External Hard Drives – WARNING

I am a BIG advocate of using external hard drives to back-up your images and data. This is in addition to other back-up sources such as DVD’s and additional computers.

This past weekend, Boxing Day to be exact, I decided to brave the crowds and the fact that I am just getting over a stomach flu to head out and buy another external hard drive. Picked up a Lacie 1TB to transfer all my nature pictures to so that I would have them in one place and be able to take it with me when I am on the road. Spent Saturday night and part of Sunday transferring and organizing 200GB of data to the new drive. I have several other Lacie 1TB drives as back-ups and have had no problems to date. Then today (Tuesday) I loaded up the drive and took it to the studio to download the files there.

I plugged the drive into one of our computers and watched as it said “New Drive Detected”, “Installing Hardware”, “New Device is now ready to use”. Clicked on My Computer to find that the device is not there, tried second computer then a third, all with the same results.

I was able to locate the drive through a couple of backdoor routes and found that the drive was running, but after a lot of research I have found that even with the computer recognizing the drive it is not accessible to save or retrieve data from. In fact I have just found out after a lot more research that I will have to reformat the drive and start over. This is not something that I am looking forward to but it is not a huge problem as I just started using the drive and nothing is stored on the drive that I do not have other places, if this was a back up drive and I needed to retrieve the data from another computer I would be up the creek!

The problem is that when formatted on my Vista PC the format type is computer specific, exactly what an external hard drive should not be! Other computers can see the drive but it cannot be used by other computers.

So a word of warning, if you have an external drive that you are using for a back-up make sure that it is readable on other computers! You should do this ASAP!!! I would actually try several computers to make sure if your computer should die, or be upgraded and te operating system changed, that the external drive is accessible. I will try and get all the specifics as I go along this learning route and post the information here to let you know what to look for.

UPDATE 10:45pm – Well after a lot of time transferring files from the new drive to another hard drive I had some time to sit down and play sorry experiment. Started doing a lot more research on the Lacie site and BINGO, my brain kicked into gear. I remembered that on the last drive I bought I had the same problem and I called Lacie about it and they walked me through a number of steps to reformat the drive. Looked this up on the Lacie site and found it.

The problem is something called a GPT protective partition – it makes the hard drive specific to the computer that set it up (one tech states that it doesn’t make it computer specific just operating system specific, but many others are saying it is computer specific). Bad part is that you have no way of knowing this till you try it on other computers. From what I have read on a number of web sites is that this is a big problem for people with all types of drives (not just Lacie), worst is that many do not find out about it till they need to get data off on another computer and they cannot.  One site I visited had a number of IT guys ready to smash the drives as they could not get around this problem without reformatting the entire drive and loosing all the data.

Again as a word of warning, if you have an external drive check it on another computer ASAP to make sure that it can be read, before you need the drive to work and it doesn’t.

2 thoughts on “External Hard Drives – WARNING”

  1. Our External PVR Hard drives at work that are 1TB are the exact same way. They only configure to one HD receiver if you try and plug it into a different hd machine at your friends house it re formats and you lose everything you save. I guess that’s their way of making sure you don’t mis use the copyrights to the shows you have recorded by buying a bunch of hard drives loading them up with movies and selling them to people. But it is kind of surprising that they would do that to an external computer hard drive.

  2. Hi Dallas, it was very surprising. I was glad I caught it before it was too late. I have another drive that I have to go and check, I may be transferring 900GB of data off that drive as I think it may have the wrong format on it. I keep telling myself I love computers.

    If I was in the Windows 7 commercials I would be saying “I’m a PC and all I want to do is to not cause more work for myself !!!!”

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