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Thread: Don't slack off with your backups

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    Ausphotography Regular swifty's Avatar
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    Don't slack off with your backups

    A reminder to everyone not to slack off with your image back-ups.
    Having moved to a new city a year ago, I became complacent and too lazy to have 2 copies of back-ups like I normally would.
    Anyways, long story short my external HDD failed and I'm looking at potentially loosing most of my RAWs for the last year.
    Luckily most edited photos are online somewhere but if I can't recover the RAWs I loose the opportunity to re-work old RAWs or edit ones I've overlooked in the past.
    Anyways, will need to visit a data recovery specialist soon.

    Can anyone give me an idea of my chances of recovery if the HDD won't mount (in OS X or Windows) although the power lights up when I connect the USB cable and though the Western Digital diagnostic software recognises the HD, it shows up as zero bytes and fails the S.M.A.R.T. test.
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    Ausphotography Regular MissionMan's Avatar
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    Another person reminding about backups.

    I lost 500GB of photos a couple of days ago which are fortunately backed up so I recovered them all, but as usual, the drive failure came without warning.

    I'd also recommend a secondary backup to the cloud if you can afford it.
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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Swifty. In decades past we'd swap controller boards over from an identical drive and mostly recover data from a "dead" drive.
    I think only 1nce out of a half dozen times this didn't work. Now drives are so much cheaper than then, but getting one the same???

    If the drive "sounds" OK, then the platters and (hopefully) the data might be still OK.
    Am.
    Last edited by ameerat42; 09-08-2014 at 8:03pm.
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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MissionMan View Post
    .....

    I'd also recommend a secondary backup to the cloud if you can afford it.
    Not a viable option with 1.3Tb of photos alone!

    I still haven't yet had the opportunity to setup a file server(NAS) for myself, but I always have a secondary backup of the primary backup(ie. 1 primary store + 2 backups).

    Now that the backups have been created, time is not an issue for keeping them up to date, but even with a USB2 connected external drive, it takes time to build the initial backup.
    I remember a couple of initial backups taking 12-14hours to transfer the >1Tb to the new drive.
    USB3 has helped muchly with time reduction, to about 1/3rds of USB2 used to provide, so a full initial backup of over 1Tb only took 3-4hrs.

    Imagine the time taken to upload over 1Tb to a cloud server on a connection limited to 256Kb/s!! By the time the upload has finished, I'd amass another terabyte or more in years it would take to complete!
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    This reminds me, need to get a couple of new drives, the other ones are getting a little long in the tooth.

    I have had 4 drives fail over the years, learnt the hard way to backup, now I use the rule of 3,2,1. 3 backups, 2 on different types of media and 1 copy to always be kept off site. I just keep the last one at a mates place. I read too many horror stories of office fires caused by the large array of electrical gear we use in home offices now causing all of the data kept on site to be lost. Looking round my office there is a mass of electrical gear that could short and go up at anytime. Needless to say I now have a smoke detector in the office as well.

    Can't believe the price of them now, 2TB USB3.0 for under $150, I remember paying $600 for a 300GB drive a few years back.

    Hey Arthur, Do you run a Mac? If so get a drive or two with a thunderbolt connection, leaves USB 3.0 in the dark ages. More expensive tho.
    Last edited by Langers; 10-08-2014 at 1:36pm. Reason: Incorrect Punctuation
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    Ausphotography Regular MissionMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    Not a viable option with 1.3Tb of photos alone!

    I still haven't yet had the opportunity to setup a file server(NAS) for myself, but I always have a secondary backup of the primary backup(ie. 1 primary store + 2 backups).

    Now that the backups have been created, time is not an issue for keeping them up to date, but even with a USB2 connected external drive, it takes time to build the initial backup.
    I remember a couple of initial backups taking 12-14hours to transfer the >1Tb to the new drive.
    USB3 has helped muchly with time reduction, to about 1/3rds of USB2 used to provide, so a full initial backup of over 1Tb only took 3-4hrs.

    Imagine the time taken to upload over 1Tb to a cloud server on a connection limited to 256Kb/s!! By the time the upload has finished, I'd amass another terabyte or more in years it would take to complete!
    I have a couple of TB of data and I've got a 100GB of data month. I allocate 50GB of that to backups on a monthly basis until I get through all the data. My photos are about 500GB so it'll take a year to get through all of those but I have an office copy of it on a 2.5" drive until my offsite backup is complete.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Langers View Post
    ......

    Can't believe the price of them now, 2TB USB3.0 for under $150, I remember paying $600 for a 300GB drive a few years back.

    Hey Arthur, Do you run a Mac? If so get a drive or two with a thunderbolt connection, leaves USB 3.0 in the dark ages. More expensive tho.
    I don't think that thunderbolt external drives will be all that much faster with respect to real transfer speeds in these sorts of situations(ie. sustained large transfers).
    The problem is always the lowest common denominator, and in the case (pun intended!! ) of external drives, the actual physical drive will be the limiting factor .. not the connect.

    No point in having a 20Gb/s connection system as opposed to a 6Gb/s type, when the hardware itself can only do 100-130Mb/s.
    (this is probably the main reason you hardly see all that many Thunderbolt peripherals out there .. yet!)

    For this reason I don't buy off the shelf ready to go external drives as a whole, I prefer the combination of a separate external enclosure + separately purchased HDD(in the >1Tb range).
    The ready to go stuff will generally be much slower as the manufacturer's primary consideration is lowest price and hence profit, not ultimate speed.
    When I need to get another external drive setup to cover the full drives I may be dealing with, I look for two considerations, what chip(s) is(are) used in the external case(make sure it's a known good quality brand), and the ultimate speed of the HDD, in the required size I need.

    Actually, an even better storage solution at a cheaper overall price is to use a docking station. This was the last device system I had a go at(instead of having multiple external boxes cluttering the place!) but kind'a stuffed it a bit.
    I got a less well known brand, on the basis of some limited research(Vantec) and read some good things about it. Didn't find any negatives about this particular brand of docking station until I had the problem I had.
    Only found the negative info on this brand(and model) after I did specifically worded searches(like 'Vantec USB3 failed transfers' .. etc) when this device just wouldn't transfer data over USB3, and I had to resort back to a USB2 connection for it. After over a year of mucking about with all manner of firmware updates and stuff, it finally worked over USB3 without failing, but at a much slower rate than a proper USB3 enclosure can.
    Once you have a good Docking station for your drives, you simply pop the bare drive into the slot, transfer the data, eject the drive out of the slot and store it safely in some nice hardy packaging ... mark it with some important info so you know why that drive is sitting safely in a drawer and you're done.

    ie. if a 2Tb USB drive costs about $150 and a bare 3Tb drive costs about $100, after you've purchased a couple of bare drives at $100 each, the docking station has paid for itself.

    While it's not a life or death situation, something as insignificant as a 20Mb/s difference(eg. 100Mb/s vs 80Mb/s) in transfer speeds can add up to a few hours difference when transferring terabytes of data.
    (FWIW, this stupid Vantec dock I have only does about 50-60Mb/s now on USB3).

    An important note to keep in mind with storage, is to not fill the drive up too much. I vaguely remember a figure of about 80% as a maximum to keep in mind.
    (I don't know if this is true for SSD drives tho).

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    Quote Originally Posted by ameerat42 View Post
    Swifty. In decades past we'd swap controller boards over from an identical drive and mostly recover data from a "dead" drive.
    I think only 1nce out of a half dozen times this didn't work. Now drives are so much cheaper than then, but getting one the same???

    If the drive "sounds" OK, then the platters and (hopefully) the data might be still OK.
    Am.
    Hi Am,
    Can I clarify what you mean is to purchase the identical external HDD, open it up and swap the controller board to the failed drive to see whether I can get the drive to mount?
    If I'm opening the thing up, can I just try any controller board that will fit (not sure what the interface is inside) or are there software/firmware issues where I would need to use the exact same drive's controller board?

    The reason I ask is I'm looking into a NAS setup so when I eventually get around to doing so, can I not just try to take out the fried old drive, find the right adapter/enclosure and try to hook it up to the NAS?

    I spoke to some data recovery ppl and they are quoting for only the software recovery but if they need to tinker with the hardware to get it to read, it could go into four figures costs which I'm not prepared to pay for.

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    Ausphotography Regular MissionMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swifty View Post
    Hi Am,
    Can I clarify what you mean is to purchase the identical external HDD, open it up and swap the controller board to the failed drive to see whether I can get the drive to mount?
    If I'm opening the thing up, can I just try any controller board that will fit (not sure what the interface is inside) or are there software/firmware issues where I would need to use the exact same drive's controller board?

    The reason I ask is I'm looking into a NAS setup so when I eventually get around to doing so, can I not just try to take out the fried old drive, find the right adapter/enclosure and try to hook it up to the NAS?

    I spoke to some data recovery ppl and they are quoting for only the software recovery but if they need to tinker with the hardware to get it to read, it could go into four figures costs which I'm not prepared to pay for.
    Software recovery you can do yourself but it generally only works if you can still see the drive. I'm not sure if the drive appears but the data is missing.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Yes, do it to the cooked drive only. There used not be any other issues as long as the drives were identical.
    As for NAS, since it's not part of that yet - you should be laughing. (I hope.)
    For last line, I agree.
    Am.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MissionMan View Post
    Software recovery you can do yourself but it generally only works if you can still see the drive. I'm not sure if the drive appears but the data is missing.
    Yep. I was thinking along the same lines. Happy to fork out money on good software but only if there's data there to recover. Last thing I want to do is to pay for them to do some hardware repairs only to find the data's not there anyways.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    I'm not sure if you have or haven't played with any portable Linux recovery OSes .. but maybe try this too(if you haven't already.

    There are a few that work quite well and are free to download, so cost isn't going to be a factor here.
    Basically, you download the Linux distribution file, load it up onto a removable media thingy, can be anything like a USB thumbdrive or portable USB drive or optical media ot whatever(USB thumbdrives are best for versatility).

    I've found that for extremely recalcitrant flash media(generally dead CF cards in my case) a Linux OS has a better chance of 'seeing' the drive .. which appears to be the major hurdle here.
    No guarantees of course, but just another option to look into.

    LinuxLive distribution link

    As for the option to swap controller boards .. this is the easiest thing to do. You don't necessarily open it up as such. (well if it's in an enclosure of course you need to open the enclosure case to get the hdd out)
    The controller board is held onto the HDD chassis with some torx head screws(don't use allen keys to undo them!!)
    Hopefully the head isn't the issue for 'ya tho.
    Once you open the enclosure and get the bare drive out, you need to match up the model number of the hard drive exactly (to be sure it will work with another controller board).

    The model number will be something like WD20EARS .. or whatever. This is what my WD 2Tb green drives says, which is different to what the 2Tb black model has.
    The differences can be important too.
    That is, the cache can be a different size, or the number of platters can be different between seemingly identical drives(could be 3 could be 4 .... ??)

    But the model of the WD USB3 drive as a whole may not suffice to guarantee that the bare drive inside is the same type/model/config.

    I'll go out on a limb here and say that I think the most likely cause for the failed drive is that the head will be the most likely cause of the problem.

    You say that the light on the drive is coming on, but can you hear the telltale spinning up of the drive?
    You may need a completely dead quiet environment nowadays to hear a drive spin up, they've become so quiet now, but you should still just be able to hear the thing start to spin up, or spin down when switched off.
    It may be harder to hear this with the drive still in the case, and even out of the case it's still hard to hear it spin up
    My WD Green sits in a dock, exposed to the world like a new born babe, and it's still hard to hear it.

    of the few drives I've tried to recover over the last few years(all laptop 2.5" types) they've all had half parked heads .. ie. deadheads!
    If you do take the option to find an identical drive, and replace the controller board to attempt a fix and it doesn't work, then another option is to actually open the drive case up (the large metal cover hiding the platters (more torx screws, but usually identical to the controller board screws) and see if the head is parked half way across the platters.
    What you then do is up to you.
    Of the two I last looked into(in the past three years), we confirmed that the drives were dead, replaced them with new ones and reinstalled and concluded that the data was gone.
    But since there was nothing left to lose .. I had a play with the dead drive to see what I could do with it(I still have one here as a trophy! )
    Carefully moved the head back into the proper parked position and fired it up and whamo! .. drive came back with no loss of data(well, that I could see at the time).
    Dragged many files and folders(but not all) onto another drive and recovered a fair amount of data.
    Note that dragging the head across the platter like that is highly advised against if you value your data.
    If the data is truly needed, experts can recover it all for you. My tinkering was more out of curiosity as the drives I've done this too were both condemned to oblivion.
    Note that of the two drives I tried this on, the first one didn't respond. The second attempt over a year later was more of a surprise than anything else!

    D300_DSH_0386.JPG
    This is the head of a drive parked in the middle of the platter. This is what you don't want to see!
    This isn't the one that I accidentally fixed with dragging back to the parked position. Actually this one is of a normal desktop 3.5" drive.
    I can't find the images of the 2.5" drive that did miraculously come to life again, but it basically looked the same.

    hope you get it all fixed up.

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    Cheers for the info, AK.
    The drive appears to fire up, sounding like something is spinning but it could be just the fan but likely both. I need to take a closer look (listen).
    At this stage I'd probably take Am and your suggestion and try to find the identical drive to hook up the controller board.
    No experience with Linux unfortunately.

    I've accepted a potential total loss anyways but at least edited images are in online galleries somewhere but its just very unsatisfying knowing that the RAW files are likely lost forever, not that my images are all that important in the grand scheme of things though haha.

    For my future backup needs, cloud storage could be an option given I shoot fairly sparingly and data limits are bound to grow yearly for the same costs.

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