Saturday, April 20, 2013

Drive rescue

If you back up computer files to an external hard drive, I congratulate you. Not many consumers have a backup plan and they should. I harp on this with my clients and students all the time.

Eventually your backup hard drive is going to fail. As will the one inside your computer, which is why you have a backup in the first place. But which one will fail first?

In my case, it was the backup drive. It failed the other week and once that situation sunk in, I realized that there were in fact a few files that only existed on that backup drive. Nothing life altering, but I was curious if it was all lost. You see, when a hard drive stops working, it's usually one of two parts that has failed. It could be the drive mechanics itself and the on-board circuitry, or it could be the USB controller circuitry in the external case. If the mechanics or the on-board circuitry have failed, there's not much you can do about it. I've heard stories of hard drives being temporarily revived by putting them in the freezer overnight, but had never tried it myself.

I was betting on the USB controller circuitry gone bad. My external drive came apart easily and I was able to disconnect the drive from the case. Many moons ago I had bought a drive dock (see picture), which allows you to take a drive from a computer and dock it, transforming it into a USB external drive so you can rescue files from it. I decided to try the dock just in case the drive still worked. Lo and behold - it did!

So if you ever end up with a failed external hard drive, don't give up on it before you try connecting to it with a drive dock. These can be had from your local computer parts store for around $35.

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