Question The dreaded clicking -- abandon all hope?

Megunticook

Commendable
Mar 13, 2019
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1,535
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I have a backup external USB hard drive that suddenly lost it while I was backing up a large (4GB) file...progress on the file transfer seemed to stop and a new clicking sound began (a click every 2 seconds or so).

Tried power off the drive and then powering back on, tried plugging it into different devices, reorienting the position of the drive, but no machine will recognize it now and it just clicks away. In a few cases it just wouldn't spin up at all.

So is my data gone? Any way to retrieve it? Any ideas for reviving this beast? I know, it's probably damaged inside at the point.

This is a Western Digital Elements 2TB drive from back in 2011. It serves as a backup for a home computer--so most of the data is still on the computer's internal HDD. But unfortunately not all--the external HDD has some older data and dumb as it sounds I don't think I have redundant backups of all of it. Poor planning on my part, need to make sure I have at least 2 current backups at all times.

Thanks for any tips.

I have another one of these WD Elements--its days are probably numbered too. Will make sure I have a redundant copy of all that data.
 

velocityg4

Illustrious
I have a backup external USB hard drive that suddenly lost it while I was backing up a large (4GB) file...progress on the file transfer seemed to stop and a new clicking sound began (a click every 2 seconds or so).

Tried power off the drive and then powering back on, tried plugging it into different devices, reorienting the position of the drive, but no machine will recognize it now and it just clicks away. In a few cases it just wouldn't spin up at all.

So is my data gone? Any way to retrieve it? Any ideas for reviving this beast? I know, it's probably damaged inside at the point.

This is a Western Digital Elements 2TB drive from back in 2011. It serves as a backup for a home computer--so most of the data is still on the computer's internal HDD. But unfortunately not all--the external HDD has some older data and dumb as it sounds I don't think I have redundant backups of all of it. Poor planning on my part, need to make sure I have at least 2 current backups at all times.

Thanks for any tips.

I have another one of these WD Elements--its days are probably numbered too. Will make sure I have a redundant copy of all that data.
Sounds like it is dead. You can try some data recovery software. See if it finds anything. Your best bet is likely going to be a professional data recovery service.

Any data which only exists on a backup drive is not backed up. You are using the backup drive as storage and backup in this scenario. Which is always a bad idea. Backup drives should be dedicated to the sole purpose of backups. To avoid this in the future.

Redundant backups are a good idea. Especially if your backup is always plugged in. As it is susceptible to the same events as the computer. Such as ransomware, flood, fire, power surge and theft. Redundant backups should be rotated. Although with cheap online backups. My preference would be for a local backup for fast restores. Plus a remote backup in case crap hits the fan.
 

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
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I have a backup external USB hard drive
A single copy of data is not a backup.

Generally, 3-2-1.
3 copies, on at least 2 different media, at least 1 offsite.

 

velocityg4

Illustrious
Who do you like for cloud backup? I have an AWS account and could use S3 easily but pretty sure that's an expensive route to go.
Backblaze is cheap and works well. I've set a few clients up with it and have had successful recoveries. Like any backup. You need to check the status occasionally as it may stop. At least they'll notify you by e-mail if your computer has not backed up in a while. They charge per computer, per year. With unlimited backup space. Just note the following.
  • Old revisions, deleted/missing files and removed drives will disappear after 30 days. An exception to the 30 day rule is the last complete backup. If the computer is missing.
  • This is backup only. No sync. No quick downloads of single files. You have to create a restore. Wait for it to be ready. Then download the restore.
  • Restores are not fast. That's why you want a local backup.
For local. I prefer clones or disk images to backups to file backup software. I've just seen way too many backups fail. Usually because the user never monitored them to make sure they were still running. But sometimes they fail because they aren't backing up all folders. Windows built in backup is one of the worst I've seen. Where it only backs up the user who started the backup.

Personally I do manual mirrored one way syncs with Freefilesync. I prefer manual syncs as they occur on my schedule and I can make sure the backup occurred. Nor do I really need a clone of my boot drive. As I prefer a clean install. None of my data is critical enough to worry about a few missed files. If I don't sync for a week.

If you have multiple computers, not a tremendous amount of data and use MS Office. You may want to give the Office 365 family plan a try. As Onedrive offers backup of selected folders. You can do up to six computers. While it works well for sync. I haven't tried the backup function. Even one computer and the single computer plan may be worthwhile. As you get Office and 1TB Onedrive space.
 

Megunticook

Commendable
Mar 13, 2019
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Thanks for all the details.

Totally agree about Windows--I've tried to use it for years but never trusted it.

Backblaze probably worth a look. I could just use AWS and manually upload compressed disk or partition images, will have to figure out what that would cost.

Funny you should mention Freefilesync, I just cottoned on to that a few months ago and now it's my go-to for daily file backups.

Not interested in Office 365 but thanks.

I just ordered some new WD Elements External SSDs which I've had good luck with. Probably should've retired that old legacy unit I had years ago.
 

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
139,832
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But sometimes they fail because they aren't backing up all folders.
Yep, seen that too many times.

Person doing file/folder backups. "oops, I forgot to include that one important folder."

Thats why I just do full drive images. Can't miss or forget something.

All systems, each drive individually...Macrium images to a folder tree in the NAS.
My current offsite-cloud thing is a single drive with really really important data, stashed in a drawer at my workplace.
 

velocityg4

Illustrious
Yep, seen that too many times.

Person doing file/folder backups. "oops, I forgot to include that one important folder."

Thats why I just do full drive images. Can't miss or forget something.

All systems, each drive individually...Macrium images to a folder tree in the NAS.
My current offsite-cloud thing is a single drive with really really important data, stashed in a drawer at my workplace.
I just use Freefilesync. I select my whole drive then exclude the folders I don't need. To avoid the worry of missing a folder. I exclude program files, system and most of the appdata items. Any new folder, not in an excluded folder, is automatically added and must be manually excluded.

Everything syncs to my server. On computers I use for work a local backup and my server. The server is then backed up to externals. All using the sync program. Externals are stored in a fire/water resistant safe when not in use for a backup.

Anything really important exists on my Onedrive sync folders (which are part of the backup). For convenience and an offsite location. They've also been printed out. So, I have hard copies.

I've thought of using a clone myself. I just prefer a clean install and am confident in my backup scheme. I also like to see a list of file changes, additions and deletions the sync program provides.

Unimportant data that takes up a huge amount of space. Only has the one backup. I'm fine with that. As it's just a bunch of CDs, DVDs and BluRays I ripped to my server. In the remote worse case that my server data split across four drives and backups all simultaneously fail. I can rip them again. Not that I'd bother as Netflix, Prime and Spotify has basically replaced my old media collection.
 

img

Dec 27, 2020
35
1
35
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I have a backup external USB hard drive that suddenly lost it while I was backing up a large (4GB) file...progress on the file transfer seemed to stop and a new clicking sound began (a click every 2 seconds or so).
Clicking means the drive can not read the platters, therefore permanently damaged on hardware level (probably head and / or preamp issue), so no software can repair that. It needs to be get to a professional data recovery lab, where they're opening the drive in class 100 clean room for change the headstack and adopting the needed firmware parameters with special service software.

DO NOT STRESS / POWER ON THE DRIVE IF THE DATA VALUABLE!
 

Megunticook

Commendable
Mar 13, 2019
38
1
1,535
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I can live without the data--a bunch of my son's old stuff is on there but I warned him years ago to keep his own backups and even bought him external HDDs for that purpose.

Other than that I think it's a bunch of video files that I can live without (although I wish I'd saved copies!). Probably not worth the fee a pro lab would charge to disassemble and retrieve salvageable data.

I'm tempted to give it a whack with a hammer just to see if that dislodges something that's stuck but it's pretty obvious the mechanicals in there are damaged and a big jolt isn't going to fix that!
 

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