Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Backed up means your data is in more than one place... then a broken drive won't matter as much. There are a few options to try.

I have a Western Digital Passport external hard drive that has been dropped. It's now not recognized on the PC. A light comes on it makes a whirring sound. Is there a way to retrieve my files?

In this excerpt from Answercast #23, I look at a hard drive that has been dropped. You may end up needing data recovery.

A dropped hard drive

Maybe. I'll actually go ahead and say yes. But you're not going to like the answer.

The problem is that the disk has probably been physically damaged. There is a possibility that you can remove the disk from the enclosure. Attach it to a PC through the correct interface, whether it's an IDE or SATA, and run a utility like SpinRite on the drive.

It is possible.

Data recovery

There is a chance that something like SpinRite will repair the drive to the point that you can recover data off of it. I'm skeptical based on it being dropped and based on the sound that it's now making.

I believe you may end up needing to contact a data recovery service.

Now, on one hand, while SpinRite runs you the risk of maybe a hundred dollars to get the software and run it, data recovery services that can access the data even on a fairly damaged hard drive can get very expensive – as in thousands of dollars.

My guess is you probably don't want to do that, but I throw it out there because sometimes the data on a hard disk can be worth that much money.

Was it your only copy?

Now, one thing that I want to point out about this scenario is that I hope that external drive wasn't what you were considering to be a backup. If the data was only on that external hard drive, then that data was not backed up.

The definition of a backup is that you have your data in more than one place. By virtue of having the data in more than one place, you can actually not care if one of those places goes away. In a case like this where you drop your hard disk, if you have a copy of that data somewhere else, it would have been backed up and it wouldn't have mattered that you not be able to read the disk.

Unfortunately, it sounds like that's not what happened here. So, you're going to have to investigate potential data recovery options.

If you're up for it, give SpinRite a try after installing that hard disk onto another PC. It does require an actual IDE or SATA interface to perform at max speed.

I'm guessing that, if the data is valuable enough, you may end up needing to look into a data recovery service.

End of Answercast #23 Back to - Audio Segment

Article C5424 - June 4, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

1 Comment
June 5, 2012 2:08 PM

An "external hard drive" is basically an internal-type hard drive in a box (casing). If you are lucky the box is kaput and the drive is still good.
Beg, steal or borrow a suitable hard drive casing; build the drive over; pray very hard; try again.

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