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Old 21st January 2012   #1
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Cannot access external hard drive


My laptop is having problems, so I took out the hard drive and put it in an external 2.5 inch external case connected by USB. Windows finds the drive as an external drive. I tried to access the files on it, and was told that I did not have permission.

As I was trying to find out what to do about that, another problem emerged. Now whenever I try to access the hard disk Windows never gets to it. In Windows Explorer I just get a green bar across the top that gets close to the end but never quite finishes.

I can tell the hard drive is being accessed because the light is blinking and I can feel the disk spinning. Also, I have no reason to believe that the hard drive is defective.

I'm not sure if this is a Windows problem or what. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

UPDATE: I should add that the laptop is Windows Vista, and the computer I am using to access the hard drive as an external hard disk is Windows 7.

UPDATE #2: I used a Ubuntu Live CD to boot up in Linux and check the external disk drive. I was able to access all folders, but when I tried to copy some of them, I got the same problem as in Windows. Luckily I was able to back up the most important documents. I'm not sure what the issue is, but will probably find out more as I work with it in Linux.

UPDATE #3: I found out one problem: I had not connected the three USB connectors correctly. Once I did that, I was able to see in Windows the same thing I was seeing in Linux. Now the only problem seems to be permissions. I am told that I do not have the right permission to access some of the files.

So I am back to the original problem: how can I change the permissions on those folders to access the files?


Last edited by Daanii; 22nd January 2012 at 01:20.
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Old 22nd January 2012   #2
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It turns out my issue is not a hardware problem.

Or more correctly, the hardware problem has been solved. My hard drive enclosure has a USB cord with two connectors on one end and one connector on the other.

Both connectors on the same end of the USB cord need to be plugged into the computer to get enough power. Since I plugged them both in, I have not had any problems with the hardware side of things. The disk drive seems to be in fine shape.

The problem now is a Windows 7/Windows Vista problem. The hard drive comes from a Windows Vista laptop. I am accessing it from a Windows 7 desktop.

Some of the files I want to access I am said not to have permission to access. That is strange, since if I click on the Security tab under Properties for the folder in question, it says that all Administrators of this Windows 7 desktop have "all control" of the folder.

But I do not have any control, not even the ability to access the documents in the folder. That is my problem.

Any guidance would be welcome. Thank you.

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Old 22nd January 2012   #3
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Can you right click and choose "Run as Administrator"? Don't know if that is an option there or not.

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Old 22nd January 2012   #4
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No, that's not an option. Though I can get into a Security tab that lets me change ownership and permissions. But those should be correct by now. And they are not.

So the upshot is that all my files are sitting on the disk drive, but I cannot access them, or copy them to back them up. Very frustrating.

Windows security has big problems. It keeps legitimate users out. So I cannot even get to my own files.

Only trouble is, Linux is just as bad, if not worse.

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Old 22nd January 2012   #5
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Some of the files I want to access I am said not to have permission to access
See if this helps ....

Take Ownership of a File or Folder

Troubleshoot "access denied" when opening files or folders

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Old 22nd January 2012   #6
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Thanks for the references, Pete. I have tried the steps outlined there.

When I try to change ownership of the files, it gets partway through and then hangs. But the end result appears to be that I have ownership of all the folders I am interested in.

When I check permissions, though, it says that I have full control over the folders I am interested in. So I should be able to access them. But it will not let me, saying that I do not have permission.

It's all very confusing. Unfortunately, I leave tomorrow for a week away, so I will have to let this sit until I get back. I'm not sure what to try next in any event.

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Old 10th February 2012   #7
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I'm back from out of town, and trying to get some data off this hard drive to use for work. It looks now like a problem with the hard drive (bad blocks) prevents me from getting ownership of the files.

So I'm now trying to repair the bad blocks. I ran chkdsk D:/r in the command prompt of the computer that the hard drive is attached to. (The hard drive is now in a USB enclosure.) But chkdsk has been stuck at step 2, checking the index files, for more than an hour now. That does not look good.

No matter what I try to do with the hard drive, it hangs in the process. Any way to get past this logjam and save anything from the hard drive?

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Old 10th February 2012   #8
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Old 11th February 2012   #9
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While I would like to get some data off the drive, I would also like to figure out what the problem is and how to fix it. Thankfully, I'm not yet facing the need to call in the experts.

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Old 11th February 2012   #10
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If you end up mangling the files and/or file system, the experts won't even be able to retrieve your files.

If the hard drive is worn out, there is no software that can fix it. It's mechanical, with moving parts and moving parts cause wear. Once that wear starts getting bad enough the drive is no longer able to reliably read/write data to the drive. Solution: Get your data copied off ... ASAP.

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Old 19th February 2012   #11
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I understand the risks. I'd still like to try to solve the problem myself.

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Old 19th February 2012   #12
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To do so -- successfully -- would require some time, tools and training.

I'd venture to say that the cost for a 'clean room' (box), the necessary equipment and tools, as well as proper training etc. could easily hit tens of thousands of dollars (USD).

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Old 19th February 2012   #13
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You need to image that drive ASAP and try to recover your data from the image rather than the drive itself. The more you thrash the drive trying to recover data with various tools, the more likely drive failure is going to be sooner rather than later.

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