Broken external hard drive - data recovery?

(2 Posts)
stuckindamiddle Fri 21-Mar-14 22:51:03

I've got an external hard drive, the kind that's powered by mains electric. I accidentally dropped it from a table onto a tiled floor recently and it's now not working sad
I want to try to recover data (essentially photos) from it. What's my best option? Is this something a local PC repair place is really likely to be able to do? I'm sceptical about some of them. What questions should I ask before handing it over somewhere? Thanks!

NetworkGuy Sat 22-Mar-14 09:06:34

It would certainly be worth going to a small local repair place, and see what they say. In the main there are 2 or 3 interfaces available on drives, depending on age, so if they have a suitable external "plug in" box to take your drive, they should be able to say in 10 minutes if it is readable. However, if the task is in a queue for the engineer in the back room, it might be Wednesday before he looks at it.

I'd say you'd like to know what they think "now", as you have other options if they are too busy... That should get them to check if they can read the data or not, and if they ca, give you a quote for recovery. If they are after silly money (25 quid) at this point, just to see, I'd say "I may come back another time" and depart. I know PC World had a fixed fee just for looking, but a small shop is less likely to try it on, and more likely to want your job +cash. If they give a quote, ask if that includes the drive. If they say yes, ask what drive they would use (as you might be able to buy it cheaper on Amazon or Ebay). You may push them to allow you to do a search (take a phone with a browser on it to do so there and then). At least you will know if the figure they would charge for the drive would be reasonable and easier than the hassle of buying your own.

If they can read it, so could you, and you might now have priced up a replacement drive (!), so with a suitable "plug in" drive holder and even if you can only get 80-90% back, for 20 to 40 quid, it might be a whole lot cheaper than the 50 to 100 they may charge. If they seem positive they can do it, then once we know what type of drive it is, it should be possible to buy a unit yourself (from Amazon for example), to see if you too can read the drive. The shop might have some expensive utilities, but even then the external adaptor could be used by you with a brand new drive as an external storage unit (just not as neat looking as the original, perhaps). Of course you don't really need to replace immediately with a new drive, if you have a few USB sticks or similar, and enough space on your system's drive to store what you pull off the external drive, pro tem.

Have you any idea how much data is on the drive? Do you manually choose what to back up, or is it done automatically by software ? Do you know if you have multiple copies of the same files stored (some backup software will only add daily 'updates' - new additions and changed items, while others make a complete backup each run, and thus duplicate items again and again until backup drive full and older backups get deleted for space).

When it hit the floor, was the drive in use (ie were you reading or writing data) ?

If so, there's a chance of massive (think 5K++) cost to recover all nearly all data using a specialist like Vogon Investigation in London. When a client's Windows server running their mail system crashed, every utility we tried gave up. It took Vogon a few days and a pile of cash but at least 99.5% of their mail was recovered (6-8 years worth). Now you can see why it would be worth checking with a local repair shop first!

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