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In the first place I have sent my external HDD to the data-recovery specialist. Unfortunately the recovery cost was estimated to be equal to the value of a new high performance computer.

Paying this much is beyond my reach, therefor I have to ask; is there anyone willing to guide me through the process of data recovery?


OS: Debian 9 -rc 3 / Windows 8.1 home
HDD: WD My Passport ultra 2.0 TB 3.0 USB
HDD file-system: NTFS

Specialist's diagnosis:

  1. Damaged disk service area.
  2. Damaged disk surface.
  3. Due to the surface damage, disk enters emergency mode.
  4. Damaged disk head is suspected but not confirmed.

Suggested course of action:

  1. In order to access the disk's firmware, one should solder into disk's electronics.
  2. Then disk's service area should be repaired.
  3. Then get the disk out of the emergency mode.
  4. Then make sector copy of the disk.
  5. Then check the consistency and correctness of the record.

How did it happen:

While in the process of copying some data, to the external HDD, my OS froze. When the OS came back to normal I was unable to write or read any data from the disk, any attempt would result in an I/O Error. After I rebooted the OS I was unable to mount the drive.

I can't understand how this simple event, could cause so tremendous damage...
Any explanation will be appreciated! (I have to understand what went wrong)

My doubts:

After my disk was diagnosed, I consulted the results with competitive data-recovery specialists (simple chat via a phone). And most of them told me that this diagnosis is not accurate... Because out of 5 possible things that could break in any hard drive, my hard drive have been diagnosed with 4 of them and that is a bit suspicious...

  1. I don't believe that disk head is damaged.
  2. I believe that there is a way to repair disk's service area with out welding into disk's electronics.
  3. I believe it is possible to boot the disk into normal mode without interfering with the hardware.

For the sake of my data, i have to assume that the diagnosis was correct...

Additional info:

My disk can not be mounted. It does not appear under /dev/sd*/, but it can be found with lsusb

Disk is clicking once per 2 or 3 minutes... I find it strange. I was unable to find out the meaning of this behavior. I think its related to the driver initialization failure.

Very important update:

I plugged in this external HDD and to my surprise it mounted. I was also able to see file system, and copy single most important project. After that disk failed again... I pushed my luck a bit, but now i know for sure that disk surface is OK (there was no I/O Errors) and the head is OK (or at least it was OK).

For now I put the HDD on the shelf. But since my data are not corrupted, what should be the next step? What should I do to get all of my data back?

Update #2:

Now I am facing an inaccessible HDD error. Disk is being mounted under /media/<user>/ upon plugging in. It takes a while to mount.

When I try to open the HDD at the GUI level I am getting Unable to access My Passport: an operation is already pending error.

When I try to access it via console i get:

patryk@debian-pc:~$ cd /media/patryk/My\ Passport/
cd: permission denied

patryk@debian-pc:~$ ls -la /media/patryk/My\ Passport/
ls -la: permission denied

patryk@debian-pc:~$ sudo ls -la /media/patryk/My\ Passport/
drwxrwxrwx  1 patryk patryk    4096 May 20 16:18 .
drwxr-x---+ 3 root   root      4096 May 27 00:30 ..

But this HDD is periodically coming back to life !!! Once every ~10 hours it will mount without any problem. I will be able to copy a single (text-like) file and then it fails again.

Right now I do not understand what could be the cause of this behavior, therefore i am trying to learn as much as I can.

Also I have found my old HDD and to my surprise it is still working (it reports I/O Errors from time to time). I am testing suggested methods on this HDD in order make myself familiar with them, and in order to reduce the chance of my error.

I will keep this Question updated with every piece of news. In mean while i could use an advice;

  • what do you think is the cause of this behavior? (Disk is coming back to life once every 10 or so hours?)
  • Is is a good idea to run ddrescue(or others recommended programs) on this disk, while it is in the state of inaccessibility? I am asking this Because i am sure that the disk will become inaccessible right after i will start the data recovery process.

marked as duplicate by DavidPostill Dec 10 '18 at 18:15

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – DavidPostill May 26 '17 at 8:50
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    I know a guy who wanted to "play" with a clicking drive (no valuable data on it). He opened it, moved the stuck head a bit and resealed it. This sounds horrible but he actually got it working again. Not that I really recommend doing this but you could try as a last step before trashing it. – Andrea Lazzarotto May 26 '17 at 9:16
  • How long ago was this? If you have a stuck head this can be done, but really needs to be done in a clean room, the data recovered and the disk trashed. The op problem is not a stuck head though. – davidgo May 26 '17 at 19:32
  • Two months ago, no clean room, no experience, just an extremely lucky guy that made me gasp when he reported his experiment. That's why I would never try the same with valuable data. – Andrea Lazzarotto May 26 '17 at 19:35
  • cukier9a7b5, assuming your disk is really showing up (doesn't seem to be like that from your post) refer to these instructions on using Testdisk (for the Linux part) and RecuperaBit (for the Windows part), after cloning the drive of course: superuser.com/a/1165578/278831 – Andrea Lazzarotto May 26 '17 at 19:38

The process of data recovery - particularly if you are a Linux user and familiar with the command line is quite simple and well established (and repeated many times here !)

Note: Do not do anything else to try and recover your data (short of giving it to an expert) until you have done the first 3 steps below.

  1. Download and installl Photorec, and (Gnu) DDRescue.
  2. Obtain and install another disk at least as large as your existing failed disk - or find space on an existing drive.
  3. Use DDRescue to make a bit copy of the drive. This may take several attempts, and you might want to try parsing from the front of the disk, then backwards - You can run this program as many times as required. The process will take a long time - generally, on a disk which is failing, the longer you wait (think days) the more you will recover.

Ideally make a copy of the DDRescue copy of the disk, and attempt to rescue/repair off that. If thats not an option, some tools will allow you to recover data off the disk to a new location. Repairing the copied raw disk is not recommended as it could corrupt the data further.

Running Photorec will often allow for the recovery of smaller files regardless of the disk format.

If you can mount the disk copy read-only and pull data off that, thats probably the best way to go.

If you can copy the copy, you can attempt to do disk repairs (checkdisks etc) on that. If it fails you can always clone the copy again.

  • "Quite simple" if the disk doesn't have hardware damage. Also, Photorec is a file carver, i.e. the last thing to try and not the first one. OP would probably want to preserve the file system structure that can be done reliably with more proper tools for NTFS and usually for Ext as well. – Andrea Lazzarotto May 26 '17 at 9:14
  • DdRescue is designed specifically to handle disks with hardware damage where they are still readable as per OP situation. You don't want to do repairs on the copy you created for risk of making things worse. Using DdRescue does preserve filesystem structure. – davidgo May 26 '17 at 19:30
  • OP wrote "It does not appear under /dev/sd*/", besides your statement that data recovery is quite simple is a gross oversimplification and risks giving false hopes to readers. We already have users who ask remedy for improbable situations like drives not spinning, or overwritten data so we should be clear what is simple, what is doable and what is impossible. "You don't want to do repairs on the copy" Of course, I think nobody here mentioned doing repairs on the copy. "does preserve filesystem structure" And the next logical step is using appropriate tools that understand these, not Photorec. – Andrea Lazzarotto May 26 '17 at 19:34
  • You might want to reread the post. He subsequently wrote "I plugged in this external HDD and to my surprise it mounted. I was also able to see file system, and copy single most important project. After that disk failed again..." . Rather then focussing on your perceived deficits in my answer why don't you write your own. Comments like "OP would probably want to preserve the file system structure that can be done reliably with more proper tools for NTFS and usually for Ext as well" do not exactly help someone - what tools do you propose and how do you propose to do it ? – davidgo May 26 '17 at 20:50
  • Your answer is fine as long as carving is kept as last resort after all other approaches have been exhausted. I don't just propose a tool, for NTFS I actually developed it. :) Anyway it seems this question has been marked duplicate to one which also has an answer of mine so I guess I cannot add one here. – Andrea Lazzarotto May 27 '17 at 0:46

Updated information from comments:

Since the device is clicking, I would state that the device is bad. There are guides out there to help with the 'hard drive clicking'.

I would recommend only two.

  1. Use a live cd, and copy the data to another USB. I've had reasonable luck with using it, even on a clicking hard drive. Used partition magic

Did a huge 2TB this way that was full of photos and videos. Was able to save about 90% of the data. Partition Magic didn't seem to care that it stopped and re-mounted the drive after a click on the copy.

  1. Replace the circuit on the hard drive

Otherwise you will need to pay for professional repair.

Good luck.

WD passports are tough little buggers, so I find it hard to believe that a simple issue like this would cause hardware based issues.

Then again anything can happen when it comes to electronics.

Taking a look at this:


They do have some repair tools to try and resolve the issue. Seem to require a windows computer however.

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    I definitely will test them, but i have to admit, i am bit afraid of connecting (mounting) this disk. Who knows how many data will be corrupted due to this action. BTW I have a windows OS. – PatrykB May 25 '17 at 18:51
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    Symptoms described in the question strongly suggest hardware failure that caused OS crash, not the other way around. Just as @OP suspects, fiddling with the drive will most likely only cause more damage and will make professional data recovery harder and more costly. – gronostaj May 25 '17 at 19:05
  • @gronostaj That's debatable. He is questions the first tech's report. Based on the device was communicating and then failed based on a OS freeze does not typically lean towards a hardware failure. If he hears clicking on the device, that's different. This is also a link from WD, which troubleshoots the main issue, I/O error. Even their troubleshooting for external devices point to using these to assist in verifying. support.wdc.com/knowledgebase/answer.aspx?ID=15156 – JustAGrump May 25 '17 at 19:12
  • @MarkUbben I am bit ashamed... I haven't seen this disk for couple days and I forget this disk IS clicking... But this is bit strange... It clicks just once per 2 or 3 minutes. I was unable to find the meaning of this warning, but i believe its related to the driver initialization failure (disk boots into emergency mode). OS tries to initialize the driver, waits for 120 sec and then hits an time-out. I believe this process is lopped. – PatrykB May 25 '17 at 19:24
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    It clicks just once per 2 or 3 minutes. - A healthy drive should click never. – Ramhound May 25 '17 at 21:17

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