My data storage mantra has been ’backup, backup, backup!’! It's something that I religiously follow. Or so I thought until yesterday.
The liquidity of light: Recent work lost then saved
I have moved location over the last week and when I set up the computers at the new place one of my external hard drives wouldn't mount to my iMac or the G5. Of course, it had to be the only one that hadn't been transferred to a raid setup. Still I wasn't overly concerned because I 'knew' it was being backed up by Time Machine to other mirrored raid drives.
The dud drive contained recent stock raw files as well as exported tif/jpeg versions. These processed files were uploaded to my Photoshelter account so there were copies there but not all of the raw files had been uploaded to PS. While this sloppy housekeeping was not ideal I was relieved that there would be copies of each file on 3 separate hard drives.
That is until I checked the Time Machine drive and saw that the dud disc wasn't being backed up due to a silly, stupid oversight on my part. I can't really explain how it happened but I had thought I had set TM to back up the stock disc when I hadn’t. ’Measure twice, cut once’ is a carpenter’s adage for double checking which is what I hadn't done when adding this drive to Time Machine.
I felt sick, angry with myself, ashamed and embarrassed. Then I got to work on solving the problem which I knew was going to be very expensive.
My first call was to Data Detect a data recovery service here in Sydney. Ernie was understanding and sympathetic as I explained the situation. Their website has some scary recordings of drives gone bad and while the soft ’click’ sound that my drive made wasn't there Ernie didn't help my churning stomach when he asked if I was sitting down! He then explained that fees began at a non refundable $A330.00 just to look at the drive to determine the problem and from there costs could range as high as $A2800.00. Oh, and there were no guarantees that any data would be recoverable.
I was glad to be sitting down. Over the internalised sounds of my anguish and self directed anger I heard him suggest a test that I might be able to do myself to see if it was worthwhile spending the $330.00 in the first place. It was this suggestion that saved my data and saved me lots of money so I thought I'd pass it on.
Before detailing the process Ernie asked if I was 'techy'. 'Sure' I lied. While I know what keys and buttons to press to use my Macs I was banking that my tech savvy sister-in-law, Sam, would understand my translation of Ernie’s nuts and bolts instructions.
Essentially, the drive needed to be connected directly to a computer instead of via the FireWire (or other) cable. It was fairly simple for Sam to remove the Western Digital drive from it’s case and check the connector configuration.
It consisted of two plugs (one larger than the other) attached to cables that lead to the circuit board inside the case. The sockets on the drive matched the plugs in my Mac G5 tower that connected to the internal hards drives. Lucky for me I had set up the G5 with a separate scratch drive which I was able to remove and replace with the faulty Western Digital.
I restarted the computer in safe mode (holding the shift key after the start up chime until the Apple logo appears on the screen) and, incredibly' the ’dud’ drive appeared (it did take some time for the computer to complete its start up process). From there it was a simple matter of copying the data to a new external.
I hope this is a help if you ever find yourself with a dud external drive. While this worked with the G5 I'm not sure about the iMac. It will work with a PC if the cables are compatible.
Of course, I can't make any guarantees but it might be worth a try before you head off to a very expensive data recovery service.
To avoid future angst, my data storage mantra has expanded to ’back up, back up, back up and don't forget to check twice, stupid!’ And to have that extra protection of remote storage I will upload raw files to my Collectable Photography and Lightmoods Photoshelter accounts more regularly.