USB drive problem?

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by Rachel Hearton, Nov 22, 2013.

  1. Rachel Hearton, Nov 22, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013

    Rachel Hearton macrumors newbie

    Nov 5, 2013

    I have a late 2008 Macbook running Mavericks, and I'm unsure if the usb drives are working correctly.

    A couple of weeks ago, my LaCie external hard-drive stopped working. Or rather it wasn't showing up when I plugged it in. The light on the drive only came on intermittently. Each time I connected the drive I could hear it starting up, but nothing appeared on the desk-top, 'devices' or disk-utility. I contacted LaCie and they sent me a cable as they believed that was the problem. The new cable improved the connection (the light remained on & and drive sounded like it was running) but ultimately nothing appeared on the desktop, or in disk-utility.

    When I plug a usb zip drive into my Mac it appears on my desktop and on disk-utility, and works satisfactorily. My mouse also works fine via my usb. However, when i connect my printer/scanner, sometimes it is recognised as my related scanner program starts up, but sometimes I have to select print from a document or manually select scan from the printer.

    I expect LaCie will ask me to send my external hard-drive to them, which I'll do if it is the only way of fixing it, but I want to rule out that it's not something to do with my usb drive. I'm going to take my Mac to the apple store, but thought I'd ask the pooled wisdom here first ;) Is there any way the usb could be recognising some devices or only showing some devices as connected? And if so, is there any way i could solve that?

    I'd be so grateful for any information/solutions you may be able to provide :) Thanks

    (edit) just read or someone with usb problems doing a smc and pram reset which solved the problem. Is this something I should look to do?
  2. BrettApple macrumors 65816


    Apr 3, 2010
    Heart of the midwest
    It sounds like the ports themselves may be okay, since the mouse and flash drive are still working on them. Most of the time when a port goes bad, nothing will work at all, or the little pins on the inside get bent.

    As to the printer, most of the time if it is left plugged in and set as default, it will stay that way. But my guess is that when it gets unplugged, it may somehow lose it's setting for the default printer. It sounds more like a software thing than the port not working. So that would be the good news.

    If your mouse and flash drive both work in both ports, than I think the ports are good and the issue could easily be with the hard drive. I work at a local computer repair shop and we see external drives go bad all the time. More often than not it is the enclosure/case that the drive is in that goes bad and won't let it connect to the computer, or is off and on. Have you tried plugging the drive into another computer and seeing if it works reliable on there?

    We're all happy to help around here, and usually you can get an answer. Though some forums are less visited than others.

    You could try a reset, but it may not be necessary. Though it shouldn't do any harm either. I've had to do one to get my WiFi and Bluetooth chip to work again on an '09 MBP. Could be worth a shot.

    Best of luck to you!
  3. Rachel Hearton thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 5, 2013
    Thanks Brett!

    I've tried plugging it into a PC and it was recognised, but I couldn't do anything as it's a drive for a Mac.(or at least I don't think I can... I'm not that tech savvy) It just came up with a message saying an unrecognised device had been connected.

    I think I understand what you said Re: the printer, but is there a reason why it wouldn't show up on the disk-utility?

    Also, to ask a final question (haha sorry), you said you get external hard-drives bought into your shop... are most of them fixable? And if so, do you have to wipe the drive as a result? I know if the worst happens and it's not fixable, they will offer me another one as it is under warranty, I'm just really worried that I'll lose the data on it.

    Thanks again for your reply, I really do appreciate it! You're replies on here are helping a lot of people :)
  4. trevm999 macrumors member

    Nov 5, 2013
    With the drive plugged in, go to spotlight search and type in "system information" and open the program with that name. On the left, under hardware, click where it says USB. It should list all USB devices connected to the computer. It might say something about Lacie.

    What I suspect is happening is that the actual hard drive is failing. The reason why it shows up in Windows and not in OSX is that since Windows does not recognize the file system, it does not try to do a file system check on the drive and mount it. OSX will try to do a file system check on the drive, and when a drive is failing this gets hung up (and is bad for the well being of the drive) and you will not see that the device is connected (except in system information).

    If this is the case, then data recovery will have to be done on the drive. Do not take the drive to the Apple store for this. Either you need to find a tech who knows how to use gddrescue, or take it somewhere that can do a hardware clone of the drive. Techs do not have equal data recovery knowledge. Most will try to connect your hard drive in to a Mac computer in hope that it will mount while the file system check wrecks havoc on it. Basically you will have to call shops and ask how they recover data from failing hard drives. If they don't know what gddrescue is, then they don't know what their doing unless they use a hardware drive imaging solution. You could contact a professional I recommend them if you are in the US.

    At this point, I can't tell you for sure that your drive is failing. The best way to tell involves taking it out of it's enclosure, which will void the warranty. I'm surprised Lacie doesn't have some kind of test you can run on it though (perhaps through windows since it sees the drive) It is possible it still is the enclosure, sometimes if power does not properly get to the drive weird things can happen.
  5. WildCard^ macrumors regular

    Oct 11, 2013
    Trev gives good advice. I do not 100% agree with his diagnosis yet. Let me explain.

    Years ago I used to do data recoveries. I had several software solutions, and had a few partners that would help when the issue was hardware.

    The only reason I disagree with Trev is based on the user's report that the device powers up. OP, if you are used to the usual spinup sound (whirring powerup, no regular or irregular clicking) and the feel of it spinning - then I am unsure where the problem is and I can see why LaCie thought it was the cable.

    Does your enclosure have a different port to connect to? Might be worth trying a different connection if it has another port.

    How important is the data inside it?
    • If not, just plug it into a PC and format it in ExFat format. This is the mutual Mac/PC format. Then test it in your MAC.
    • If it is, then I am unsure how to proceed, and am still thinking..

    This is all assuming it spins up as it always does. OP, if you know what I am talking about, consider following my advice. If not, feel free to record it and upload it to YouTube for us to listen to.

    And last disclaimer, if the data on it is very important, do as little to it as possible (don't even power it) and get it in the hands of the most qualified data recovery group you can afford.

  6. trevm999 macrumors member

    Nov 5, 2013
    Yes, it would be difficult to do a real diagnosis without actually having the drive.

    Even if the drive spins up, OSX sometimes will not show a drive in disk utility if there are a couple bad sectors. FSCK checks the drive and physically bad sectors can make fsck get stuck.

    No offense, but it is quite possible Wildcard's suggestion of reformatting the drive will cause the drive to now show up on both Windows and Mac even though the drive is failing. This could simply make it work for a while but then the issue would resurface (probably when you are out of warranty).

    The question is, how much is the data on the drive worth to you? If it is worth $300, contact 300DDR. It is possible they can recover your data without voiding the warranty. It is possible it will require the warranty to be voided, then it is your call whether your data is worth $300 plus the cost of putting a new drive in your enclosure.

    If it is only worth about $150 to you, take it to a repair shop. They might be able to recover the data with gddrescue without removing it from the enclosure and thus not voiding the warranty.

    Again, it is possible that is it actually a problem with the enclosure and not a physical problem with the drive.

    As a technician, if this was brought into my shop this is what I would do (if the client was not interested in sending it to a data recovery professional)

    1. Connect it to Linux computer and see if it is recognized.

    2. If it is recognized, I would try cloning it with gddrescue while still in the enclosure.

    3. If it was not recognized then I would contact the customer saying I would have to remove it from the enclosure to test further.
  7. WildCard^ macrumors regular

    Oct 11, 2013
    Trev is a bit more knowledgable here, as i have no experience in using the Linux tool.

    My process would be:
    1. to research the enclosure, confirm the drive inside is a standard SATA drive, no glue, epoxy, solder etc holding it in.
    2. Go on best gut guess that the enclosure is the issue, confirm with user that it is okay to void warranty
    3. Remove drive from enclosure
    4. Place drive in another enclosure

    Assuming drive sounds and spins right, this could very well be as simple as the inner connector from enclosure to drive.

    Trev's suggestions are more current and sophisticated, so I would go with his. I do not imagine LaCie will put a lot of effort into doing a data recovery for you, so maybe attempt Trev's Linux test, then crack it open to get your best chance at your data.

    This is all assuming your data is worth this much trouble.
  8. Rachel Hearton thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 5, 2013
    Hi Guys,

    thanks so much for your replies!

    Just to set out, I'm not from the US, I'm from Britain. My data isn't business related, but sentimental, it's everything I've had on my Mac since 2009. When I got the drive last year I transferred most of what I had on my Mac, photos, papers I had written etc...There is a lot on there which I value, but at the same time, I'm not made of money.

    The apple store confirmed there is nothing wrong with my usb drive, and so I contacted LaCie. They confirmed what I thought they would; that the only option available to me is to send it to them (at my cost) and they will repair it, but part of their standard trouble-shooting process is to re-format the drive, hence I lose all of the data on it. They did suggest I send it to their associated data retrieval company, but looking at the costs, that's not something I'm going to be able to do.

    I'm just resentful that they have admitted it's a fault with their drive, and while I understand that their small-print covers them for data loss, I still feel short-changed. I don't understand why they couldn't take the data off my current drive and transfer it to a fully working drive...unless they like charging their customers for one of their drives which doesn't work.

    So, I'm guessing your advice is to take it to a computer technician, and explain this? If I knew they could retrieve my data without voiding my warranty, I would buy another drive, get the data transferred to it, and then sending my current drive to Amazon/LaCie for a refund. Understand it is difficult for you to say for sure without seeing the drive in-front of you...but might it be possible to retrieve my data without voiding any warranty?

    Thanks again for all the time you've taken to offer advice and technical help, really appreciate it!
  9. trevm999 macrumors member

    Nov 5, 2013
    It might be possible to recover the data without voiding the warranty. But every technician's first instinct is to want to take the drive out of the enclosure, and rightfully so. That way it can be determined as either the hard drive or the enclosure, and recovering data from a failing hard drive is more effect when the drive is not in the enclosure. There is no way for me to give any estimate of the chances of recovery without voiding the warranty. All I can say is that it might be possible.

    The question is, how much is this data worth to you? If it is not worth voiding the warranty, then I would recommend just getting your warranty replacement. You could request a technician try not to void the warranty if possible, but if you aren't willing to void your warranty as the next step, I wouldn't bother. Also, keep in mind that either your hard drive or your enclosure is probably still OK. That means that in order to have a functioning external hard drive, you would only need to either buy en enclosure or a hard drive, you will not have to purchase an entirely new one.

    As for being resentful, no manufacturer will take responsibility for data on a hard drive. Hard drives come from factory with defects, it is just a matter of time for when they will fail. Apple does not give any guarantee for the safety of the data on the hard drives they put in their computers either. The difference here, is that a Genius will attempt some sort of data recovery, though they are not trained in data recovery and probably end up doing more harm to the drive. Rather than providing a haphazard data recovery service, they prefer to have professionals take care of it for the people who really value the data on the drive.
  10. Rachel Hearton thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 5, 2013
    Hi Trev,

    Thanks for your advice. Just to clarify one point, I'm not resentful that LaCie don't guarantee my data. I know it's my responsibility. I just think that if a manufacturer's product fails under warranty, they should do what they can to help the customer out. This is a product which boasts on the packaging that it it is so 'rugged' that it can withstand a car driving over it... but which cannot keep my data safe despite me never moving it off my desk in the 8 months I've had it. I think that for LaCie's reputation with customers, they should return a new drive to me with my data transferred onto it. It wouldn't cost them anything extra.

    As it is, they have a 'service' of data recovery, which I only need to use as their product is faulty. To me, it's just a way of ripping their customers off. They are making money from me as a result of selling a faulty product...

    What do you mean when you say 'enclosure'?
  11. WildCard^ macrumors regular

    Oct 11, 2013
    We've all done it before OP, put all our (data) eggs in one basket, only to have that data lost. Sorry..

    The enclosure is the box you see, which is around the real hard drive. LaCie doesn't make hard drives, but takes a hard drive from Western Digital, Seagate, etc and puts it into their hardened box.

    The LaCie case might be strong enough to drive over, sure. But inside here are still delicate floating read heads floating just above spinning plates of metal. Hard drives are by nature delicate and very sensitive to bumps, drops, etc.

    No hard drive company guarantees data viability on their drives. Now that SSD's are out, no moving parts, maybe someone may. But those are expensive per GB.

    You mention not being resentful, but then lament them not just moving your data over to a new drive. A lot of people assume that doing computer tasks is easy. Data recovery is sometimes painstaking. There are methodologies, that done wrong, increase chances of losing data.

    Data recovery isn't as simple as having some 15 year old high school kid take your drive and copy it over. As it takes skill, that person would need to be paid. As it's time consuming, the company would need to hire many of them. As they hire many of them, they would need to charge more for their drive, or - charge you for the service.

    Good luck Rachel.

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