External HDD scare!

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

I was almost taught the same lesson twice yesterday, but thank Heavens I was lucky! See, last year my external hard disk drive crashed to the floor from my table top and I wasn’t able to read the data from within thereafter. Something broke inside as there were sounds when I shook it. I panicked because all my data are in there and I didn’t back them up anywhere.


My IT-savvy friend then taught me that the actual hard disk is inside so he removed the enclosure and tried to read it.. to no avail. He tried many ways to read it but it was quite clear that something was wrong, so I had no choice but to send it for data recovery. He recommended me to this place called Greenergy at Wintech Centre at Ubi and they said they will inspect it first then let me know what’s the next step.


It turned out something shattered (can’t remember what it’s called) inside and hence they need time to slowly extract the data from my hard disk. However, it will not be 100% recovery and only about 80% will be extracted. I had years and years of photos and all my things inside which I really couldn’t lose, so I agreed. After ONE MONTH, the job was finally completed for $2,000!!! Gosh, that was DAMN painful man. That wasn’t it.


I went to buy two portable external hard disk drives and a huge 1TB external hard disk drive that can sit at home. What I did was to have both portable ones store the same data and the huge 1TB one to be the bank where all the archives go in. To prevent myself from making the same mistake, I did a monthly update of the portable one to the main bank. But after a while I got lazy and kept putting off the necessary update. It didn’t help that one of the portable ones died on me.


Left with only one portable HDD which has all my current stuffs in it, I know I was risking it big time but I just kept taking it for granted. Then the night before last, I fell asleep while doing work so my laptop slid to the floor.. along with my external HDD attached to it. In the morning when I got up, I tried to connect my external HDD and guess what? IT COULDN’T BE DETECTED.


My heart rate started to accelerate as I kept trying to connect the external HDD into the various USB ports. FINALLY one of the USB ports could detect my external HDD! It first asked if my drive was to be formatted (I declined of course) then I could get into my files, so I quickly tried to transfer the files to my main HDD bank. Suddenly however, my external HDD just disconnected by itself!


Thereafter, my laptop could not detect my external HDD anymore. :( My sister’s laptop couldn’t detect it either! Uh oh. This time I really started to panic and I was in tears. I couldn’t do any work as ALL my data are in there! The cable of this external HDD is in-built so I couldn’t simply switch cable and try. I was about to take it to a data recovery centre when my friend Johnathan told me to take it to him to check. He’s an IT expert so fingers crossed, he would be able to solve this for me. Fortunately for me, it was really a cabling problem. Turned out that the green wire within the cable snapped!

I’m using the Freecom ToughDrive external HDD which looks like this:

I broke apart the enclosure and then replaced it with a new one. PHEW – my data is totally fine.

The drive without the casing works fine, but it’s too fragile looking and I can’t lose anything in this so I got it a new cover. I’m just really grateful that my data is safe! I don’t think I can survive another scare like that (I had to cancel and reschedule all my appointments for the day and I did no work at all the entire day) so Johnathan recommended me a solution: To get an NAS (Network-Attached Storage).


According to Wikipedia, NAS systems are networked appliances which contain one or more hard drives, often arranged into logical, redundant storage containers or RAID arrays. Basically it’s this box which can hold multiple hard drives and it acts like a storage space for all your data. You can access it from anywhere if you want to and it also has a back-up system. However, you must make sure all the hard drives are working. Once any one fails, quickly replace it! I got the Thecus N0503 ComboNAS for $500+ and three Seagate 2TB 64MB/5,900rpm/SATA3 hard disks at $160 each. The N0503 offers quick system response and file transfer capabilities with its powerful Intel ATOM CPU and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports. Multiple RAID modes including RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, and JBOD are selectable, and auto volume rebuild, hot swap and hot spare capabilities mean maximum data reliability. (Read more here.) I was told to consider getting the enterprise hard drives which last longer (eg. Seagate Constellation ST32000644NS 2TB) but they cost three times more ($400+)! I won”t be running my NAS 24/7 so I guess ordinary hard drives will be fine.

I have no idea how to set this thing up – I powered it up and logged into the web interface.. and then got stuck. Heh. So it’s with Johnathan now and after he sets it up for me, I can start transferring my data to SAFETY. In future, my portable hard drive will only be for carrying files around and not as my main work source area. The NAS may have been costly, but I rather pay this amount once then keep paying $2,000 every year to recover data (don’t forget not 100% data can be recovered). The feeling of losing all your data, which means losing all my stories and photos, is pure MADNESS.


Don’t even bother to find out how that feels ok? Just go and invest the money or put in the effort to manually back up to another HDD. I got a fine for parking on double yellow lines outside Johnathan’s office, but that $50 is nothing compared to $2,000 for data recovery. If I had gone to a data recovery centre instead, I might have gotten fleeced! They might have told me that there was some problem with the HDD and that it’ll cost me $2,000 (or more) to extract my data.. when actually it’s merely a casing problem.


So… thank my lucky stars and no more of such false alarms!

Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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