Hard drive failure

Discussion in 'Technical Corner' started by Ken Ibold, Nov 20, 2017.

  1. Ken Ibold

    Ken Ibold Final Approach

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    I have a staffer who essentially completed his masters thesis, but then suffered a failure of the external hard drive on which all of his material is stored. He is getting an error message that the USB that attaches to the hard drive is not recognized. Any hints on data recovery?

    The drive is a 2TB WD model WD20NMVW, if that helps.
     
  2. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Assuming that it's not recognized by any other computer -- the problem could be in his computer, not in the drive -- spin it down and get it to a data-recovery specialist. It could be something simple that any geek could fix. But it could also be something not-simple that any geek could push over the edge to irrecoverability. If the data is precious, start with a specialist.

    The company I used to deal with is no longer in business; and because I'm out of that end of the business and am OCD about backups, I haven't had need of data recovery for many years. I know people who swear by this company, but I have no personal experience with them.

    Rich
     
  3. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Actually...

    Before going that route, spin the hard drive down and remove it from the enclosure. Then install a known-good drive in the enclosure and try it. If it's not recognized with the new drive, it's probably the enclosure and not the drive itself that has failed.

    Rich
     
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  4. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Oh, WD.

    I've had two WD external 4 GB drives fail, both showed arcing and burned components inside, even though they had been carefully stored in plastic bags and in a locked metal, temperature-controlled bin. Because I was using them for backup, I simply pulled them from rotation and opened each to see whether rescue was possible. The symptoms were exactly the same as you describe: not recognized USB. I think the data on mine was intact and the failure was just the controller board.

    Given my experience, I second Rich's suggestion: find a data recovery specialist. It won't be cheap, but *if* the controller board is bad, chances are the data on the drive is good (unless it threw errors onto the drive itself, in which case all bets are off). Pay the money, and heed the lesson of having multiple backups of any and all critical (or expensive...) documents.

    If the solution is to keep stuff in the cloud, I highly recommend a service with end-to-end encryption like SpiderOak rather than Dropbox, Google or Microsoft's offerings.
     
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  5. rtk11

    rtk11 Cleared for Takeoff

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    I third the data recovery specialist. But above all else... STOP trying to do anything with that drive. If it’s a physical problem, the more you try to access it, the more data will be damaged by crashed or damaged read heads.

    I have had several WD drives fail (catastrophically) and no longer rely upon them. I use a SSD as a backup medium, and store information on a personal RAID or key items in the cloud.
     
  6. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    It sounds like the staffer in question was using the external HD as primary storage, not backup, which I personally think is a horrid idea. My experience with external drive enclosures has been less-than-wonderful, to put it mildly. Unless you're talking about something high-end like an ioSafe, the build quality and reliability even in a given manufacturer's model line are hit-or-miss.

    Rich
     
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  7. Norman

    Norman En-Route Gone West

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    When I got the new HP in March I installed a second hard drive to keep files on. They are also backed up to a two-disk raid drive. I think I'm reasonably well covered.
    Oh; and I backed up the primary hard drive to the SSD I removed from my old computer. If the primary fails I'll just install the SSD.
     
  8. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Agree. I use a RAID 5 NAS, and back it up to a hard drive - that hard drive is a bare drive placed in an external USB holder and removed from same when not in use.
     
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  9. dans2992

    dans2992 En-Route

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    One word - cloud.
     
  10. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Only if it's encrypted end-to-end where you have the key.
     
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  11. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    All the blackend soot-like stuff & tranish is where it overheated and some component let the magic smoke out. This from one of my WD drives. The other failed in similar fashion. WDDrive.JPG
     
  12. rtk11

    rtk11 Cleared for Takeoff

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    When my WD external hard drive failed, it took out my wedding photos, my son's birth photos, and lots of important documents. $3,000 in professional drive services and I was able to recover about 35% of my files. :mad: That's when I went to a Drobo NAS.

    The offending WD drive? I didn't take a picture of it, but it looked a lot like this photo when I was done with it. Except mine had A LOT more holes in it.
    [​IMG]
     
  13. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I like the ioSafe drives. They have them in USB 3 and NAS models. They're fireproof and waterproof, so if the enclosure doesn't survive, most of the time you just need to remove the drive and pop it into a different enclosure. If that doesn't work, you mail it back to them. One year's data recovery is included in the purchase price and can be extended to five years for ~ $100.00.

    It weighs a ton and is about the size of a toaster, but it gives me warm fuzzies.

    Rich
     
  14. dans2992

    dans2992 En-Route

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    Agreed. But even if it’s not... just keeping your files at home opens you up to theft/fire if your house gets robbed, etc.

    Who has more security resources, you at home, or Amazon? ;)
     
  15. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Good backup software helps. Macrium Reflect encrypts, compresses, and optionally password-protects the backup images. If the ioSafe were to be stolen, I would lose nothing but the device. The backup files would be useless to a miscreant.

    Rich
     
  16. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    When I read “employee” and “lost data” I sighed and decided not to say anything mean. The data at rest plan and culture is broken.

    How I know, is you didn’t say “ex-employee”. Perhaps you were being nice and didn’t mention that they’re “seeking new opportunities to excel elsewhere.”

    Anyway, the advice to send the drive immediately to a professional for recovery is sound.

    Many of us could offer advice on commercial grade storage solutions, but there has to be a policy and culture change with it. Holler if you want some advice on that. And none of them matter until an analysis of what’s considered critical data, has been done.

    “An equivalent of a Master’s Thesis” is enough lost man-hours if it’s gone, that the storage solution would have paid for itself in a single incident, most likely.

    You probably know this. You guys manage huge projects that assess significant risks. If the same rigor and discipline isn’t applied to engineering your infrastructure, it’s going to hurt and hurt repeatedly...

    You’ll deal with this one and another one will eventually happen. Don’t be that company that repeatedly hits itself in the thumb with the hammer and wonders why it continues to hurt. :)
     
  17. Ken Ibold

    Ken Ibold Final Approach

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    To be clear, this is not an enterprise data loss. With 1000 employees and a server network spread across 35 offices, we're pretty robust. This is a young man finishing up his masters degree while working part time for us, who suffered the drive failure on his personal hardware. Just trying to help him out by tapping into the immense repository of tech knowledge found amongst this group of pilot n'er-do-wells.
     
  18. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Fair enough. Sorry to hear that for him.

    Yeah, professional recovery might save it, might not. But better to start with a pro for the least damage if it’s that important to him. The price tag is cheap compared to the time put in, and his school costs.

    I know you were just clearing up the misconception that it was business data, but “server network spread across 35 offices” would actually be a very NON-robust way to engineer a data at rest solution. ;) ;) ;)

    Teach the kid about RAID while you’re at it... ;)
     
  19. Ken Ibold

    Ken Ibold Final Approach

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    Outside the scope of my detailed knowledge and responsibility, so I'm probably mischaracterizing it. I leave it to the IT department to keep the wheels spinning.
     
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  20. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    I figured. ;)

    As long as they’ve told you “where to stick it”... you’re probably good. LOL! I mean... wait... um... haha.
     
  21. Ken Ibold

    Ken Ibold Final Approach

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    Clearly I don't speak geek as fluently as I could. And I regularly get told where to stick it!
     
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  22. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Aww you do, just a different dialect. I don’t want to try explaining anything related to building runways to you, ever. Haha. That would be exceedingly dumb on my part.

    “So, you use concrete and stuff, right?” LOL.

    Everybody has their specialties. No big deal. I just didn’t ask enough questions and assumed when I saw “employee” and “lost data” and wanted to slap someone. There’s no good reason for that these days... maybe a couple of hours of stuff on a laptop, but besides that... shouldn’t be happening...
     
  23. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    RAID is highly overrated, in my opinion. It only protects against hard drive failure, not any of the other myriad ways that data can be lost, accidentally deleted, virus-infested, corrupted, or held for ransom. Furthermore, RAID actually adds an additional SPOF in the form of the RAID controller, which can take the whole array down with it simultaneously if it decides to die in a flamboyant fashion.

    In my opinion, RAID or no RAID, additional backup is a must -- even if the RAIDed device is itself the backup. I've yet to hear anyone say, "I wish we didn't have so many good backups to choose from."

    Rich
     
  24. Norman

    Norman En-Route Gone West

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    Excellent suggestion. I once had my old computer in the shop and they told me my storage drive was getting long in the tooth. I told them to replace it. They offered to transfer the data but I told them it was all backed up to my two bay RAID drive. I brought it home and finished the job myself.
     
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  25. jsstevens

    jsstevens En-Route

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    As somebody who built RAID systems in a past job, :yeahthat:

    John
     
  26. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Yeah, RAID isn’t anything but disk failure risk mitigation. But a little RAID for backups at home isn’t a bad thing.
     
  27. Ghery

    Ghery Final Approach

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    Back in the day I worked for Tandem Computers. If someone chose to set up their drives correctly, there was no SPOF. When you wrote to one, you actually wrote to two drives. Via one of two controllers. Connected to two processors. If any of the components in the system died you still had full access to your data while you replaced the failed part without shutting the system down. Then you ran a "Revive" process which brought the replacement disc (if that was what failed) up to speed with the one that was still intact.

    Sure don't have any laptops like that. So, my really important files (thousands of digital photographs) are on multiple computers around the house. And are backed up using Carbonite so I have on-site storage as well. Paranoid? Me? When it comes to data, you bet. I remember my later employer spending significant coin to recover my files when my hard drive crashed, before they saw the light and installed a full backup software system on every laptop. It took some pain before they spent the money.
     
  28. denverpilot

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    I remember those. Tandem made good stuff. A similarly outfitted system I worked on long ago had a power supply barf and fry both drive controllers at the same time. LOL. No matter how much redundancy you build in, Murphey will eventually win.

    I did kinda made my MacBook do that. No double controllers, but long ago I ripped out the useless optical drive and shoved a second SSD into the space left over, and it does Time Machine backups from the main OS SSD to the TimeMachine SSD in the optical slot. I do a Carbon Copy Cloner (or similar) full backup once in a while also and keep it elsewhere.

    Unfortunately the MacBook hasn’t been my daily driver for a while now, so it’s a well backed up paperweight that gets used on the kitchen table to do finances once a week. More comfortable to spread out paperwork there than in my office I guess... not really because there’s a TV in the office too, but I like to sit in the kitchen doing that.

    And ever since my favorite budgeting tool rewrote their iOS and Android apps to not be crippled compared to the website, I usually just poke at it on my phone or tablet, whatever is handy.

    But boy do backups run fast on that thing. LOL. That optical slot was completely worthless. I’ve plugged a USB DVD drive into it once. Dual onboard SSDs is the shiz. :)
     
  29. Ghery

    Ghery Final Approach

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    Tandem did more than make great stuff, Tandem was a great place to work. I remember when I first interviewed with them in 1982 I called a cousin who was working for Intel at the time and asked him what he knew about Tandem. He replied that it was one of the three best outfits to work for in the valley, the other two being HP and Rolm. When I finally joined Tandem a year later (they had a hiring freeze in 1982) I quickly found out that he wasn't kidding. "Great Place to Work" (Intel value) was an understatement when referring to Tandem. It was the quintessential "work hard, play hard" company. We worked hard, but boy did the company know how to play hard, as well. We shut down at 4 pm every Friday for beer bust. People would as how the company could afford to do that and my typical answer was to remind them of the engineering problems one could solve over a beer with people you might not see during the week. Jimmy (referring to Jimmy Treybig, President of Tandem) was dumb like a fox. We had a great ham station in the HQ building (right across the street from the building I ultimately wound up in) with a nice Alpha 86 amplifier and Mosley Pro-57B beam. That fact that Jimmy was a ham (W6JKV) didn't hurt. :)

    Interesting that a power supply took out the two controllers. I wonder if you fed that result to Tandem. I don't recall any changes requiring EMC testing that came out of anything like that. And, as the head EMC guy for years I would have heard about that.
     
  30. steingar

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    Were it one of my students they'd have failed. I browbeat them to always back up their data and their work, that if you couldn't show it to someone it hadn't happened. As a result when we lost our main hard drive nothing was lost.
     
  31. Ken Ibold

    Ken Ibold Final Approach

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    No doubt. But he's not my student. He observes proper server/backup etiquette for his work product. I think he's learned a valuable lesson for his personal stuff.
     
  32. Larry in TN

    Larry in TN Line Up and Wait

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