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Author Topic: Saving files from a dying external HDD  (Read 750 times)

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Offline IzuTopic starter

Saving files from a dying external HDD
« on: December 02, 2010, 02:56:36 PM »
Okay... my external HDD is dying - I plug it in and in 5ish minutes it blocks and I have to pull the usb to have my windows start working -_- I have a few very important videos on it - from my godson's 1st brithday, a few trips, etc. - things I do not want to lose. I tried everything I could think of - copying and moving the files in all possible ways - copy to, dragging, command prompt. I tried burning the files on a dvd, uploading them, sending them over skype, uploading them on facebook. I tried putting an ubuntu on, but it just says that there are dead partitions on the hdd and then it blocks as well.I even tried freezing the hdd, but it didn't help either -__- So now I feel completely lost... :< Any ideas what else I can try? The HDD is still in warranty, but I want to try saving the files before turning it in... Help...

Offline Hunter

Re: Saving files from a dying external HDD
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2010, 08:50:18 PM »
The only thing I can think of is to copy the files one at a time onto your computer.  If you're getting 5 minutes or so on a try, then you should be able to move them one at a time.  Granted, it'll be time consuming to do so....

Offline ShamshielDF

Re: Saving files from a dying external HDD
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2010, 09:37:50 PM »
A few suggestions

A) What operating system are you running, exactly?  Windows XP/Vista/7 should be able to recover most forms of logical drive failures.  If you go into "My Computer" and right click on the drive, go to "Properties" then "Tools".  Then select "Check Now".  This should pull a "Check Disk XXX" where XXX is the name/drive letter of the drive.  Select "Automatically Fix Files" as well "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors".  This will fix most logical and some basic hardware failures.  With any luck you should be able to correct most of the drive and get most of the files off.  You may lose some files that are beyond recovery, but it shouldn't lock up windows as the drive is unmounted while it's doing that.

B) Another possibility would be to do the copy via command prompt.  This is a bit more...persnickety shall we say?  But it works most of the time for me.  The following commands assume that the external drive is F: and you are wanting to copy the files to an directory named Backup on the C drive.

xcopy f: c:\backup /S /V /C /I

For those wondering the arguments translate to:
/S = copy all subdirectories except for empty ones
/V = verify each file after copying
/C = continue even if errors occur (this stops it from dropping the whole copy process on an error)
/I = if copying multiple files and the destination does not exist, assume destination must be a directory and create it

I would encourage running this after A as doing so should prevent system lockups at the state.

C) Hopefully, one of the above methods works as they are free.  Options beyond that generally cost money to one degree or another.  The cheaper methods are less certain ranging up to more expensive for more or less guaranteed recovery.   There are a number of cheap utilities available on the net, alas, I haven't used any of them in some time, so I can't speak to their effectiveness personally.  Doing a search for "Data Recovery Software" should find some utilities that could help, and most run in the sub $100 range generally.  The more expensive ones are generally intended for computer shops/offices that support numerous systems and require professional line software.  Alternatively, call some of the local shops in your area and see if any of them do data recovery services.  The last option in this chain would be high end, professional data recovery.  Typically these services start in the low $200 range but can quickly climb into the thousands. 

In the end, it's really a matter of "what is your data worth to you?"  Hopefully, A or B works for you and you're able to recover most, if not all of your data for free.  If you're still having problems, let us know details and we may be able to come up with more options.

What operating system (Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7)?
What kind of PC (Local shop/home build, Dell Latitude 620, HP Pavilion PC)?
What make/model of external drive and what size?

Offline IzuTopic starter

Re: Saving files from a dying external HDD
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2010, 02:04:36 AM »
@Hunter - I already tried this. One by one. Not working - It starts copying and after a few seconds the computer blocks until I unplug the hdd. Or it gives me something like 12223 minutes and it starts and it blocks again.

@Sham - Windows XP SP2, 4GB RAM, DELL Inspiron 1525N. The external is a Western Digital 1TB with about 300GB taken - I cannot even delete files as it blocks as well. All I need is less than 2GB of video - four videos of around 100MB, one of 1GB.I'll try the Check now - option, didn't remember about this. And the copy and the xcopy commands are not working (I'm majoring in computer science, so I've tried all possible commands (even wrote a couple of mini programs in C to try copying - the debugger blocks as well)) - starts copying and it just continues until the hdd blocks and waits for me to unplug it to say that there is a bad i/o command or something like this. I also tried copying under Linux, but same thing happens and Linux just announces that there are too many bad sectors.

Offline ShamshielDF

Re: Saving files from a dying external HDD
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2010, 03:49:10 PM »
It's entirely possible then that it's more than simply bad sectors if it's coming back with i/o errors.  It's possible that there might be a problem with the controller board of the drive or the interface controller for the USB.  Unfortunately, any ideas that I have in those regards involve A) voiding the warranty terribly and B) having a second identical drive to swipe said controller boards from. 

See what the disk check comes back with hopefully that helps, otherwise I'm afraid you might be stuck with disk recovery software or a data recovery service to get the data back  :-\

Offline IzuTopic starter

Re: Saving files from a dying external HDD
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2010, 03:53:21 PM »
Unfortunately neither of those worked. I started ubuntu once again and it recognized the hdd as bad for having too many bad sectors. I found some  sector-recovering program, but it is soooo slow -_- I've scanned only 160MB out of 931GB for about 10 hours -__- it did recover about 300 bad sectors in the meanwhile, but it hasn't helped much.

Now my hope is to be able to use one of those deleted files recovery programs to recover the files from my camera's memory card... and I will slowly continue with the recovery of the sectors, hopefully things will speed up.

But I'm still open to ideas...