Hard Drive Trouble


Today’s Question: One of my hard drives suddenly will not show up on my computer when it is plugged in. The light goes on, but nothing happens otherwise. What does this mean and how do I deal with it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This generally means there is a problem with the hard drive, though it is possible that another component is causing the issue. I would perform some basic troubleshooting but would most likely not trust this drive moving forward.

More Detail: Today’s question is actually one that I asked myself, which is to say that I have a hard drive that is misbehaving and thought readers might benefit from learning how to address this issue.

The hard drive in question suddenly failed to show up on the computer when plugged in, even though the light on the drive lit up. I checked the Disk Utility application (on Macintosh, which would translate to Disk Management on Windows). There, I discovered that the hard drive was showing up as a device but was not mounting as a hard drive. That typically indicates that there is some sort of fault with the hard drive, but I wanted to troubleshoot to be sure.

Troubleshooting a hard drive in this type of situation involves a process of trying to isolate the source of the problem. Therefore, I used a different cable and a different port to connect the drive to my computer. I also tested the cable connection with a different hard drive to isolate the issue. My testing confirmed that all ports, cables, and hard drives were functioning normally, and that the hard drive that seemed to be misbehaving was indeed the source of the problem.

At this point I would not trust the hard drive even if it started working again. Therefore, I set the drive aside and immediately ordered another hard drive so I would have an additional backup. In this particular case the failing drive was a backup drive rather than a primary drive, so I didn’t need to restore from a backup. Instead, I just needed to add another backup drive to my collection.

Fortunately, recovering from a backup (or creating a new backup) is very easy thanks to the GoodSync software I use and recommend (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) for backing up photos and other important data. I’m also grateful that I was able to get a replacement hard drive delivered quickly, so I didn’t have to wait long to create a new backup. And, of course, even with the failed drive I still had two backup copies of the source data.