Replaced harddrive in external

February 4, 2009 at 01:18:39
Specs: Microsoft Windows XP Professional, 2.999 GHz / 2046 MB

a friend of mine gave me his external hard drive (western digital 500gig) because it stopped working. basically the every time we tried to click on it from "My computer" after about 3 minutes we would get a message saying "hard drive not formatted, format now" suggesting that the partition table was damaged possibly???

well what i did was buy another harddrive 1 terabyte and install that into the external. I was able to recover all the data from the other one by plugging it into my machine and running a data recovery program (note that i tried to run scan disk and various other softwares to repair the damage but it didnt work)

my question is, when i formatted the new harddrive it formatted at NTFS not FAT32. now i was told ages ago by someone on this site that it is recommended that flash drives and external drives me FAT32 to allow more flexability when moving from machine to machine.

so why was i not given the choice to format as FAT32?

do i really need to do this? will i loose my data if i went from NTFS to FAT?


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February 4, 2009 at 01:56:58
Someone at microsoft decided that windows xp (also probably other versions of windows) will only format hard drives less than 32gb with fat32.

This is presumably because of the increasingly large cluster and file allocation table size. I believe fat32 is limited to a maximum drive size of 2 terabytes, so you *should* be able to use it with your disk.

There is a command line utility that works is xp that can format large drives fat32 called fat32format.

Forgot to mention you will loose everything on the disk if you format and I can't vouch for the integrity of such a large drive under fat32. As for your question on if you need to or not it depends on what operating systems you intend to use the disk on. If they are all windows machines with Win 2000+ (and almost certainly nt itself, just cautious because of some upgrade they did...) you should be fine with ntfs. Most recent versions Linux can at least read ntfs or read/write ntfs. Other/older Os's might not be able to read the disk. The advantage of fat is that practically everything supports it...

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February 4, 2009 at 03:28:29
Thank you for the explaination, all the machines he will be using it on will be XP or Vista to be honest, i think converting to FAT is not needed therefore.

I dont really want to loose my data on it as it has taken ages to get it on there via data recovery.

i was just curious about the harddrive being ntfs, but from what you say it doesnt matter if im using 2000 upwards.

so thank you for your help and explaination.


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February 4, 2009 at 06:29:05
You can format the external hard drive using FAT32 from within WinXP. The default IS NTFS for many reasons. That said, you do want to use NTFS.

FAT32 has many limitations. One of them is the total number of files/folders that can be written to the root directory. This means you need to use folders with subfolders inside them in order to prevent exceeding that number.

Many users don't do that because they are unaware they need to. This can cause the type of data corruption you experienced on the drive.

I am curious about one thing. Why did you buy another hard drive to install into the exclosure? What was wrong with just reusing the original 500GB.

IMO that is an obscene amount of data as is, without doubling it. The issue is that most users store files on these external drives as the ONLY copy. This is relying heavily on a mechanical device that is less reliable than it's internal counterpart.

IMO these units should only be used for backups, if at all. I have a 500GB being used as a secondary backup for a total of 3 copies of the data.

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February 4, 2009 at 08:36:05
"i was told ages ago by someone on this site that it is recommended that flash drives and external drives me FAT32 to allow more flexability when moving from machine to machine."

Flash drives are one subject - external hard drives are another.

Flash drives of 2gb or less usually come partitioned using FAT (actually it's FAT16) partitioning - those can be read on any computer, even those that have only a later Dos (e.g. Dos6.x) operating system, if the OS has drivers that can recognize the flash drive. Win ME and above has the drivers built in - for Win 98SE back to the Win 95 original version, you must install drivers.
However, FAT (FAT16) partitioning has an max size limit of ~2.1 gb.
You can use FAT32 partitioning on those if you like - in that case they can only be recognized by Win 95 OSR2 or later (earlier versions of Win 95 use FAT (FAT16 if above a certain size) partitioning, as do the later Dos versions).

Flash drives larger than 2gb usually come partitioned using FAT32 - those can be read by Win 95 OSR2 and up, if the OS has the drivers that can recognize the flash drive.

For the same size of blank partition, FAT (FAT16) partitioning and formatting uses up less partition space than FAT32 partitioning and formatting does, and FAT32 partitioning and formatting takes up less partition space than NTFS partitioning and formatting does. It is not recommended you use NTFS partitioning for partitions 4gb or smaller for that reason, whether it's a flash drive or a hard drive, or whatever.

There are two FAT32 versions for Win 95 and up - the earlier version is used in Win95 OSR2 and up and in Win 98 - the later version is used in Win 98SE and up.

The NTFS version used for 2000 and up is a newer version than was used in earlier Win NT OS versions. It uses 4kb allocation units for all files - a file takes up at least 4kb of partition space, or a multiple of 4kb, no matter what the capacity of the partition is.

FAT32 uses various sizes of allocation units, depending on what size a partition is - e.g. a partition of 16gb to just under 32gb uses 16kb allocation units - partitions smaller than that use smaller allocation units - but for a partition of 32gb and larger, FAT32 uses 32kb allocation units for all files - 8X larger than NTFS does.

Microsoft considers using FAT32 partitioning for partitions larger than 32gb to be more wasteful of drive space, so you are not allowed to use it if you partition in the 2000 OS and up, since smaller files must use at least 32kb of partition space, rather than 4kb for NTFS, and if a larger file is even one byte over a multiple of 32kb, the last allocation unit a larger file uses can waste up to one byte less than 32kb that cannot beused for other data, rather than up to one byte less than 4kb for NTFS.

However, whether FAT32 is more wasteful of partition space depends on what proportion of large files there are on a partition - if the partition has mostly huge files on it, there is very little if any difference between the partition space wasted on FAT32 and NTFS partitions, and FAT32 has the advantage it's partitioning and formatting take up a lot less space than the NTFS partitioning and formatting does.

You can partition any partition larger than 32gb FAT32 if you want to, by using third party programs, such as the free disk preparation programs available on hard drive manufacturer's web sites, or partition manipulation programs such as Partition Magic or a freeware one, or by using an ME CD or Startup floppy disk, or by using a Win 98 or 98SE Startup floppy disk that has the updated version of fdisk installed on it, etc., etc. (You can't use the Win 98 or 98SE CD to do that, or the 98/98SE Startup disks with the original fdisk on them [which is what is installed on them by default] if the partition is larger than 64gb because of bugs in the original 98/98SE fdisk version.)

Some, including myself, think it's a very good idea for at least the partition Windows is installed on to be FAT32, because there are more ways and more free programs you can use that you can fix a FAT32 partition with than you can fix a NTFS partition with when it gets wonky.

It is NOT a good idea to make only one partition on a hard drive that has Windows installed on it, and you DO NOT necessarily have to install most programs that did not come with Windows on the same partition Windows is installed on, which is usually C (if it does not have a brand name system software installation on it; the original hard drive on brand name systems with it's original software installtion on it usually has two partitions, but only one, C, is directly usable by the user).
I usually make the Windows partition FAT32 and a tiny bit less than 32gb on my own larger drives, so the allocation unit is 16kb instead of 32kb.
(32gb is 32,768mb - 32,760 makes it 31.99 gb)
I also make at least two other partitions on drives 80gb or larger that have a Windows partition on them.

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February 5, 2009 at 02:49:33
Excellnt info guys, will defo come in useful in future. Well i think i will stick with NTFS for now.

The drive we tried to get the data off of has finally died, what do i mean by this? well it no longer shows up in bios, no longer under disk management, and when i boot the pc with it attached i get a blue screen dohhh. no idea what to do now.

but we were able to recover most of his stuff from it before it died.

Thanks again to everyone for helping much appreciated.


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February 5, 2009 at 05:53:08
You MIGHT be able to get the drive running once more by using the freezer trick.

Basically you chill the drive in the fridge or freezer to shrink the parts. That might allow movement again. You need to keep moisture out by sealing in a plastic bag.

Have everything ready to go prior to removing the drive. No need to install, just connect and let hang. Just don't short out. Worth a try.

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February 5, 2009 at 07:43:51
Yeah i read this on CN before, but i wasnt sure whether to try or not, only because the software i use to recover the data scans the WHOLE drive and this will obviously warm it up again, will this not then just die again during scan? it took about 6 hours to scan the drive the last time i did it. ur thoughts please?


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February 5, 2009 at 07:47:12
Hard drives usually fail because something on their logic board has failed, not because of some mechanical problem. I have seen many times that when that's the case, at least one of the chips on the board get hot enough that you can't hold your finger on it for long. I haven't encountered one that has stopped spinning for at least 10 years, and that was an old at the time MFM or RLL drive, pre-IDE. The hard drive in a bag in a freezer trick, or, better still, using a larger fan to blow directly at the logic board, when it has been un-mounted if necessary, to carry away heat better, sometimes allows chips on the drive's board that are overheating to work for a short while until they get too hot. In my experience, using a fan works better and for longer.

I'm assuming you tried another IDE data cable if it's an IDE drive. A damaged cable can easily make the drive appear to be defective.

It is common to un-intentionally damage IDE data cables, especially while removing them - the 80 wire ones are more likely to be damaged. What usually happens is the cable is ripped at either edge and the wires there are either damaged or severed, often right at a connector or under it's cable clamp there, where it's hard to see - if a wire is severed but it's ends are touching, the connection is intermittant, rather than being reliable.
Another common thing is for the data cable to be separated from the connector contacts a bit after you have removed a cable - there should be no gap between the data cable and the connector - if there is press the cable against the connector to eliminate the gap.
80 wire data cables are also easily damaged at either edge if the cable is sharply creased at a fold in the cable.

Try another data cable if in doubt.


Or - if it's a SATA drive, it can appear to be defective if the data cable end connector is able to move, due to mere vibration ....

Check your SATA data cables. The connector on each end should "latch" into the socket on the drive and on the mboard, or on the drive controller card - it should not move when you merely brush your hand against it near the socket - if it does, use another SATA data cable that does "latch", or tape the connector in place.
(There is a slight projection or bump on one side of the outside of the connector that "latches" it into the socket - it's easily broken off or damaged)

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February 6, 2009 at 04:03:09
its an SATA and i have tried 2 cables now, both working ones as they came straight out of my pc..

i will freeze it over the weekend (how long should i freeze it for?) and try to get as much data from it as possible.

Thanks for the advice Tubes.....

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February 6, 2009 at 05:41:02
Shouldn't take too long in the freezer. You just want the temps down to freezing. I would guess a couple of hours should do.

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February 6, 2009 at 08:11:31
I tried the freezer trick once and the drive worked better but not perfectly until it warmed up, which was only a few minutes. The blowing a larger fan, such as a household one, directly at the logic board when the drive was removed from it's mounting allowed several failing drives to work well enough for a longer time than the freezer method yielded.
In any case, I don't think either method will work once the computer cannot recognize the drive anymore.

If you really must get more data off of it, the cheapest way is you could buy exactly the same model off the web, and swap logic boards - usually that works fine - you will be able to recover everything that wasn't corrupted by the drive malfunctioning.

That's often what the data recovery experts do. They have the means of finding out or already know which logic boards work with which drives - since the average guy doesn't have access to that information, the only way you can be sure you're using the right logic board is to buy exactly the same model.

If that doesn't work, they take the disks (platters) out of the bad drive, install them in a working one, that has a logic board they'compatible with, but that's something you have to be very careful about, and you may need oddball tools, such as to suit removing torx or torx with a pin in the center fasteners.

When hard drives cost a lot more than they do now, you used to be able to buy the logic boards from the manufacturer, but from what I've come across they no longer do that.

If you don't want to try those things yourself, most hard drive manufacturers have a data recovery service, but of course that can cost big bucks. There are other data recovery experts on the web that may cost you less, and sometimes there are local places that can do that - some of the computer repair places do that, as well as there being ones that only deal with data recovery.

Many of them will not charge you, or they charge only a minimal fee, if they can't recover any data, but in most cases they can.

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February 6, 2009 at 08:37:08
Connecting the drive internally will yield faster transfer speeds, if you get it working at all.

Tubesandwires is probably correct. If the drive doesn't show in the BIOS the freezer trick probably isn't going to work. As a practical matter most users aren't willing to spend the cash for expert file recovery or for that matter buying used drives on the off chance the logic board from that drive will work.

It all comes down to how bad you need to recover the data. If really important data must be recovered then leave it to the experts. If not, then experiment with it.

Just be careful you don't short out the logic board and blow the controller.

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February 9, 2009 at 06:52:45
ok so i tried the freezer trick and it showed up in bios, but once windows booted, the drive started to make a clicking sound, it didnt appear in the Disk Management program. computer crashes with a blue screen and after that it failed to show in bios at all again. i think i can safetly say this drive is history. lesson learnt from this is a external harddrive IS NOT a permenant backup device..

Thanks everyone for you thoughts and help. much appreciated.


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February 9, 2009 at 06:59:15
Well, you tried. Thanks for the closure.

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