night she tried to fire it up and it’s dead. No sounds whatsoever. The LED goes on to show it’s getting power, but the HD never spins up. Her mac doesn’t show anything connected when she plugs the USB cable in, and my PC says, “New Hardware installed” and the LED blinks when I plug it in, but nothing shows up in My Computer.

She’s got pics on there that she doesn’t have anywhere else.

So googling around yesterday, I think the only way to go is with a service like this, but I’m not sure how much this sort of thing costs.

Any ideas how much such a thing would cost, or any other ideas for recovering the data on this HD?

My external was basically an IDE drive in a housing with a USB interface. When it died I took the drive out and installed it directly in my PC and was surprised when it worked just fine. Turns out the problem was the housing and its interface, not the drive.

It might be worth opening it up and seeing if it can be connected directly to your PC.

I’ve had the same experience as Warning – definitely try removing the external case and connecting directly. You might just need to buy a new external USB interface case to get it working like before.

I’m willing to do that (tonight), but I’m worried that it’s formatted for a mac and I only have Windows PCs to install it into. I can see if it powers up, but I’m afraid that if it does Windows will screw with the formatting or something.

If it was my drive I wouldn’t think twice about it, but I don’t want to doubly destroy her data.

And always remember this: An external drive can break just like an internal one. You still need to back your data up on CD or DVD.

Windows won’t screw with the formatting of the disk, it just won’t recognize it. There are third party softwares you can buy that will let you read a Mac filesystem on a PC.

I can do all sorts of lovely data recoveries if your drive is NTFS or FAT formatted, but unfortunately, good software does not exist for non-PC data recovery. At that point, you’re looking at one of those expensive specialty places and easily $500 to $1000 worth of labor.

(Slight tangent) What can be done when the disks simply won’t spin (WD internal IDE)? I assume the data itself is OK but is inaccessible until the plates are relocated to a working HD enclosure. If that is the case, how difficult is such an operation? This is my situation and I’m not currently in a position where spend much money on it. I realize that once I take a screwdriver to it I’m out of warranty, but I really doubt I’ll be able to make much use of that warranty given some of the stories I’ve heard.

It’s really simple. All you need is a clean room, a bunny suit, an identical, working hard drive with the exact same firmware, and a REALLY steady hand. Then you just transplant the spindle assembly into the donor drive.

In lieu of that, you can pay someone with the above $500+ to do it for you.

I’d recommend keeping the hard drive around till the day where you can afford to have it professionally done.

Would this be an unwelcome place to suggest that $5/month for a subscription to Mozy might be a worthwhile future investment?


In the hope that it’s the case and not the drive that’s damaged, you can always buy an empty external USB 2.0 case for about $30 and move the drive over to that. That way you can plug it into Mac instead of the PC.

Something like this.

Did you try giving it a good shake? Seriously. Used to work all the time in the old days.

Hold the drive with both hands in front of you up near your chest. Then rapidly throw your arms downward (without letting go of the drive) and letting your hands flick a bit at the end of your arm swing to increase the G’s on the drive. Repeat up to 10 times.

If the drive successfully spins up after this, retreive the data asap.

That sounds like a great fucking way to slap the head against the platters and lose more data.

Hey, in the old Amiga days, you could revive a dead Seagate 40MB 3.5" drive that had suffered from “stiction” by carefully whacking the side of the drive with a screwdriver. It’d spin right up and work long enough for you to get your data off. :)

I might be willing to risk the shake thing. It sounds like this is intended to get the platters to spin vertically and away from me, in which case I assume that the longer edges of the HD enclosure need to face up and down? Which end points away from me, or does it matter?

I didn’t get a chance to work with it tonight, but the current plan is to remove the drive from the enclosure, put it into my desktop, and see if it spins up. If so this seems to be the way to go.

What about Spinrite? Leo Laporte can’t say enough nice things about it, and it says that it may be able to recover data from mac drives if their connected to a wintel machine.

Spinrite is meant for cases where the filesystem is seriously damaged by corruption or bad sectors, and the drive is still working properly at the physical level (at least well enough to read sectors). In your case it’s much more likely that either the enclosure failed and the drive itself is okay, or the drive is physically broken and no program will be able to do anything with it.