I received a text message from a friend earlier today in a panic; an old hard drive that he used for storage isn’t responding when plugged in, and it’s the drive that he uses for all of his photography backup needs. Here’s how to a) trouble-shoot a dead drive and b) how to back up with more success.
Troubleshooting a dead USB drive doesn’t have to be hard. There are some simple steps you can take to see where the fault lies.
Step one: Swap the cable! This one is easy; cables can wear and break over time, leading to a loss of power, connection, or both. Swap it out with a known-good cable to see if that solves the issue.
Step two: Swap the case! This can be a little more difficult, but it’s not actually that hard. Open the casing of your USB hard drive; this may involve prying and or breaking some components, so your mileage may vary. Please be careful, and neither I, nor future shop, is liable if your drive ends up more busted than it was when you started!
Acquire a replacement case from a local retailer. Your drive will either be a 3.5” desktop drive, or a 2.5” laptop drive. Check the type of connection too – these days it should be SATA, but it may be IDE. See the label of the drive to be sure. Connect it to the new case to see if works.
If not, you’re now in disappointing but still not defeated territory. Disaster recovery specialists can reclaim your data from your hard drive in some scenarios.
Better options for backup
Backing up your pictures is serious business, so consider these three steps to avoid finding yourself in the same place as my friend:
- Backup Online – use a paid backup service like Dropbox or Amazon S3 for simple backup that takes your home out of the equation.
- Backup in more than one place at home. I use two hard drives (one in my Time Capsule Router and one plugged into my iMac) to back up on alternate days.
- DO BOTH! The rule in photography is that two is one and one is none. Having three backup solutions (cloud + two drives) gives you far more disaster resistance than go solo… and falling prey to the angry USB-drive gods!