Question - PC portable storage / external hard drives?

 
  Ads Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
Hello,
I'm interested in the thoughts and opinions of members here as I am far from PC savy:

Over the last 15 years I've had multiple laptop computers die on me, 1 desktop computer fail resulting in a full reboot (system and all files wiped) and a few USB/SD cards which have had some of their files become corrupted and inaccessible.


A few years back I was seeking a more competent, reliable method of storing my PC files in one convenient location as I was getting fed up with regularly loosing my important files due to corrupt/failed storage devices.

I purchased an external HDD with the expectation of being able to store my important files and have access to them 10+years down the track.

Perhaps this was very ignorant, wishful thinking on my part; however as you can probably see where this is going - this portable hard disk has recently suffered a failure and is now no longer accessible.
(It is recognised when I plug it into my PC, however it does not have an allocated drive letter and requires to be 'initialized' - which cannot be done due to a "hardware error".


An internet search finds that this seems to be a relatively common issue with this particular model of HDD.
With the majority of the tech support suggesting there is a small chance that the HDD can be restored to working order, although there is very little chance any data on the HDD can be restored.
Sad and frustrating as I had about 10 years worth of my photo catalogue on that HDD.


(1)As I continue to look through the internet for 'the fix' - is there any advice or previous experience you can offer?
Apparently the best chance I have of restoring the files on the HDD is to send it into a professional lab to be repaired.
I would prefer not to go down that path at this point in time.



(2)Secondly, moving forward what process/devices are advised when it comes to saving important files for the long term?
I understand I made a mistake in putting all my important files in 'one basket'; although I did actually have plans to make a backup copy of the HDD only a few weeks prior to its failure.

Should I purchase 2x HDD's to have a constant back up or 1x HDD by a brand who has a reliable reputation that will last a good decade+ ?



(3)I am looking at purchasing 2x 64GB storage devices (USB/SD cards) as means to back up my photo catalogue.
Are USB and SD cards more susceptible to becoming corrupted over time compared to an external HDD, or even compared to each other?



(4) I am also considering the option of purchasing a desktop PC. Historically speaking is an internal hard drive more reliable than a portable storage device?



I suspect your main advice will be always have a backup copy.
Yes indeed, lesson learnt.

Cheers,
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  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
I keep all my irreplaceable overseas trip photo files on the C drive on my desktop PC. BUT I also keep copies of the photo originals on two separate external 1TB disc drives, one of which is safely locked away and the other is with my daughter elsewhere. I am no computer expert as hot oil and steam are more my vintage but I have used both Western Digital, Toshiba and Seagate external drives over the years without a problem.
  apw5910 Chief Commissioner

Location: Location: Location.
(1)As I continue to look through the internet for 'the fix' - is there any advice or previous experience you can offer?
Apparently the best chance I have of restoring the files on the HDD is to send it into a professional lab to be repaired.
I would prefer not to go down that path at this point in time.
http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk_Step_By_Step

Good Luck!

And always, always have a backup of important stuff! Cannot stress this highly enough.
  HardWorkingMan Chief Commissioner

Location: Echuca
I keep the files on my C drive but have 2 1TB drives. At least every month (or every week if I have been busy enough) I create a new directory on each with the date as the directory name. I then copy all my photos, documents, email files etc to them. That way if one of the 1TB drives fail I still have the other one and if I have accidentally copied a corrupted file (as you may not know it's corrupted until you go to open it) I can hopefully get it from an earlier backup.
  Graham4405 The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Dalby Qld
I have about 30k photos stored on a NAS with 4 x 2TB drives in a RAID array. All photos are also on the C: drive of both my laptop computers, on a MicroSD card in my phone, my wife's phone, my tablet and my wife's tablet. I use SyncBack Free to keep all copies in sync.

Never trust any single device, it will fail, it's just a matter of when.
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

A complex subject. You could investigate using the Cloud, ie remote internet storage, the pros and cons of which are too lengthy to discuss here. There are plenty of other options as well, so I would suggest talking to friends or adopting one of the suggestions above. I am assuming for the rest of this that you are storing your files on a PC and backing them up on an portable HDD. Using 2 portable HDDs would not be too extravagant.

[1] Assuming your HDD is connected by USB, trying connecting it to another computer with a suitable operating system (OS), such as a friend's. If you have a friend who knows something about Linux he or she may be able to run a live version, such as Fedora, from a CD or USB stick. It doesn't install anything and it recognises the FAT and NTFS file systems used in Windows. In both cases, read all warnings and prompts carefully (and obviously heed them) to ensure you don't accidently wipe anything.

[2, 3 & 4] From this discussion's point of view there isn't much difference in the reliability of USB sticks, SD cards, Solid State Drives (SSD) and conventional HDD; none of them is reliable enough not to do a backup. The HDD in your PC, laptop or desktop, should be more than adequate as your primary location for the storage of your personal data, eg photos, correspondence. Check the size of your current PC HDD to make sure there's sufficient space for your data as you may have to upgrade. Buy a portable HDD that is at least as big as your PC HDD (I think 1TB is as small as you'll get these days), is USB-powered, ie doesn't have a separate power supply and is USB 3. It should still work if you only have USB 2 on your PC, but check with the sales person.

There are many methods of doing the actual backup. Simple drag-and-drop, using the OS backup, imaging or the real-time backup software that comes with some portable HDD are some examples. Unfortunately too much elaboration is required to discuss the methods here. You'll have to decide what data is backed up but in most cases it only needs to be personal files. The OS and programs can be restored from their original CDs or however else they were acquired.

The frequency of backup is a consideration. If, for example, you do a backup once a week then you will lose all your data for that week if your PC HDD fails 5 minutes before your weekly backup. The frequency is determined by how much of a loss you consider that to be. As far as photos are concerned, as an interim backup, don't delete them from you camera or phone after you have transferred them to your PC, until you have done you regular backup, whenever that may be.

Another consideration is the risk to your backup if it is kept in the same physical location. (Storing off-site is one of the Cloud's pros.) A university researcher had a laptop, with 12 months of research data, stolen. He had the data backed-up on a USB stick. Trouble was it was in his briefcase which was stolen at the same time. A small fire, say in the PC, or a water leak could destroy both your PC and backup or a thief could take both. I would at least store the HDD somewhere else in the house between backups. The tin-foil hat brigade would store their backup HDD(s) in a fire & alien-resistant safe.

Finally, periodically (dealer's choice) check whatever backup system you have, to ensure that it is working and you can recover a file from it.

Your data needs to be replicated in a minimum of two locations to be in a backed-up state. In this case, that is on your PC and portable HDD. If one of those locations fails, either the PC HDD or the backup HDD, you need to replace it straight away as your data is no longer backed-up.
  Lazarus Train Controller

Location: Missouri, USA
As someone who does photography on the side, I feel you pain on losing files. Definitely get yourself a RAIDed NAS for backup at the minimum. Also, if they hold enough value to warrant it, perhaps an online backup service is in order too. I have multiple backups at my house, but that doesn't do me any good in the case of a house fire (or tornado where I currently live). Make sure whatever new drive/s you get to run diagnostics on it to check every sector before putting data on it. I didn't do this on a new external, and about 40 raw files from an event were corrupted because of it.

As for your current dilemma; could you transfer the platters to a known good drive and give that a go?
  apw5910 Chief Commissioner

Location: Location: Location.
As for your current dilemma; could you transfer the platters to a known good drive and give that a go?
Lazarus
Even those who think Proto-87 is "way too coarse" are going to have that sort of equipment lying around the house ūüėÉ
  RustyRick Chief Commissioner

Location: South West Vic
I've had reasonable success recovering files from dying hard drives, but you don't want to pay for it. It takes a lot time and perseverance. From my experience, a hard drive is a hard drive. They are all likely to fail. This year one type may be more failure prone than another, but next year it will be different. USB sticks are ok, but size is an issue. DVD's are probably the most reliable as long as you keep them stored away from sunlight and heat. Size is also an issue.

I suggest as part of your back up routine you also use Google photos, but change the settings to "High Quality - free unlimited storage". The saved file won't be as good as the original full size file from the camera, but at least the image isn't lost forever.

With your current situation - stop looking at the drive. Every time you use it, it's one step closer to total failure. If your prepared to trust a relative stranger to have a look at it, and aren't in any hurry, send me a message. I'm moving house at the end of May, so it'll take a while to get set up again.

Good luck

Rick
  P2017 Chief Commissioner

Location: Geraldton
I use Onedrive storage for all my photos, I only upload however the JPG's as the raw files would take up the 1.03TB that I have.

I do however have a back of all photos including raw on a couple Portable HDD's.
  Ads Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
P2017/RustyRick/Lazarus/apw5910/kitchgp/Graham4405/HardWorkingMan/YM-Mundrabilla;

Thank you all very much for your replies. I am very grateful for your time and info provided - I have taken ALL advice on board.

Due to time constraints I have not worked on fixing the issue during the last few days, however I will aim to make time over the next week to attempt a fix.

Does a 'partition recovery' have the potential to erase any data off the hard drive?


The external drive in question is a WD brand.
WD have a 'Drive Utilities' program which offers a diagnostic scan.
My scan always comes to a halt at the 90% mark where there is a corresponding 'clicking' sound coming from the hard drive as if there is a 'jam' or obstruction of sorts.




Thanks again. I do appreciate all your offers and advice.
  apw5910 Chief Commissioner

Location: Location: Location.
>  Does a 'partition recovery' have the potential to erase any data off the hard drive?  

Yes. Or make it very, very difficult to re-construct the file locations.

> The external drive in question is a WD brand.
> WD have a 'Drive Utilities' program which offers a diagnostic scan.
> My scan always comes to a halt at the 90% mark where there is a corresponding 'clicking'
> sound coming from the hard drive as if there is a 'jam' or obstruction of sorts.

That sounds bad. It may be that the disk head(s) are just "getting lost" at that point and are trying to re-calibrate, or there really is physical damage to the disk there.

Must admit to having not a lot of luck with hard disks once they go bad. If you do attempt recovery, remember you may only have one chance at this (if that!) so make sure you are set up to immediately copy anything you want to save. It is not a process where you get the luxury of practice runs.
  Graham4405 The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Dalby Qld
I once retrieved most of the data from a "dead" hard drive by bashing it on a desk repeatedly each time it became unreadable. I had nothing to lose...
  dthead Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Hello,
I'm interested in the thoughts and opinions of members here as I am far from PC savy:

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Smart Geeks  will do the operation as such:

Obtain the exact same model Hard disk.

PULL IT APART enough to take the circuitboard off it and transplant it to the bad one.

Then attach it to a working system either a a secondary HDD or with a USB adapter

Atttempt to read HDD then copy it all ASAP.

Then redo the op to resotre the oriignal HDD. One could always put the suspect board on the doner HDD and see if it works.

You have t  plan this ever so carefuully, a clean surface, all the tools.Document every plug and screw so you can reverse the order.


Of course no garentee !


I have seen this done at least 4 times when working a TAFE as IT Support - and they all worked.


Regards,
David Head
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

If you're uncomfortable with the above, consider RustyRick's generous offer.
  RustyRick Chief Commissioner

Location: South West Vic
All care - no guarantee. I like a challenge. I also have lost files and I hate hearing of people who's lost years of data through no real fault of their own.

Rick
  woodford Chief Commissioner

The ONLY reliable approach is to keep at least 3 copies on 3 DIFFERENT devices, one of which is kept offsite somewhere. Flash drives and any kind of optical disk (CD's, DVD's etc) are not a reliable long term storage. I keep 3 copies on three different harddisk's and a further 3.5 inch drive in a portable case is kept in my machine shop.

Any back up strategy MUST and I repeat MUST be fully tested INCLUDING THE RESTORE, a have seen a case where two of three backup copies were destroyed during the restore process.

woodford
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: North of the border!
The ONLY reliable approach is to keep at least 3 copies on 3 DIFFERENT devices, one of which is kept offsite somewhere. Flash drives and any kind of optical disk (CD's, DVD's etc) are not a reliable long term storage. I keep 3 copies on three different harddisk's and a further 3.5 inch drive in a portable case is kept in my machine shop.

Any back up strategy MUST and I repeat MUST be fully tested INCLUDING THE RESTORE, a have seen a case where two of three backup copies were destroyed during the restore process.

woodford
woodford
Make sure your backup software actually does. About 6 weeks ago I discovered my Windows 10 backup wasn't. It ran OK, but the last backup date was unchanged. No error notification either. It seems to have sorted itself out last week. I assume the last Windows 10 update must have fixed it.
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

There's a difference between backing-up and archiving. This article discusses the subject:
http://www.pcworld.com/article/2984597/storage/hard-core-data-preservation-the-best-media-and-methods-for-archiving-your-data.html

Not very pleasant, but another consideration with archiving is; if it is of value to posterity, does posterity know what's there and how to access it? When it comes time for you to move on, so to speak, what do you want to leave behind? Your railway photos may be of value to some people and your family history research to others. How you go about this is very much an individual thing. You could, for example, leave instructions with your will, along with (as part of) your list of assets. Otherwise it'll most likely be wiped or thrown down the tip.
  Ads Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
>  Does a 'partition recovery' have the potential to erase any data off the hard drive?  

Yes. Or make it very, very difficult to re-construct the file locations.

> The external drive in question is a WD brand.
> WD have a 'Drive Utilities' program which offers a diagnostic scan.
> My scan always comes to a halt at the 90% mark where there is a corresponding 'clicking'
> sound coming from the hard drive as if there is a 'jam' or obstruction of sorts.

That sounds bad. It may be that the disk head(s) are just "getting lost" at that point and are trying to re-calibrate, or there really is physical damage to the disk there.

Must admit to having not a lot of luck with hard disks once they go bad. If you do attempt recovery, remember you may only have one chance at this (if that!) so make sure you are set up to immediately copy anything you want to save. It is not a process where you get the luxury of practice runs.
apw5910
Thanks for this info and advice.

I should specify that the 'clicking' sound only occurs intermittently. The scan reaches the 90% mark, then about 30seconds later there is the 'click-click-click' sound. This then repeats about 2-3 minutes later and so on until the non-progressing scan is closed.
  Ads Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
Hello,
I'm interested in the thoughts and opinions of members here as I am far from PC savy:

Ads



Smart Geeks  will do the operation as such:

Obtain the exact same model Hard disk.

PULL IT APART enough to take the circuitboard off it and transplant it to the bad one.

Then attach it to a working system either a a secondary HDD or with a USB adapter

Atttempt to read HDD then copy it all ASAP.

Then redo the op to resotre the oriignal HDD. One could always put the suspect board on the doner HDD and see if it works.

You have t  plan this ever so carefuully, a clean surface, all the tools.Document every plug and screw so you can reverse the order.


Of course no garentee !


I have seen this done at least 4 times when working a TAFE as IT Support - and they all worked.


Regards,
David Head


I see there are videos online which show this process as a step-by-step guide.
In theory I can see how this idea has had proven success in the past.
Although I don't believe the same model of my HDD is manufactured anymore.

Thank you however, for the suggestion David.

dthead
  Ads Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
All care - no guarantee. I like a challenge. I also have lost files and I hate hearing of people who's lost years of data through no real fault of their own.

Rick

Thank you again Rick, I do acknowledge the generosity of your offer.

With the majority of the photos I had on the external hard drive I still fortunately have most saved on their various SD cards straight off the camera.

The only great frustration off loosing the files of the HDD is all the time that was lost spent editing and cataloguing the photos onto the HDD.

So begins the time-consuming exercise of doing it all over again.........Crying or Very sad

Cheers
  RustyRick Chief Commissioner

Location: South West Vic
No worries Ads - frustrating but not catastrophic.

Rick

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