External HD not powering up

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by NDay, Jan 5, 2011.

  1. NDay macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2011
    Hi everyone,

    I'm running 10.6.5 on a 2.4ghz Macbook Pro, but I don't think this info is necessarily relevant because my problem is with an external drive.

    I left the country for four months, and on my return, my hard drive (which had been sitting on a shelf in untouched for months) would not power up. It is a WD MyBook 750 gb. Since the problem was in the power, I assumed that the enclosure, not the drive, was faulty. I ordered a hard drive dock so I could test it out, and it finally arrived today. The dock powers on when the drive is not in the slot, but when the drive is inserted (before power on) the power light does not turn on.

    Is anyone with some hard drive knowledge able to point me in the right direction? What could the problem be? Is it fixable? Is my information recoverable?

  2. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    To make sure I'm reading correctly, you opened up the case of the external, pulled the physical drive out of it, and tried putting that drive into a new external hard drive dock, and the dock won't power up.

    If that's what's happening, there are only two possibilities I can think of: The dock is, by coincidence, not working right, or the drive is very toast. In the latter case, if it's shorting the power supply, the external dock would shut down almost instantly when the drive tried to pull too much current from it. And, assuming that's it, it's highly unlikely there's anything you can do. I've heard in some cases of buying an exactly identical hard drive and swapping the circuit board from one to the other, but even that will probably do no good at all, as I assume there are bad sectors and such stored in the firmware on the board. (And of course if the motor is what's bad, not the board, then it wouldn't help anyway.)

    You could either find a known-good drive and try it in the dock to confirm that the dock is ok, or send it to a professional data recovery service--VERY expensive (US$1-2K, I think), but there's a good chance that they'll be able to salvage data.

    One question, mostly out of curiosity: You said that it's a WD MyBook; is it one of the multi-interface ones? I was under the impression that the cheaper, USB-only WDs actually have USB-only bridge boards on the drives themselves, not SATA (some people were cheesed about that because they could no longer strip off the external case and use the drive bare).
  3. NDay thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2011
    Yep, it's a MyBook, and it is SATA. It was plugged into a USB bridge thing, but it was fairly easy to remove it from that.

    Do you have any idea what could have failed from just sitting around? That's what confuses me. It was working perfectly when I left, and now it's kaput. I think I'm going to buy another drive (will need one if I can't get this working anyway) and test out the dock, but I think it's OK. I'm afraid the drive may be a goner. Thanks.

    Any other solutions? I have nothing to support this, but it seems like data shouldn't just corrupt from sitting around. In my mind it should still be right there on the disk, fairly easily accessible. I know this may be far from the case, but I can't yet shake that possibility.
  4. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    Well, you're right that the data is almost certainly just sitting there happily on the platters--nothing physically shredded them. But that's not your problem--either the control circuity that knows how to drive the physical mechanism that reads data off the platters, or the motor that spins up the platters so data can be read, died. Which means, again, that you can pay people with expensive, specialized hardware to get the data for you, but from your perspective it's just as inaccessible as if the platters had caught fire. You could try swapping an identical control board like I mentioned--only a couple of screws, the hard part is finding the identical drive--but I doubt that'll do anything but waste the cost of a second hard drive.

    This is all assuming that, when hooked directly to a known-good power supply the drive does nothing--that means that something serious failed. If it were to spin up, there's at least a chance that the data could be retrieved through the means of mere mortals.

    And while a drive is a little less likely to fail just sitting there than in use, there's no guarantee--every time you apply power to a drive there's some fractional percent chance of some important component going poof, just like there's such a chance for every minute the drive is spinning. Sitting in a drawer is no guarantee it's not going to decide to fail the next time you power it on, just as any time you turn on your computer might be the time the hard drive decides to go poof. Phrased differently, it works until it doesn't, no exceptions.

    The other possibility, of course, is that it was actually the power supply in the case that blew up, and fried the drive along with it. The only way to test that would be to hook another drive to the case portion, which to me at least wouldn't be worth it unless you have an old spare you don't care about laying around.

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