Novel Point Of Failure

Piyono

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Recently one of my backup drives—an out-of-warranty 6TB G-Tech which I purchased in 2017—started throwing critical filesystem errors whenever it was in use. I'd have to CHKDSK it nearly every time I switched it on and soon it started corrupting data so I bought some components to replace it (a WD Gold 8TB which I scored for like CAD$100 brand new on Kijiji and a separate UGreen enclosure from Amazon).

I figured I'd try to transfer the bulk of the backup data from the G-Tech and make up any corrupted files from my primary internal data drive.

Out of curiousity I opened the Gdrive enclosure (for the first time, breaking the seal), removed the HGST drive and plugged it into a SATA > USB adapter. To my surprise the drive spun up with no issues. I turned it on and off several times and moved some data around but could not get the drive to misbehave.

I tried it in the Ugreen enclosure and found that it worked fine there as well, so I plugged it back into its original G-Tech enclosure and immediately the problem returned. This was unexpected. In 25 years I've seen a lot of drives go belly-up but don't think I've ever had a chipset failure like this before.

I'm presenting this as a cautionary tale: If your prefab external drive fails make sure to test the drive itself on a before condemning it.
 
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Piyono

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On a side note I really like the GDrive enclosure and wish I could salvage it but the board has like 30 components, many of them ICs and is probably beyond my skills as a repair technician. None of the capacitors look swollen and that's about as far as I'm willing to investigate. 😁
 

LunarMist

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Failures on the bridge board or the power supply were common on external drives a few years ago. Some of the boards had some weird formatting or encryption that created a big hassle. Also try replacing the 12V power brick if it has one.
 

LunarMist

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One of the worst failires was on the mobile drives when they started building a single board on the drive that also contained the bridge circuits. If you damaged the USB connector (for example falling off the table or other yank) the drive was screwed.
 

Piyono

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Failures on the bridge board or the power supply were common on external drives a few years ago. Some of the boards had some weird formatting or encryption that created a big hassle. Also try replacing the 12V power brick if it has one.
Ah, were they all from a particular brand?
I tested the power adapter and it appears to be working. I left it in place and it's currently powering the replacement enclosure.
 

Piyono

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One of the worst failires was on the mobile drives when they started building a single board on the drive that also contained the bridge circuits. If you damaged the USB connector (for example falling off the table or other yank) the drive was screwed.
Yeah, I've encountered those.
500GB 3.5" spinners From WD, if memory serves, with a damaged USB 3 Micro B connector (worst connector ever?).
I thought I could pop the drive out and pop it into an enclosure but nope!
 

Piyono

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I tested the power adapter and it appears to be working. I left it in place and it's currently powering the replacement enclosure.
As I'm typing this the new drive blinks off and back on again, completely at random. Maybe I'll use the new power adapter after all...
 

LunarMist

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I don't recall. Maybe Merc knows or he will just say WD as bioreflex. 😆
Once I had some strange external drive of unknown brand and the power supply died. It was not a single sided 12V, but a 4-pin doohicky.
Anyways, I had a terrible time getting the drive out of the case. They used some strange screws.
Another time I found a super thin 3.5" hard drive. I guess it had only one platter.
 

sdbardwick

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Haven't encountered any drives with truly integrated USB ports (not saying they don't exist, just haven't encountered any yet). Seagate and WD do make some portable drives that look integrated, but actually have USB bridge board attached by metal foil tape to standard SATA connector that look integrated.
 

jtr1962

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On a side note I really like the GDrive enclosure and wish I could salvage it but the board has like 30 components, many of them ICs and is probably beyond my skills as a repair technician. None of the capacitors look swollen and that's about as far as I'm willing to investigate. 😁
I'm an EE and frankly that's as far as I'd go on most repairs these days. Maybe I'd also look for blown diodes or MOSFETs, basically anything handling any amount of power, as those are most likely to go. After that, I usually don't bother. Typically a lot of the chips are custom jobs made solely for whoever makes the product. I couldn't get a replacement anyway, even if I determined it was bad. Or there could be off the shelf microcontrollers, but again I can't fix it without the firmware to load on the replacement microcontroller.

On the plus side, it seems like it's very rare for electronics to fail, barring of course getting hit by surges or voltage spikes. I have a VFD alarm clock from 1978 which has been running continuously. Who knows, it may even last another 45 years.
 

LunarMist

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All of these are why it's just not a good idea to buy those external drives. If necessary then at least keep extra backups and encrapt them, so the failed drives can simply be disposed without wasting time on recoveries.
 

Mercutio

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I only ever saw USB integrated interface drives from WD. Really. It was a lot more common among the 2.5" models than 3.5", but I saw it with both. I will also say that plugging a problematic external drive in to an internal interface fixed a problem maybe 20% of the time. That's not a bad option if the next step is tossing the stupid thing.

I am also not a big fan of external hard drives. Too many things happen to them.
 

Piyono

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I only ever saw USB integrated interface drives from WD. Really. It was a lot more common among the 2.5" models than 3.5", but I saw it with both. I will also say that plugging a problematic external drive in to an internal interface fixed a problem maybe 20% of the time. That's not a bad option if the next step is tossing the stupid thing.
Yeah, I don't know why I typed 3.5". The drive with the integrated USB board was one of those 2.5" portables.
I think I ended up soldering leads directly to it. It was a long time ago.

I am also not a big fan of external hard drives. Too many things happen to them.
What do you use?
 

LunarMist

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Those FITs are not so fit and they are slow (probably QLC). Do you think that data integrity is better than an external mini USB-C SSD? Most of Ihem are USB 3.2 gen or even gen x2 now and quite fast.

I have a few of the Extreme Pro Type A thumbic drives, which are at least decent at ~350 writes, but I would not trust them as much as a Sandisk Extreme Pro or Samsung real SSD for example.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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Anything that goes on any sort of external storage is temporary at best. My main need for them is to
1. comfortably carry in my pocket.
2. Hold disk images and boot environments
3. Transfer data from old systems to newer ones.

I have a bunch of them on a pair of key ring attached via lanyard that just goes in my pocket at the same time as my keys.
If one of the boot drives dies, I'll just recreate it.
 

LunarMist

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Other than for body scanners, I keep a 4TB Extreme Pro in my pants until clearing customs.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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Another reason I like those SanDisk Fits: they survive a washing machine just fine. The reason I put them all on lanyards and a key ring is that I have washed my flash drives more times than I care to admit.
 

LunarMist

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What is the write speed and why are they in your pants?
The main failure mode I have with cheap flash drives is the flimsy UBB connector breaking.
 

Mercutio

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The Fits probably top out about 75MB/sec writes.
Before we were all spoiled by SSDs, ~150MB/sec (the read speed; usually more important for my needs) was basically "as fast as a hard drive", which is good enough for my normal needs.

I keep a bunch of them handy for tech work. One that's set up to install any legacy OS. One that's set up to install any UEFI/Secure Boot OS and one that has every rescue tool known to man on it. And then there are a couple that are just for large data transfers. I only have one Sandisk Extreme Pro drive that has a live Linux install on about 20GB of it and the rest is about 900GB of "faster" bulk storage that I've seen write at more than 200MB/sec, but if I'm at the point that I need to move more than 500GB of stuff from one computer to another, I'm probably digging the old drive out of whatever computer it was in.

They're always in my pocket because of the truly improbable number of times I have found myself wishing I had one of those things I mentioned in the preceding paragraph.
 

Mercutio

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The Fits? Samsung makes a theoretically faster model with a similar form factor but I've had a lot worse luck with Samsung memory cards and thumb drives and I try to avoid them.

The basis for my tech tools are
Easy2Boot
Hiren's BootCD
Strelec's USB Boot disk

Strelec in particular bears warning; some of the things contained in the ISO will set off some but not all AV software as "hacking tools." The guy who maintains it does publish hashes but since it's literally "some guy in Russia", I understand why anyone would be wary. IIRC the files that get flagged are part of an executable that comes along with installable driver packs and in one or other of the programs that can be used to blank a Windows password. In other words, things that would be suspect to AV software even in normal operation.
 

Piyono

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Large flash drives. I have a bunch of 250 and 500GB Sandisk Fit drives in my pocket most of the time.
I dunno if I'd use flash for long-term mass storage. I mean, how recoverable are these drives? With spinning rust I know there are pretty good odds of recovery. Also, how much is 8TB of flash? A lot more than 8TB of HDD, I'm guessing.
 

Mercutio

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I don't trust external hard drives for anything but temporary needs. I have found 2.5" drives to be more reliable for those needs, but the largest mechanical 2.5" drives are 5TB and I believe those are SMR. I know there's a cost for a small NAS, but I'd probably look at a 2 or 4 bay NAS for long term external to desktop needs.
 
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