The long road... of torture and recovery!

5 min read

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jgallaway81's avatar
Okay, first off, an update.

In my last post you will remember that I reported the death of my external 2terabyte Western Digital USB3.0 "MyPassport" data drive with ALL my data being completely destroyed. More than twenty years of creative arts lost and more than two thousand pictures of my kids over the years gone. As you will recall, I reported that the actual hard drive's motherboard did NOT include a SATA port, but "featured" the USB3.0 (micro) port natively on the drive controller board. When the USB controller failed, there was no way to get around that to recover the data. That happened in early-to-mid January. With my annual engineer's bonus coming, I new I had the money to rebuild. But I had a decision to make.

My AMD Phenom II CPU/Gigabyte motherboard combination had served me well for 4years, 8months. If it hadn't been for the death of the motherboard's USB controller as well, I would still be using it even now. But with its death, I had to make a choice: spend a couple hundred on a new motherboard with technology already 5+ years old, or shell out even more to buy a new flagship Intel Core i7, motherboard & DDR4 ram. I agonized over the decision for weeks, but ultimately decided to just buy the new AMD motherboard. I would get to recycle my RAM, CPU, power supply, and chip cooler. The decision was made much simpler by the fact I found a nice Asus "Sabertooth" board pulling the 990FX chipset, allowing me to eventually upgrade to a whopping total of 32 gigabytes of ram!

During this, I decided since I had to break the system down and to a full rebuild, I might as well get a new chassis. This was justified by the fact the case was already damaged before any of this went down. Ended up with the gorgeous & feature-full Corsair Obsidian 650D chassis. Even managed to snag a better than 60% off the street price by buying a refurb unit direct from Corsair. I wasn't fully satisfied by the unit I received because it was obviously used and not factory reconditioned. However, nothing was damaged, just stuff out of their normal bags & other details not right for a new unit. For the price I certainly could not complain.

The system parts began arriving and as soon as the Obsidian occupied my residence the build commenced. With the new motherboard came native USB3.0. While researching this new (to me) technology, I realized that while USB3 is touted as being backward compatible with USB2, it isn't really. At least not physically. The standard "A" plug is... but only because it features both the USB2.0 4-pin hardware contacts AND the USB3.0 5-pin hardware contacts. It occurred to me during this research, that just perhaps, if the physical plug was in fact a hybrid and not truly backward compatible, then just maybe the systems were in fact separate all the way to the controller chip. If that were true, then it was possible that the USB2 controller in my drive was dead, but since it had never been brought online from the motherboard end, perhaps the USB3.0 controller lived... even if only just long enough to pull some or maybe even all of my data off the drive platters.

But since the death of the drive had precipitated the death of the motherboard's controller, (whether this was the cause, a coincidence, or the controller dieing killed the drive, I'll never know) I was terrified of nuking my brand new motherboard's very expensive controller; (while the technology was old, this board was two chipset generations (9** versus the original 7** chipset) newer and featured a host of more advanced technologies and capabilities, it still cost me $75 more than the original board). I decided to provide a bit of insurance and decided to purchase a new USB 3.0 hub. Since I would choose one with its own power supply, the ports SHOULD be electrically isolated (power-wise) with only the data ports actually making a circuit with the computer. This also had two additional benefits: 1) because the tower would sit above, on top of the computer desk my wife & I share, the distance from the motherboard's USB ports and the desk surface was rather large, especially with cables routed to provide a clean appearance. 2) The hub would also protect the ports from the tortures of constant connections being made & unmade, made & unmade. I selected a seven-port USB3.0 hub with external power supply from the AmazonBasics line. This hub arrived in a brushed aluminum housing and while costing $44.99, has proven to be worth every penny.

With the hub installed, it was time for the moment of truth. With great trepidation, I connected the WD "MyPassport" to the cable and carefully, fearfully slide it into the hub's port. A couple of seconds later the familiar chime of USB being connected issued from my speakers. A couple seconds there-after an Explorer window popped into view and there were all the files I had thought lost for several months! My theory about the separate controllers had been proven... well, maybe right is too strong, but certainly plausible. I of course immediately copied ALL data off the drive to the other drives in the tower, securing access should the drive die again. I think I'll send it to WD to get it repaired before the warranty runs out. A third backup is never a bad idea.... a point certainly made by the drive's long term hiatus!
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