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OT: Reading data on old IDE hard drive with USB adapter

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  • OT: Reading data on old IDE hard drive with USB adapter

    I disassembled some old desktop computers and I found a 6.5 GB Seagate ST36450A IDE hard drive that I want to read data from. I connected a Kingwin EZ-Connect USB adapter and it made a lot of noise like the platter was spinning up and stopping, and the head seemed to be slamming to its limits. I could see the drive listed in the Device Manager and it reports that the device is working properly, but it did not appear in the list of drives using File Explorer.

    The exposed PCB was dusty and grimy, so I sprayed it with detergent, scrubbed it, and rinsed with hot water. Then I dried it using a heat gun. This time, it was much quieter, although I can hear some sounds like the disk spinning and the head moving. The blue power and R/W LEDs are lit, but the drive still does not show up.

    No volumes are shown. I clicked on "populate" and it seems to be doing something. However, now I cannot open the properties of the USB disk drive. Maybe if I unplug it and try again?

    There's probably nothing on the drive I really need, as it is from a computer that I stopped using almost 10 years ago. But I'd like to see if there's a way to read it or use it. Thanks!

    P S Technology, Inc.
    and Muttley

  • #2
    Does your computer main board have an IDE channel - if so, use it but use the disk manufactures software to install it.

    Any help here?
    Last edited by oldtiffie; 05-25-2015, 12:09 AM.


    • #3
      Sorry, your drive is toast.

      Drives are cheap and I would never recommend reusing something that old.


      • #4
        I don't have a working desktop computer. I just have a slew of laptops of various vintage and manufacture. I had a Japanese Fujitsu laptop I was using to run Win95 (in MSDOS mode) for my legacy Ortmaster software that needs a native parallel port, and it finally died with a bad CMOS R/W error. It was not really worth trying to repair so I bought an old Dell desktop for $25 from my local second-hand computer store. But he also had a couple of laptops in various conditions that he gave me, and I was able to swap the HDD from the borked Fujitsu to the Compaq Presario 3000 and it works a treat.

        I had another Fujitsu M2724TAM 2.5" IDE drive that enumerates in the Device Manager but doesn't appear as a drive, and yet another IBM Travelstar DADA-26480 6.49 MB 2.5" IDE drive that eventually shows as a "USB Device" but with no ID or recognition as a disk drive (although it is included under disk drives). I had thought perhaps the adapter was bad, but it works on the Win95 drive, so it must be OK.

        I just pulled the IBM-DBCA-206480 from the Toshiba Satellite that was my other freebie (and has Win 98) and it shows up as Local Disk (E: ) with 5.58 GB (supposed to be 6.49 GB). I put the Fujitsu disk in the Satellite and it booted up in Japanese Win 95. It's probably the original HDD from the Japanase Fujitsu...
        Last edited by PStechPaul; 05-25-2015, 01:36 AM.

        P S Technology, Inc.
        and Muttley


        • #5
          Its been a while since I dabbled with this in windows, but isnt it the case that a drive only appears in device manager if it has actual partitions defined on it?
          You can delete all the partitions off a device and it still be in working condition electrically, but needs the windows equivalent of fdisk ran to create some new ones before device manager will display it. As I'm so unfamiliar now with windows and its machinations having not ran it on native hardware for 15 years or so now, I'm going to wimp out and link to a tutorial on the subject :-


          • #6
            That's a very good reference, but the drive does not show up in the diskmgmt.msc application. I'm not going to spend any more time on this. I have two working laptops now, plus a desktop that I might return (although it's hardly worth it for $25 so I might just give it to him if he thinks he can sell it, or maybe I'll give it to somebody). I also have a Win7 desktop that I should set up to replace my old Win7 laptop which has some bad keys and the OS has become very sluggish. Maybe I can connect its hard drive to the desktop and transfer files I may still need.

            Thanks for the ideas.

            P S Technology, Inc.
            and Muttley


            • #7
              Originally posted by PStechPaul View Post
              my old Win7 laptop which has some bad keys and the OS has become very sluggish. Maybe I can connect its hard drive to the desktop and transfer files I may still need.
              Plug in a USB keyboard and download (and run) Piriform's CCleaner to get the sludge out of the HD. You might want to download Piriform's Defraggler defragging software- it works better than the windows defragger on some machines, not as well on others.

              If the machine has ever been near the internet, download and run Malwarebytes Anti-malware software.


              • #8
                In general, windows is not a good operating system to use for data recovery. It loves to write to disks when they are plugged in. The first rule of data recovery is to never write to the disk. You also want to work quickly and take an image of the disk content as soon as possible. If the drive has been damaged, your available runtime may be finite.

                USB interfaces depend on chipsets. Those chipsets do not implement all IDE features. They work for some things, but not all things. They should allow you to take an image copy of a drive, etc, but may not allow you to access the SMART diagnostic tools built into most drives.

                Just about any version of linux will boot on your system from cd/dvd or thumb drive. With it running you can fairly easily get data (in log format) on the state of the mystery drive. Is it recognized? Does it respond to a SMART status command? Does it have a partition table? Can it be mounted read-only? If you can mount the drive, then the best practice might be to take a quick look at what is on it. If it is something you want, you can either try a quick copy. If it is imporant, or you see quite a bit you want, taking an image copy of the drive is probably best. That reduces seeking and runtime.

                You can then copy, mount, repair, etc, that image of the drive.


                • #9
                  Also ... just for reference. I have had drives die that had data on them that I needed.

                  What I did is find the exact same drive on ebay or wherever, and swap the control
                  boards out. Worked like a charm. Many times the problem with a drive is the control
                  circuitry, not the internal drive components.
                  John Titor, when are you.


                  • #10
                    "Worked like a charm."

                    Well, sort of... Even a new drive will have some bad sectors that are mapped permanently as bad. In a brand new drive that is marked and mapped during the manufacturer hard format. Once done the reallocated sector count is set to zero.

                    That info is stored on the controller board in flash ram. As the drive ages more sectors will eventually expire. In the S.M.A.R.T. file that will show as the "Reallocated Sectors Count", entry 05 on most drives.

                    All spinning drives have a section of unused sectors that are used to remap sectors that die during use. The drive will still show 100% good with full capacity until it runs out of spare sector space. Then any new bad sectors are marked as bad but cannot be remapped. That will show in "Uncorrectable Sector Count", item C6. When you swap in an identical controller board from another drive you are also swapping in the bad sector map including any bad sectors found during the hard format. It is not going to be the same on any two drives so some sectors that were good will be marked/remapped as bad and vice/versa. If there aren't many such sectors then the chances of it affecting important data are of course low. But if the drive was very close to full and old the chance of hitting something is high. How important? It's a crap shoot but at least you can recover most of the data a lot of the time.
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                    • #11
                      I've swapped controllers and successfully recovered drives. All of the files I needed to copy off were OK; the amount of live data on most drives is very small, so chances of any of it being on a bad block are also small. And even a partial recovery is better than nothing at all.

                      "Oops! I dropped this handful of money and some of it blew away."

                      "Well, no sense in picking up what's to hand if some of it can't be recovered."

                      I never understood that sort of attitude.


                      • #12
                        Sure, recovering what you can is better than nothing. Just be aware that swapping a controller is not a 100% fix all the time. If it fails to recover some it doesn't mean anything is faulty in the swapped unit.

                        More importantly, the drive is not "fixed".
                        Last edited by Evan; 05-30-2015, 10:53 PM.
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                        • #13
                          An alternative to PATA-USB is PATA-SATA connecters which have an extra power connector. The old drive may be FAT16 or FAT32.