Uh oh -- drive failure

My system does not detect my external USB portable drive. I’ve been reading on the Web that the drives themselves are probably fine, but the cases are notorius for failure, and that I should just replace the case. I have no idea what this entails. Any advice would be greatly appreciated

I think from now on I’ll be using offline data storage services like carbonite.com

I have a pile of dead drives. I recently lost a 500Gb external that was just out of warranty of course! :unamused: In my case it’s ALWAYS been the drive that has failed, not the USB enclosure or internal SATA or IDE interface etc.

It’s relatively easy to replace the drive in an external USB enclosure. Once you figure out how to open it up, it all becomes pretty much self-evident how you then remove the drive itself. I just this weekend replaced the 500Gb drive mentioned above with a new 1Tb drive. Took about 15mins. :sunglasses:

Hi Doug

Carbominte looks very interesting indeed.

One bit, and one bit only which bothered me was thi, in their FAQ:

How often does the service back up my files?
Carbonite automatically backs up your files every time they change or when a new file is saved to your computer. You don’t have to think about it or remember to do it. There is nothing new to learn, just download the software and Carbonite does the rest. Most Online backup providers allow you to schedule a back up or they back up once a day. That is convenient but risky. What if your PC fails before the scheduled back up?

That sounds as if they take away the option to choose own schedule … now there’s no way that i would be wanting backups to be happening at the same time as I am recording or mixing something. I’m one those who does not have a separate DAW

Another thought … we’re musician … our data files can be rather big.

Having said that, I am pretty sure that I will get a subscription with that or a similar company. Like you, I have been using external drive to backup. OK I have not had one go wrong on me YET. And I have been getting increasingly worried, and wondering just how many backup clones I need to make in order to feel safe.

Heck … look at Lenny … he’d gone for the peace of mind you can get by Raid - but his went down. he can give better details.

OKOK … about THIS USB Drive … here’s step by step for you up to the limits of my knowledge.

1: Is that USB port working? Put other things in that USB port and see if they work. If it’s a second USB external drive, that’d be the best thing to set the port with.

2: Check: did the USB drive in question need any driver software originally, in order to work with your computer? [and have you done any windows updates etc?]. My own guess is that there will have been NO driver problems, and that your disk would have simply been recognized as a ‘USB storage device’ immediately Windows has seen it.

3: I am assuming that when you plug it in, then lights and stuff come on and … and you can HEAR it spinning up to speed, or you can feel it vibrating up to speed?

4.1: have you tried connecting the Drive and the Computer with a DIFFERENT USB cable?
4.2: The USB cable you’ve got coming from your non working UDB drive … have you tried using that to connect a Different USB device? such as a USB Memory stick, or a camera or a printer?

After doing these tests, I would start wondering whether there was something wrong with your non working drive.

Open the case, and see whether anything in there makes any sense whatsoever. If it does not, then close the case up and take it to a shop where you can pay someone to ‘have a look at it’.

if it makes SOME sense, have a look inside your computer, and see if the way your internal disk drives connect with the computer is In Any Way similar to how the disk in your USB external disk housing connects up. If So, then Have you got a Spare Internal disk drive?

I.e., one that is sitting in a drawer somewhere?

If so, then put it on the table next to your opened usb drive.

How similar do they look? If they look very similar indeed … ie identical … then

Do you reckon you could, with a screwdriver, and a small bit of jiggling and pulling plugs, REMOVE the USB drives Hard Disk?

If not, then close it up and take it to the shop.

If so … Remove it.

Two Tests you may now make:
Fit your known-to-be-working spare hard Drive into the USB Drives housing.

1: If it does not work, then you KNOW that your USB Drive enclosure had broken, so you are to get a new enclosure. Having done that, Install the hard disk in question, into it. All should be well.


2: Take the drive you just removed, and fit that into your computer, to see if that works [note if is DOES work … then if you’ve got space, simply copy its contents to some part of your computer. My reason for saying is: If you’ve got this far, then you are Fiddling and Twiddling, with a unit which is part of a system which has problem. TAKE NO CHANCES on anything is my advice. Overkill, yes.

On the subject of ‘taking no chances’ … if you have any qualms about fiddling and twiddling either before or after you first open it up to have a look, then just take it to someone who ‘knows what they are doing’.

On the subject of fiddling and faddling … could someone say how crucial it is to protect against STATIC ELECTRICITY? When opening the computer and messing in that, I make sure that I and everything else is connected to Earth. Do we need this precaution when working outside the computer on a USB drive Housing?

OK, Doug … that’s the best I could come up with after thinking through it.

All the best

Here’s a review of online data backup providers …

includes a 10% discount on Carbonite’s 1 year, and 5% on the 2 year plan.


The reviewer at


» Interface functionalities. The interface for both Carbonite and Mozy were easy to use. Based on the functionalities, both offered the same options. For example, you can pause the backup process anytime you want to. You can also set up a schedule when you would like the backup process to commence or stop.

This is different from my reading of the blurb on Carbonite’s webside, so I thought I’d better point it out.

Thanks for the responses gents

The lights DO come on. It’s a pocket drive – can’t hear or feel any spinning inside it.

Also, I’ve read that the drive itself is probably okay, it’s the power unit in the housing that’s bad. Unfortunately, on this drive the power unit and the drive are integrated – can’t just replace the housing

Another thing I’ve read concerns USB power ratings – some mobo’s don’t supply enough power for such a drive to operate. The solution is a USB Y-cable to supply more power to the unit. I’ll probably try this, but it begs the question: how come it worked fine for about a year?

And just like you Ian this drive has failed just after the warranty has expired.

It’s a Western Digital and judging by their user Forum I am not alone in this experience. WD SUCKS!!!

Yeah, I stopped going with WD a number of years ago. This has been my experience with a few of the name brand drives over the last 10 years.
WD- 3 failures. (out of 4 drives)
Maxtor- Runs very hot, 1 failure. (out of 2 drives)
Seagate- solid and cool. No failures. (out of 3 drives)
Samsung- solid and runs cool. No failures (out of 3 drives). Just in the last couple years I have chosen Samsung because their drives go into the x-box, and you can imagine how much abuse x-boxes get!

Always get “hot swap” external boxes. Then you can keep those old drives and when you have time you can google around and find out how to wake them up as they are incredibly hard wearing and it is actually quite hard to erase data completely on most drives. They are used in aircraft black boxes for that reason.
If you’ve got a sealed external drive (and it is out of warranty or you don’t mind) just get a screwdriver and dismantle it, remove the drive and keep it, you’ll more than likely find it’s ok and a 3.5" standard.
If in warranty always ring the shop. Chances are they’ll just send out another drive with no return.
Then you’ll have a new drive and you can take the duff one to bits.

I’ve started using one of these for backup and storage:

This is a network attached storage device (NAS) accessible to any machine on your network. Had some initial problems with network connection but after firmware update works really well. It has two bays and if both are populated works as a mirrored device. Though not designed as a portable solution works really quite well and you can even connect to it remotely anywhere on the web.

Might be worth a look.

Before opening up, have you tried the same drive connected to another PC/Laptop?
If that works save your data as soon as you can

It’s not the drive itself I’m concerned about, it’s retrieving the data on it

I bought this a year ago when I was still on Win XP. Then about 6 months ago I went to Win 7 Home 64. It was about 3 months after that that it started making the classic “der-plunk” sound as if one had just connected it. People warned me that failure was imminent, but I procrastinated doing anything about it.

I thought I mentioned that one this unit the case/power unit and the drive itself are one integrated unit – can’t swap housing or drive.

HOWEVER: I took it into work and plugged it into their Win XP system and it instantly detected it, and my data was intact. Indeed, as read thru the WD users forum there was one guy – who got shot down – stating that win 7 uses a slightly different file system than this drive and wasn’t compatible. Further, if one looks under the OS’s that are lsited for this drive, Win 7 is conspicuously absent in the list.

So it looks like I’ll have to dump the data into somebody’s XP machine (or create a temp XP partition on my machine) and then feed the data back into a new drive that IS compatible with Win 7

Thanks for the help

Okay. I plugged it into two different XP machines today --no problem. I took it to a computer repair shop and they plugged it into their Win 7 64bit machine and it worked fine there, too. I tried a Y-cable to feed it more power, but that didn’t fix it. So apparently I have one of the following possible problems:

need stronger PSU

conflict between Windows driver and WD driver

USB bus is under-powered or shorted


conflict between Windows driver and WD driver


USB bus is under-powered or shorted

Do other USB devices work ok?

Have you tried a powered USB hub? Maybe this will “reanimate” the drive on your Win 7 machine.

(If not, get a new drive that is certified for Win 7. Then use an XP machine to copy the data directly from the old USB drive to the new one.)

Still can’t figure this one out.

drive appears under “Computer” on several different machines, incl another Win 7 64 ystem

cleared unused drivers from registry using a couple freeware utilities… no effect

tried to open case… can’t get it open

removed all other USB devices – still doesn’t show up

tried it with a USB Y-cable to feed it more power – no effect


I bought another drive and had friend transfer data from this drive to new one, so I’ve got my files, thank goodness

My USB ports ARE detecting Steinberg dongle, iLok, and USB flash drives


If it’s still playing up and you have space in your machine and the inclination to crack it open it may be worth dumping it into your machine maybe?
I have a mate who uses carbonite and SWEARS by it!
She is one of the UK’s top vocal coaches… you would not believe her client list! lol… so obviously her data is incredibly valuable! she says it just sits there silently doing it’s thang! She had some problems a while back and carbonite got her back up and running in no time!
She sent me an invite for a free trial actually so i may give it a go after the 6 hour manual backup i did yesterday… basically a whole day watching bars going across the screen instead of doing anything creative!