External Hard Drive Stopped Working

Here’s a question we received about and old hard drive that recently died.

Dead hard drive“My old (~10 years old) external hard drive stopped working recently. I have tried to open it and connect the hard disk direclty to my computer but it did not work. My hard disk didn’t even start spinning.
Could you please tell me how long and how much it would take to recover the data that are on it?
Here are the details of my hard drive, I am in Coventry:

  • Iomega UltraMax Desktop Hard Disk Drive
  • 500GB Capacity
  • Interface: FireWire 400 (1394a) • USB 2.0
  • 7200 rpm Spindle Speed
  • 8MB data buffer”

Actually the Iomega Ultramax is an external hard drive, rather than a desktop type hard drive. To attempt to remove confusion, ‘desktop’ hard drives are the devices that you find inside desktop computers – you don’t see them as they are inside the computer case. ‘External’ hard drives are those that are external to the computer and are usually connected to it by either a USB or Firewire cable. They are also called ‘portable’ or ‘usb’ or ‘firewire’ hard drives. So even though these external devices frequently sit on a desktop, they are not referred to as desktop drives. A good example of one of these drives is the Western Digital series of My Passport disks.

From the problems you describe above it actually doesn’t sound too bad a fault, and should be easily rectifiable. The key part of your description is where you explain that the hard disk didn’t even start spinning when it was directly connected to a computer. Although it may sound a minor point, it enables me to identify the you’ve most probably got a problem with the electronics on the hard drive, rather than the mechanics, firmware or data. Once a solution is found, the data should be fully retrievable. The best advice would be for you to contact an external hard drive recovery company who should be able to sort the problem out and retrieve the data from the hard drive for you.

Electrical problems on hard drives usually revolve around the circuit board. Although robust, these are easily damaged by power fluctuations and spikes which can destroy a controller board. Fitting a new controller board to the hard drive is often the first thing most of us think about doing, but this will not work as some of the components on the original controller board contain unique ‘adaptive data’ about the hard drive and also need to transplanted onto the new controller board before the hard drive will start to work properly again.

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