Question I need advice for recovering a hard-drive? please read!

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About half a year ago I realized that my external hard-drive that I bought on amazon was malfunctioning, I had noticed there was a connection problem even before that, it would connect and disconnect rapidly sometimes, but I didn't think much of it cause my files were still there. then 1 day I tried to open my files which had saved in there (video files), and they couldn't open, but it wasn't just like a straight-right-away error message--it was loading and loading, like there was something there, it just couldn't open, and when I tried to “safely remove hardware” It would not allow me to, even with all windows closed it would say “please close programs using the drive”.. I had to just pull the USB out. I unplugged and re-plugged it several times, to see if I could find a way to open the files (and I tried everything like moving the file to C drive to open, or using a different computer, nothing worked)... every-time I tried the files appeared differently, like sometimes it would just not be there, (actually every time the folder would come up empty at first), sometimes there'd only be like half of them, and then the rest would load, but then there wouldn't be the names or thumbnails, sometimes just the names not the thumbnails, sometimes names and thumbnails, but not dates or info, sometimes there was everything included accept it wouldn't play... it would open the video player and the video player would load a bit and then would give up.. My hard drive seems like it has Alzheimer’s and it is having trouble pulling up different parts of the file but I am sure there is a way to recover the files because I know it’s in there somewhere, the data wasn’t wiped, I think it just doesn't know how to use the data to play the video because the video is somehow corrupted ... 

I want to get the drive recovered, but I most importantly don't want to give the drive to someone who hooks it up to a computer and unsuccessfully tries a whole lot of things to recover the data, and then after all that the drive may self-destruct even more and make the problem even harder to solve… I feel that every-time the drive is powered on, it’s probably somehow screwing itself up even more, Plus the whole issue with the unstable connection (which is what I believe caused the malfunction in the first place) will probably find a way to screw it up further.. So before anyone tries to recover the data with a computer, I want to have the drive completely cloned, but I don't know how that can be done, I am thinking I could buy the exact same model and then ask a hardware expert to scan the drive with a machine and clone the data onto the other drive, it might even be better to have 2 or 3 other cloned drives just to be safe… The last thing I want is to pay some nutjob at the data recovery company to ###### up the drive permanently, if that happens then I can’t even bring it to a real good data recovery expert..

In the future when I have more money I’d want to hire like a real smart computer expert, who is smart and creative, someone who treats data recovery like Sherlock Holmes treats crime solving, treating every situation differently, not following a procedure... I don't trust those 9-5 working folks in a data recovery company who don’t really care about your data cause they’re still getting paid at the end of the day. Right now though, I have not much money and I can't wait forever because I hear that hard-drives lose their magnetic energy if not powered on for a while, and it could lose your data even after a year of sitting in storage, I don't want that to happen. I feel that I can't wait any longer; these files are so incredibly important to me, I can't afford to lose them. They are like all I worked on for many years. So, please tell me, what would you do? How would you handle this? Thanks for reading & Thanks for any advice or help. 

(P.S. I have about 1,500 USD saved up and that's all I'm going to have for a good while, I have no job because I am disabled but I won't get into that... so what would you do, if you had 1,500 dollars and broken drive?)

Again I really appreciate any replies, even If you are not an expert.. I am posting this on like 12 other forums so any reply is helpful even if you don't know much. Thanks.

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Can you take the drive out of the external case? Never said what version you have.


The problem might be in the controller, not the HDD itself (lets hope)

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Yeah I would pull it out of its case and either connect it to your computer directly.. Or just by a dock/cable to connect it to - those are like 20$


BTW - not meaning to kick while your down... but if the file are so important.. Why would they only be in one place.. An external is fine for your backup, but the originals would still be on your main PC?


1 Copy of files is not safe, no matter what they are on.. If the files are critical there needs to be multiple copies, in multiple locations, etc. etc.


But before you spend any money with any sort of recovery service - just take it out of its external case and try and access it directly on your pc or via another case/dock/cable.

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^ That. And also, RAID isn't a backup... (this guy said that several times...)

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Back in the early 2000's, I used to offer data recovery services as part of the portfolio of my computer service consultancy, and had a reasonable amount of success of recovering data when the diskette, disc or drive wasn't too far gone.  I would charge a bare minimum of a hundred dollars just to look at it, with no guarantee of success, and hundreds of dollars more if I determined I was able to recover any of the requested data from the drive.  Part of this was to recoup my expenses (specialized data recovery tools are not inexpensive), but it was also because the data had value to its owners.


If, however, the diskette/disc/drive was showing signs of extreme physical failure, I would not even bother attempting recovery, as I was more likely to cause further problems than to recover any of the data.  I would let the client know, and recommend they contact a commercial data recovery company like Kroll Ontrack, DriveSavers, Gillware and so forth.


You seem to have a misunderstanding of how these businesses operate:  They have developed specialized tools in-house to recover data from media of all types in pretty much every failure mode one can think of.   They also have the expertise gathered from decades of experience in recovering data to use those tools with a high degree of success.


The external hard disk drive is progressively failing.


Every time it is powered up, the damage to it is going to increase.


At some point the computer is no longer going to be capable of reading any information stored on the external hard disk drive.


If the data on the external hard disk drive is of any value, contact a professional data recovery company and ask them for a quote to recover the information. 


It will probably cost hundreds of dollars to do so.


After you have gotten your data back, make multiple copies of it, stored on different types of media. 


These will become your backups. 


Update your backups as frequently as you need to, such daily, weekly, whenever a significant amount of data is new or changed, and so forth.


Periodically test your backups by restoring them, preferably on to a different computer than the one that made them.  This ensures that your backups are readable.




Aryeh Goretsky

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Steven P.

You should clone the drive first with Macrium Reflect it is free for home use and I highly recommend it. 


Maybe you can try first to restore the image of the drive somewhere else and see if the files open properly before you go the route of expensive data recovery. In any case you'll have an image backup.

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On 8/28/2019 at 7:21 PM, BudMan said:

Yeah I would pull it out of its case and either connect it to your computer directly.. Or just by a dock/cable to connect it to - those are like 20$


BTW - not meaning to kick while your down... but if the file are so important.. Why would they only be in one place.. An external is fine for your backup, but the originals would still be on your main PC?


1 Copy of files is not safe, no matter what they are on.. If the files are critical there needs to be multiple copies, in multiple locations, etc. etc.


But before you spend any money with any sort of recovery service - just take it out of its external case and try and access it directly on your pc or via another case/dock/cable.

I did have a cloud back up (backblaze) which backed up my external drive and my computer drive,  but this was useless because... well actually it is hard to remember what happened exactly,  I think I didn't plug the drive in to the computer for over a month, so the cloud back-up deleted everything,  If that's what happened then that's on me for not remembering to plug in the drive every so often...   but the way I see it, even if I had remembered to plug it on or whatever, it still would not have helped because if the files become corrupted, it will just mimic that on the cloud and I would just have a bunch of corrupted files in the cloud.  BUT, what I think actually happened was the cloud tried to back up the files, but the external hard-drive was not cooperating or being too slow or not communicating well, so the cloud just gave up, and marked the drive as empty,  I actually think that is what happened, I have a bad memory but I remember being really upset and blaming the cloud service for this mess.  but you're right, I should have had the files in two places,  I never considered the possibility of the files being corrupted, I only imagined the drive being lost or broken, and in that case I could easily use the cloud backup since I would have seen the problem right away,  with corrupted files I had no idea they were corrupted so I couldn't solve the problem in time.  



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6 hours ago, Letsgetaway said:

so the cloud back-up deleted everything

That is not a backup then, that was some sort of sync.. I would suggest you look to say glacier or something as "backup"


So have you taken the drive out of the external case yet and tried to access the files?


A backup is having multiple copies of your files, that do NOT sync..  Because you are correct - if you "sync" you have something that corrupts your files -- say for example ransomware or something, then your so called backup gets overwritten with the crap.. And there goes your backups..

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