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Getting files off external HD

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So, my dad has this external hard drive with about 400gb worth of backed up files from his computer, well he was in the middle of writing something to the HD when he decided to move the hard drive to another spot closer to the computer. in short the computer can't seem to access the hard drive, windows sees something was plugged in, but it refuses to show up under portable storage, windows also can't remove the device or reboot or shut down the machine with it plugged in. when he removes the hard drive from the usb port it asks to be formatted.


My main concern is finding out if anyone knows how to get the files and stuff off the hard drive.

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yeah ... moving a spinning/working drive is not a real good idea .


the surface of the disk may have been damaged and further attempts of non-productive spinning only shortens the life and lowers possibilities of recovery .


personally speaking ...

my suggestion would be to hook the drive up to a linux machine and use the available tools to attempt copying off the important stuff .

i have worked on HDs that windows refused to see but a 'nix OS would see .

there are a couple of specialized "recovery/extraction" linux OSes available as well .

to play it safe , i would make a clone of the drive and work with the copy .


some drives become damaged to the point of needing to send the drive off to a guru outfit that specializes in data recovery ... but it is very expensive .

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i find that linux "mint" with the MATE desktop is about the friendliest and easiest to use .


what comp are you going to load linux on ?

there are several different releases that are available ...

depending on the age of the machine , it will determine what version will load correctly .


you may be able to use your dad's machine as the new 'nix machine ... grab a spare HD or two .

when you are finished working on the whacked-out drive , pop the original HD back in the machine and bob's yer uncle .

(post make and model of your dad's machine or the one you want to use)


mint is not hard to learn .

a main difference is that it is not "dumbed down" ... you have to think about a few things , but it is not like pulling teeth .

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hmmm ...

'05 ... i don't believe that mint-13 will load correctly .

mint-9 might be the best shot .

(try 13 first ... dvds are cheap)


does that machine have SATA ports as well as PATA ports ?

the make/model of the machine , or even better , the make and model of the motherboard would be helpful .


if the machine is 9 years old , it may be time to start thinking about a different machine .

although , the one i built in '04 was still running just fine until it took a hit in the shorts by a lightning strike/surge last summer .


there are many good places to find info about linux and linux mint online ...

the learning curve can be a little steep .


is there a "linux users group" or some sort of computer club near you ?

this can be a lifesaver when it comes to starting out .

most of the 'nix users i know are very friendly .

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here is a link to mint 13/mate :



i did not know if the machine is 32 or 64 bit .

this has to be known in order to download the correct .iso and burn to disk .


i use "infrarecorder" to burn disks on my windows machines :


(go to the "downloads" page)

this is one of the simplest and best burners i have found .

burn the disk(s) at the slowest speed ... this helps ensure compatibility with older optical drives .

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When I was upgrading to 7 I ran the windows upgrade tool it said it was compatible with 64, but I just stuck 32bit onto it, didn't see the point in putting 64 on the machine, when he only has like 3gb of ram and he really needs to upgrade to a new machine. As for plugging it into the board directly, I was going to, but if I recall correctly, I am not sure it's possible to get the hard drive out of the enclosure, at least not without breaking said enclosure.

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if the external drive is out of warranty ... no harm , no foul .

(heh ... the drive is whacked ... no big deals anyway)


accessing the drive "directly" will be faster than translating to/from usb .


does it have screws or "hidden lock tabs" ?

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You can always do it in a two step process, let your cousin copy all the files to his HD some where, then disconnect the old drive and connect the new one using the same cable, and then copy the files to the new HD.


Of course, this is an alternative to just going out and buying a second SATA cable :P

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I finally got around to downloading and running mint, mint 13 worked on his computer, took a bit to figure out how to get it to install, its rather slow too, but at least its getting the files off the hard drive, all 480gb of it. Going to take 3 hours to transfer it all to the hard drive with linux on it, then another 3 hours to transfer it back once the hard drive is formatted.

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the slowness may be due to not updating to the latest and greatest usb drivers or the fact of *usb to sata and vice versa* conversions .

PATA drives (if used) are slower than molasses in january (in the northern hemisphere) .

it may be the age of the comp as well ... sata 1 versus sata2 or sata 3 .

still , all in all , 500gigs of data is a fair sized chunk .


"Going to take 3 hours to transfer it all to the hard drive with linux on it, then another 3 hours to transfer it back once the hard drive is formatted."

i am not clear on the meaning of this ...

is the drive with mint13 on it a "beater drive" ?

are you pulling the files off of the corrupted/failing drive and stashing them on the drive with mint 13 ?

is the the drive you are going to format a/the new drive for your dad's machine ?

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We pulled all the files onto my 500gb hard drive which I had installed mint onto, It took 3 and s half hours, I then formatted his external, and dumped all the files back onto the external, which actually took 6 hours.

The external seems fine even though Windows couldn't read it.

On a side note, I am keeping the files on the hard drive with mint installed, just in case.

At the end of the month I plan to order him a new external, and put all the files onto it.

Reason I am putting the files back onto his external instead of just using the drive with mint on it as a secondary is because his tower doesn't have an expansion slot for a secondary HD on it. Had to pull out his HD with Windows 7 on it just to put my 500 in and install mint.

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ok ... that is clearer .


yeah , i wouldn't trust that external drive as far as i could throw it .

did you look at the SMART parameters of that drive when you had it hooked into the mint OS ?


no slot/port for a second drive in the box ?

what is the make and model of that machine ?

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according to this :


the motherboard has four (4) SATA connectors and two (2) PATA connectors .

(check the subcategories of "internal connectors" and "board layout")


as i recall , that machine has two of the sata ports being used :

hard drive

dvd/cd drive

this means that you can add an extra HD using either of the remaining two ports .

(on some versions , the pata connector(s) were used for the dvd/cd unit)


so , you could put that 500gig drive in the machine and label it as "data drive" .

make a shortcut on top of the desk to access it .

it will be faster than using an external usb drive .


information :

pata uses a ribbon cable ... slow .


smart data ...


this allows one to look at several parameters pertaining to the hard drive ... it is a good tool in assisting/confirming the condition of a HD .

in mint 13 this is found under : menu/accessories/disk utility

older drives are more limited in what they keep track of .


i thought the model number of the MB sounded familiar ...

when i seen the picture of it , i realized that i had the same board in my bone-pile .

many of the electrolytic caps (especially the small green colored units) had become pregnant and a few had popped their safety vents .

(there was a problem with the quality of those caps)

look at the caps carefully ... if they are swollen , have crunchy powdery crud on the top (with a small split) or around them ...

(even at this , a cap can look good on the outside but be bad internally ... hours and heat are factors)

board is headed south ... it is possible that the machine could write erroneous data to the HD and make for a miserable situation .

i'd expedite replacing the machine .

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hmmm ... after looking around i found a few external pictures on line ...no joy on the internal view .

however ... i do have a similar model in the bone-pile (the media center series) of about the same vintage (i did mount a drive inside of it) .

there was only a certain amount  of room on the front inside due to the mounting scheme of things and the case not being a true full-sized ATX style case (think odd mid-tower) .

there is , i feel/may be room to mount the drive on the bottom of the case ... even if you had to stand it on edge (not my first choice) .


(hot glue and double backed sticky tape are your friends ... seriously)


i suppose a man could go the full route and make a set of four "Z" brackets and bolt these through the case bottom with machine hardware ...

one bracket on each end would hold the drive very securely .


can you post some pictures of the inside and the measurements ?

maybe include a ruler for scaling ?

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