Editor's Blog: Roman Dodges the Dead Hard Drive Bullet

Editor's Blog: Roman Dodges the Dead Hard Drive Bullet

 

Computers make all kinds of sounds. Beeps, whirls, fan noise, maybe even a click or two, and they're all pretty normal and friendly. But there's one sound you really don't want to hear - it's sort of a combination between a Geiger counter and that flipping sound made when you stuck a César Gerónimo baseball card between the spokes of a Schwinn Sting Ray. It's not a good sound, and it's the sound I heard from my computer the other night. The hard drive's partitions kept mounting and unmounting, and when it would stay mounted, it would take a very, very long time to read a file.

 

Before I go on, I have to a confession to make. Noticed how I referenced my "computer" in the first paragraph? That's because the dying hard drive was in my PC, not my Mac. I use both Windows XP and Mac OS X on a regular basis. I have a long-winded reason why; let's just say that using both platforms has helped me throughout my career in the tech media.

 

My hard drive was near death. Fortunately, all my important data was already backed up. But what wasn't backed up was my music, which wasn't on my iPod anymore because I had reformatted my iPod for a review of TechTool Protogo for Mac|Life's June issue. I could spend hours re-ripping my songs from the CDs. Or I could try to save it from the hard drive and blog about my experience. I kept trying to copy my music, but the partitions would unmount from the desktop after a few minutes. I decided to try remove the hard drive and connecting it to a Mac.

 

As I said, the drive was in my PC, one that I built. I used a removable, lockable drive dock bay, which led to my next problem - I couldn't find the key. It's not a very secure lock, so I tried to jimmy it, but I couldn't. It was past midnight, I was tired and frustrated, and I let my emotions get the better of me - I used brute force to yank the drive out of the bay. Pieces of the destroyed lock flew across the room (it was a cheap dock), but I got the drive out. I don't recommend using brute force to solve a problem, though I do admit, engaging in such an act, while stupid, was theraputic.

 

Now I had to figure out how to connect the hard drive, which used Serial ATA, to my SATA-less Mac. I ended up using a little device called the mini USBDock ($50) from WiebeTech. The mini USBDock is essentially an adapter that lets you connect internal SATA or SATA 2 drives to a Mac or PC via USB. I connected the mini USBDock to the drive, plugged in the power adapter, and connected the mini USBDock to my Mac with a USB cable.

 

WiebeTech's mini USBDock lets you connect SATA or SATA 2 internal drives via external USB.

 

After I powered up the mini USBDock, that scary sound from the drive came back, and the music partition took several minutes to mount on my Mac. The partition didn't drop out like it did on my PC, so I decided to copy my music to my Mac's hard drive. I was using an old Mac that had USB 1.1, not USB 2.0, so copying 17GB of music took about six hours. At least that what the Finder said. I went to bed. In the morning, all my songs were copied over. As I was twiddling around on my Mac, the SATA partitions dropped out, and I couldn't get the drive to mount again. The drive was done.

 

That mini USBDock, though, what a handy gizmo. It easily plugs into the SATA connector on a hard drive mechanism, and it also comes with a USB cable. My only gripe is that the mini USBDock doesn't have a way to secure its connection with a hard drive. As I set the drive and mini USBDock up on my desk, the dock and drive sometimes disconnected. But for $50, it's a good tool to have around. There are other SATA to USB adapters, such as this one from Sewell Direct, but I haven't try any others. If you have, post a message in the comments section below.

 

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For about half the cost of the USBDock you can get a much more useful adapter, and the best part of it is that you can access ATAPI/IDE optical drives, SATA & ATAPI notebook drives as well as SATA & ATAPI desktop drives.

Also, you can use those "leftover" 60, 80 and 120 Gb drives that we all end up with after upgrading to bigger drives to archive files (such as your music files). Then you can toss them into a ziplock and keep them offsite for catastrophic backup insurance.

I bought mine on a lark and end up using it over and over again.

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Yelkerson

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