Update on E.P.’s Hard Drive Disaster

Ten days ago, I wrote about a terrible hard drive crash. Approximately 500 GB of data was potentially lost forever, as this was one particular hard drive I did not get around to backing up. By plugging in the wrong cord, I thought I destroyed my hard drive, and all the information on it.

It was the kind of thing that really affected me deeply. I was extremely miserable, imagining that I lost big chunks of my documentary. I spent too many hours on this material, and it drove me crazy not being able to access any of it.

Today, I have good news to report. It appears that I have been able to recover all of my files from my LaCie external hard drive. For those that want to read about my trials and tribulations, I’ve written up a summary of happened, as I’m hoping this type of information may help other deal with similar predicaments. Then again, this type of information is not recommended for the technically challenged, so I wouldn’t blame you if you chose to skip it. It’s your choice…

The hard drive that gave me these headaches was a LaCie D2 Big Disk Extreme 500 mini-RAID triple interface external hard drive. Like every LaCie drive I’ve ever used, it had a special 4 pin power adaptor cable. The big problem happened when I accidentally plugged in another power adaptor cable from another external hard drive. After this simple little mistake, the LaCie hard drive refused to work.

I’ve had my share of hard drive headaches, but I am usually able to fix the problems with utility software. I’m not familiar with Windows, but on the Mac operating system, I’ve found that Disk Warrior by Alsoft is usually the best tool to rebuild what technicians call the “volume structures.” A lot of times, seemingly-dead hard drives can be easily brought to life by a simple fix with Disk Warrior. In fact, I often use Disk Warrior as a preventive medicine, rebuilding the volume structure every week or two, just to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

A few years ago, I wasn’t able to recover a crashed hard drive, so I put the hard drive in a static free plastic bag, and stashed it safely in a desk drawer until I could come up with a proper solution. After wasting some time by allowing some computer geek friends of mine a chance to experiment with some fairly useless recovery efforts, I eventually found a solution with Data Rescue software created by Prosoft Engineering. After running this application, my data was now renamed, but I was able to recover over 75% of my original data, including some of my photographs that I thought I’d never see again.

What was unnerving about the LaCie hard drive was the fact that no software would even acknowledge that the drive was connected to the computer. It was strictly a hardware issue, and there was no easy solution. Making matters worse, I didn’t realize until I called LaCie that the 500 GB drive was actually a two-drive RAID, which meant that I had to find a solution that used the exact same type of RAID array. I couldn’t just plug the drives into another external hard drive case.

My phone call to the LaCie tech support didn’t exactly inspire any real hope in resolving the issue. While the hard drive was still under warranty, and I would be receiving a working hard drive one way or another, LaCie made no provisions for recovering lost data, recommending that folks first use a service such as DriveSavers of Novato. While I’m sure Drive Savers does an excellent job, there was no way I could afford to spend over a $1,000 to recover this data.

The standard procedure at LaCie was to simply to erase the hard drive, and start afresh with a blank canvas, so to speak. As part of the repair and testing process, the drives are completely re-formatted. Customers would receive a reconditioned hard drive, set to factory specifications.

The LaCie technician mentioned that I might be able to recover the data if I had access to an empty LaCie D2 Big Disk Extreme enclosure, model # 300794U, but there was no guarantee, as the disk array settings are often variable between different batches. He also gave me permission to open up my hard drive case, removing the special metallic label, which was a very good thing, as unauthorized service by the users often voids the standard warranty. If they had a reconditioned D2 Big Disk Extreme hard drive in their inventory, he would be willing to sell me one, but unfortunately, there was nothing in stock. He recommended that I look for one on eBay.

I searched for the drive enclosure on eBay. I searched for enclosures via Google. I also sent out requests via friends in Yahoo Groups, and various friends in the MySpace community. I had absolutely no luck tracking down this type of LaCie hard drive enclosure.

In a desperate plea, I wrote an angry letter to someone at LaCie, explaining my situation. Luckily, someone in the sales department took pity, and was able to find me a similar external hard drive that I would be able to dissect to repair my old one.

One week after placing my order, I received the external hard drive. As soon as I received the drive, I did the operation, and was quite pleased that everything worked out just fine. I was able to swap out the internal hard drives, and everything I wanted was exactly where it should be. Today, I’m shipping out the defective hard drive enclosure, and I should be receiving a repaired unit or a replacement. I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am.

In the course of my frustration, I talked to other video professionals that had troubles with LaCie drives. Everyone I know that owned LaCie seemed to have troubles. One friend had four dead LaCie hard drives that needed to be repaired. Like me, each of his drives had irreplaceable data, so he was in no hurry to ship it off for any repairs that did not involve data recovery.

In November, I purchased a big 2 TB LaCie RAID drive that I planned to use for editing my documentary, complimenting my other external hard drives. While this hard drive hasn’t crashed yet, I have had my share of problems with it. It seems like every week, I am forced to run Disk Warrior just to get it to mount on the desktop. I also don’t like the idea that these drives are so darned sensitive, and could be easily destroyed by plugging in the wrong power adaptor. The other external hard drives I use seem to be far more forgiving, as I’ve been able to swap out these power adaptor cords to different hard drives without any apparent damage.

I do like the way the way the LaCie external hard drives are constructed. The hard aluminum cases seem to be indestructible. Unfortunately, based on my experiences with these products, I will probably avoid buying any more LaCie drives in the future, as I cannot afford to lose any data over some sloppy design feature.

2 comments to Update on E.P.’s Hard Drive Disaster

  • tenzin

    Hi, I went through the content of your articles and seem you gone mad at first .Thank god that after all you have been able to recover your entire important file through using software like Lacier external hard drive. Know what even I had a very bad experience of my HDD. It’s like a night mare to me and wishes it not happen to me ever again. One Sunday when I was in week-end holiday I thought to search some documents which is saved in my laptop and when I switched on suddenly my hard drive started making a loud noise due to some problem in head. I tried my best to boot up but I couldn’t do it. So I call up my friend and he suggested me to visit HDRC.
    He gave me a right suggestion because I got a complete satisfaction of their work. They got some fine tools too. Visit their sites http://www.hdrconline.com I’m sure HDRC will not let you down if you face any problem

  • Doria

    Hi I did the same thing to my LaCie Big Disk Extreme, only 7 months later, it’s even harder to find the case for the hard drive. I am currently bidding on Ebay, but there’s no guaranties as to whether I will luck out & win the bid. Do you still have your hard drive in use? The Lacie guy I talked with said have 2 drives with the identical data on it…

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