Question Should I replace or continue to use my External Hard Disk Drive?

avg9956

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Apr 7, 2019
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I have 2 External Hard Disk Drives. Both of them had given me the "Do you want to scan and fix drive" prompt whenever i plug them into my computer via USB. Let both of these drives be designated as Drive A and Drive B

(Drive A) - The first one is a Seagate 500GB FreeAgent Go Flex. It is the younger drive among the two. I copy/pasted my data to my computer to back it up and then I "fixed" the drive when the "Do you want to scan and fix drive" prompt appeared.

(Drive B) - The second one is some 300GB External Hard Disk drive (I don't know the brand). It has exactly the same problem as the first and is older. Again, I copy/pasted my data to my computer to back it up from it and then I plan to "fix" the drive when the "Do you want to scan and fix drive" prompt appeared as soon as I'm done backing up the data.

Both of these drives also have further problems as observed:

Drive A - Had a group of files that could not be deleted no matter what. It could be copied towards the Hard Disk drive. I was able to delete the file after making a copy of it via after "fixing" the drive.

Drive B - Suddenly ejects out of the computer when copying files towards a New external Hard Disk drive (recently bought).

I also do notice another peculiarity. If I copy a large group of files between Drive A and Drive B, either one of them or both of them will "eject" out from the PC.

All of these observations was before both of these external hard disk drives were "fixed" via "Do you want to scan and fix drive" prompt.

I am not sure if chkdsk can corrupt files if I proceeded with the fix without backing it up, so I backed up just in case (Report of someone's files getting corrupted after chkdsk: https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/all/check-disk-corrupted-my-files/6127614c-d04d-45ae-9d0d-8b28baa723db#:~:text=Command chkdsk (check disk) will,drive will be accessible again.&text=chkdsk was automatically run by,the directory is completely corrupt.)

I would estimate that both of these drives are in use for 10 years now.

My question is should I continue to use both of these drives, or are they a sign that they are failing? Are there any suggested tools that you guys use to better determine if an external hard drive is failing?

I have the HD Sentinel Pro software for windows but I am unsure what the metrics are to be considered for analyzing failure possibility on external hard disk drives specifically. The software displays SMART metrics

I have Linux as well and i use the F3 program to test if a drive is fake/working/etc.
F3 (stands for Fight Flash Fraud)
See: https://www.linuxlinks.com/essential-system-tools-f3-detect-fix-counterfeit-flash-storage/2/

Commands:
-f3probe (WARNING - BE SURE TO IDENTIFY the CORRECT SD designation of the USB!!!! check if it sdb or sdc, etc.)
-f3fix (If the USB is deemed to be fake. If not, then don't do anything (or you can run the last 2 commands below just to test to be sure)
-f3write (Writes 1GB data blocks to the USB. Failing memory will be detected here)
-f3read (Reaffirms if the f3write is sucessful. If there are still errors detected in this step even after the usb has been f3fix command, then it means that the device is failing and it is not reliable to use. It is better to dispose
of it rather than risk losing data).

Some possible programs for me to try as well are Aida64 (has write test) and CrystalDiskInfo. I will carry the tests out more over time.
https://superuser.com/questions/154337/how-do-i-check-external-usb-drive-health
 

USAFRet

Titan
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Mar 16, 2013
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You should always have a known good backup of any data that you do not wish to lose.

When (not if) these drives die...your data is safe and recoverable.

And it is not just these particular storage devices, but ANY storage device.
Use until it dies.
Replace.
Recover the data from your backup.


If, as seems to be the case here, a drive were giving me issues, I'd replace it sooner rather than later.
Problems with storage devices never get better, only worse.
 

avg9956

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Apr 7, 2019
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I sort of want to make a more refined, educated decision using software before I decide to replace these drives or run them close to breakdown. If its possible to determine at what point in the lifetime spectrum I am in both of these drives, then I would go for it. (I had bought 2 new replacement external USB hard disk drives already)

I believe I also got the same errors way earlier in both of these drives life time (After 2 years of use), Windows telling me to "Scan the drive for errors". I thought it was just some minor thing that could be brushed off but that was almost a decade back then and I wasn't too much in depth into computing at that time.

So it took me overnight to Copy and paste the contents of Drive B as a back up.
I then proceeded to run chkdsk on it, just like i did with Drive A
This appeared (Drive B results):



*From what I can understand from that, there is an entry in the index of that drive is deleted and that entry is most probably is referring to the D2.jpg file (The orphaned file)

Also I compared the Total size of the files Before and After the chkdsk was executed on Drive B

Before chkdisk - These files are still stored/copied to my local hard disk drive
201,538,270,117 bytes

After chkdisk - These files are now in my external USB disk drive
201,538,333,910 bytes

Performing the chkdisk command, my files increased by 63,793 bytes
If anyone has any insights to this, please let me know.
Meanwhile I'll be running read and write tests on Drive A as I had already transferred all of its contents to a new external hard disk drive

I had the habit before of removing USBs after I was done without safely ejecting them - about a decade ago. I only learned just recently Anti-Virus software could "put your drive in a state of use" even if you aren't doing anything on it.

Also just a tidbit, I think that these "Scan the drive for errors" can possibly be caused if you remove the device without doing the "Safely eject the USB" on the bottom right tray while an active Anti-virus (such as Avast) will scan every single USB device that you connect to your computer.

If you turn that feature off, you put yourself also in a risk. If you leave it on, it will scan all of your USB mass storage devices that you plug in and the "safely eject USB" won't even work because technically "the drive is still in use by a program" (which is consequently, the Anti Virus)

I forgot what I did to make Avast stop scanning my external hard disk drives on plug-in, but it did anyways.
I haven't found a nice work around through this problem, or rather - Anti Virus vendors should reprogram their software to stop scanning USB devices when the safely eject USB command is executed by the user.
 
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avg9956

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Apr 7, 2019
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Ok so I ran the tests

I ran chkdsk on both drives and both were "fixed" before carrying out all of the tests below.

Linux's f3 program showed that both drives are still "OK"
Drive A
F3read = pass
F3write = pass
F3probe = pass
F3fix = no need

Drive B
F3read = pass
F3write = pass
F3probe = pass
F3fix = no need

I looked at both drives under Hard Disk Sentinel Pro's SMART Status monitor
Both drives are OK however it is important to note that one cannot really say any definitive conclusion judging from SMART metrics, as these metrics can vary widely per manufacturer and per model basis.

However I tested both drives by copying a 12.8GB folder and I found something peculiar. This is strange because I thought that there should be no issues with the drive if it had passed the read and write tests. It was only through copying this 12.8GB folder that I managed to spot and replicate the issue I was experiencing in my post.

Copying the 12.8GB folder from Drive A to a new External Hard Drive - Result was passed.
Copying the 12.8GB folder from Drive B to a new External Hard Drive - Drive B ejected itself and remounted itself again while the copying process was going on.

From what I can research - This is a sign of possible drive health decline.

The drive may unmount and remount for various reasons.
  • power starvation is the most common but in your case, it doesn't seem to apply
  • data link reset is another possible cause. It could apply to you. If a read or write fails, due to a defect in the disk (or the controller) the system will retry a few times and if the error remains it resets the data (SCSI/SATA) link. At that moment the USB link is reset and the mount becomes stale. Then the device comes back on line and a "new" USB device is discovered (and mounted elsewhere.)
If you experience link resets when reading or writing, you should see traces in /var/log/syslog. In general when you get link resets and all cables are properly connected, it means your HDD is dying of old age. So you may want to check how your HDD behaves when you connect it to another computer and write heavily to it.
The user experience the same sudden unmounting problem when copying files from the defective drive to a directory
(I will try testing again copying the 12.8GB file from Directory to defective drive, but I'd imagine it would be a pass because its f3write test is also a pass)

However they also hint out that it might be a problem within the external drive's power supply. I am assuming the user drive was a 3.5" that had both a USB cable and a power chord to power the drive as it was in an enclosure.

Both of my Drive A and Drive B are only 2.5" and only need one cable to transfer data and be powered (hence the USB cable).
Anyhow I already got my replacements

Drive C - Toshiba Canvio Basics 1TB
Drive D - Seagate Backup Slim Plus 1TB

Overall I would get a net increase of 1.2TB of additional space as I both swap these older 10+ year old drives out. I do not constantly plug both of these drives in every day but rather only plug it in to add additional files to back up or remove files that I no longer need. I would expect my new drives to also last for a decade or more long with this minimal usage pattern.

Also just wanted to share
My first External USB drive was an Imation 320GB. Back then when I didn't have too much internal hard disk drive storage, I would play music from this drive everyday. By the end of 2-3 years, the drive started "failing". It gave me the impression that externals shouldn't be used for constantly playing music or streaming files/anything of that nature. That was my experience, but feel free to suggest otherwise.
 
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