External Hard Drive Repair

by Rod Dunne on September 6, 2010

in Articles, Data Recovery, Hardware

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External hard drive repair has become increasingly important given the volume of critical data we backup and save to these disks. An external hard disk is more likely to experience physical damage due to it being so portable. And software/file system faults can easily occur, just as with internal hard drives. However it should still be possible to recover hard disk data and restore the drive to working order in most cases. Here, we’ll show how to repair external hard drive issues relating to mechanical and software faults.

How To Repair External Hard Drive Mechanical Issues

Start by working out if you have a mechanical/component fault or if there is a software issue.

Hardware damage is often identified by abnormal noises from the hard drive. The sounds of scratching may mean the spindles/heads are seizing up. Likewise, a clicking sound may mean the spindle motors have a problem. A rattling noise could mean a component has come loose.

Investigate as follows:

  1. Do not continue to use/run the external drive (this could cause more damage).
  2. Unplug the device and open up the casing.
  3. Check for loose components to be tightened. Check the platters & arms are not bent. If the drive appears scratched then seek professional help as the read/write heads could be misaligned (and further use or alterations could make this worse).
  4. Close up the casing and retest.

Some additional hardware considerations:

  • Check the USB cable/USB port is not damaged. Try running the device on a different port/second PC/using a different USB cable.

External Hard Drive Repair Software

The most severe fault you may experience is when the entire disk contents cannot be seen. In this case, use the options in the external hard drive recovery section below. Do not run the Check Disk utility first as this may reorganize data making data recovery less successful.

The more common software faults you may experience are (a) file system faults and (b) bad sectors. These result in partial loss of directories/files. Windows provides its own external hard drive repair software for scanning and repairing these types of faults. There are surprisingly few tools for HDD repair, although you should also check with your computer manufacturer to see if they have any diagnostic/troubleshooting applications of their own.

Run an external drive check as follows:

  1. Connect the external hard drive and computer via a USB cable.
  2. Open Windows Explorer. Right-click the external drive and select “Properties”.
  3. In the Properties window, select the Tools tab.
  4. In the Tools tab choose “Check Now” in the error checking section.
  5. Options can vary at this point depending on OS. If available, select “Automatically fix file system errors” and “Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors”. Alternatively, select “Thorough” if present.
  6. Click “Start” to begin the repairs.

External Hard Drive Recovery

If you fear that your data may be lost then data recovery software such as Remo Undelete can help retrieve lost data (these tools work on the FAT32 file system so can recover USB data and hard drive files).

  1. Install and run a recovery tool.
  2. Select the external hard drive to scan for lost data clusters (including those in bad sectors).
  3. The program returns a list of found files. Copy the files you need to a new directory/location.

Format recovery tools only work on mechanically fit drives (e.g. they won’t work if the heads are misaligned). They will have a better chance of finding more files if the disk check utility has not been run (this may jumble up data clusters on disk memory).

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