“Uhh… Why Isn’t My External Hard Drive Showing Up??”

Once a month I get a phone call from a “friend” (or someone I met once who never talks to me but recently discovered that I work in technology), asking me for a huge favor.  After a good ten minutes of small talk, in which they ask me all kinds of questions about how my life is going (while they are home sipping coffee with the phone on speaker… not listening to my responses whatsoever), they tell me they’re in dire need of help with something.  OMG failed hard drive?!

Now, seeing as I’m a lovely, caring person who enjoys helping people save money and time and also clearly likes fixing gadgets, I always offer to help. Nine out of ten times I can recover all the data, and people think I’m a genius… but I’m totally not.  I don’t even know how to hang curtain rods in my apartment without them collapsing on me three days later.  People are just ignorant of technology (preach it http://www.code.org).  The process is actually extremely simple.

Now it’s not that I don’t LOVE doing free favors for “friends” who will probably never speak to me again for another year until their friend’s drive fails – I totally do. I just thought I’d make a simple tutorial on recovering a failed hard drive. This way I can just refer people here and spend my day at the beach instead of at home working on recovering all those really neat short films you directed from your drive.

You’ll need a drive apricorn (a device to hook your bare drive up to your computer).  It’s $40 bucks and works 90 percent of the time so just buy it.  If you think $40 is too expensive, good luck taking your drive to a repair shop and getting charged between $500 – $5,000 dollars.  You can buy one here:   http://www.apricorn.com/products/notebook-hard-drive-upgrade-kits/drivewire-ide-pata-sata-to-usb-hdd-adapter.html

Remove the casing from your external drive so all that’s left is the bare drive itself.  Different brands have different enclosures, and most of them come off just by undoing the small screws under the rubber.  If you can’t figure out how to get it off, google the instructions for that brand and model – there are tons of tutorials out there.

Once you have the bare drive, connect it to the apricorn.  Plug the apricorn into your computer.  Fifty percent of the time, your computer will recognize the drive instantly and all of the data will be there.  If this is the case, it was just a malfunction with the enclosure that your drive was in before that was causing it to not show up when you plugged it into your computer

If your computer still doesn’t recognize the drive, open up Disk Utility (Go > Utilities > Disk Utility) and see if the drive shows up there.  The remaining 40 percent of the time it will, and you can open up the drive and transfer out the files that you need.

If the drive can’t be recognized even in Disk Utility, you are in the lonely 10 percent have a much more serious problem.  The drive will need to be sent to a recovery specialist who can open up the drive in a cleanroom environment to find out what has caused the fail and repair it.  This method is pretty expensive (like a few grand).  http://www.drivesaversdatarecovery.com/

If your drive is in this 10 percent and you really don’t have the money for this but want to try everything possible, try wrapping the drive in plastic-wrap (or any other waterproof wrapping) and putting it in the freezer for a few hours.  Then try reconnecting the drive with the apricorn.  Sounds weird, but it’s worked for me and you might be able to get it to come up long enough for you to at least get your data off of it.

Goooood luck!

Disclaimer:  I’m not responsible for anything bad that happens to you or your drive.  Also, friends, I love you and I will totally still help you unless you suck – then I won’t help you and I’ll refer you here.


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