Diagnose an external hard drive problem

by on September 29, 2009

Q: I have an external hard drive that spins up correctly when the power cable is plugged in but once it is connected via USB to a computer it shuts off. What can I do to fix this?

A: It sounds like there is a short in the USB connection of the external hard drive. The first thing you should do is try a different USB cable. If this does not work then you should try to connect the external hard drive to a different computer. If this fails as well then you will want to figure out if your external hard drive is under warranty. If it is you will probably want to contact the maker of the drive but specifically ask them if there is a way for you to get the data off it if you send it back. Some might be able to do this while some might not.

If they are unable to get the data off the drive for you then ask if it is okay if you remove the drive from the case to get the data off yourself. Some might be okay with this while others might not be so then you will have to figure out if you want to take the chance and void your warranty to get the data off your drive. Since the problem is most likely with the USB system in the external case it is probably safe to say that the drive itself is fine.

Since that is the case and since we really want the data more than anything else it will be worth trying to open the case, carefully, to get the hard drive out and then put it in your computer or another external hard drive case. The actual process of putting it in your computer is a little outside this answer but the process is fairly simple. This should allow you to get the data off your drive by copying it over to your hard drive or backing it up on CD/DVDs.

I think now is a great time to stress that you should always back up your data. All devices will eventually fail so making sure you have a backup is critical.

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