My Passport portable hard drive malfunctioning after fall

First and foremost, I already know that my issue has already been addressed by other posters, with this being my first post ever. In fact, I explicitly decided to join the WD Community Forums to share my experience and make my own personal situation known.

I own a ~500GB Western Digital USB portable hard drive (actually, I own two, but I’m addressing one of the two specifically); I used my tuition to buy it from my college’s bookstore in 2008 or 2009, and it has served me well for the better part of the last decade. It might’ve disconnected with the slightest jostle, but it worked very well otherwise. Unfortunately, I had a recent mishap with the device: while climbing a staircase in my house with my portable hard drive in a box I held carefully to my chest, the drive began to slip towards the edge of the box; I hurriedly got to the top of the stairs and tried to get my box placed safely on something to keep it from tumbling down the hard wooden stairs, which would’ve certainly broken it, but as I made it past the threshold, the hard drive slipped free and dropped onto the carpeted floor. I hadn’t thought to check the drive right away that night, but over the weekend, I hooked it up for the first time after that, and the device never connected to my computer, and hasn’t done so since.

I’m sure this sounds familiar to some of you. The first thing I did after realizing my drive wasn’t connecting was search for Western Digital’s customer support, which led me to some community posts; reading them, I quickly put it all together that what happened with other users who might’ve had a “drive drop” situation mess up their drive has seemingly happened to me now. Nearly 10 years of operating well, even after some lesser drops and close calls, and it all goes down in one bad moment.

I totally share a lot of users’ frustration at how surprisingly fragile these WD Passports seem to be. It took a few attempts at connecting the drive before I became aware of something that I’ve grown to call the “Western Digital Doomsday Alarm” emitting from the drive, which sounds like a repeating two-tone siren-like beeping noise coming from the device once it tries and fails to connect with the computer. I would have included a smartphone video of the “WD Doomsday Alarm” to the topic, were it not for the fact that video files can’t be attached to the main topic.

Since realizing tat the drive won’t connect to my computer anymore, I’ve read through some other topics on the matter, I’ve performed some online searches, and even took a look at some YouTube videos about the problem. Long story short, I have some things to ask of the community users, most particularly any Western Digital employees or officials who may be reading this topic right now.

  • Based on the information I’ve provided, what exactly is wrong with my portable hard drive? Is such a problem relating to the drive’s hardware, such as a piece of the inner mechanisms getting knocked loose or detached, or its software, which may affect the data of the drive itself? I might’ve heard something rattling around in the device when I looked it over recently, so I’m inclined to suspect the former over the latter, but I would like a straight assessment from someone familiar with this type of drive inside and out.

  • Seeing how common the issue of disk drives becoming inoperable after bumps and/or drops, has Western Digital made any plans or actual attempts to make the hard drives more shock resistant, so that data loss and drive malfunctions are not so inevitable in the event that the hard drive is exposed to some type of impact? I doubt anyone would suggest that these hard drives be field tested with hormonal Silverback gorillas to test how durable they are, but I’ve read topics from users who’ve said their portable drive fell from a shorter height than my own drive onto a carpeted floor no more or less softer than mine, but still could no longer access their drives. Of course, if the drive had fallen down the staircase like I’d feared, then there’d be no question that the drive would probably never work again, but it would seem that the end result was no different, based on my own experience.

  • Does Western Digital have some referral system available for hard drive repair or data recovery? A few years ago, I had issues with my Gateway laptop; rather than take my device themselves, they ended up referring me to a repair shop in Michigan; the experience was kind of a mixed bag, but I got the help I needed eventually. And seeing that this topic is so common among WD equipment users, I’m sure that some type of effort has been made to meet aggrieved consumers halfway on this matter by now? If not, please look into something like this later; I’m not the first person to have this happen, and I’m sure someone like me will ask a similar question to mine by tomorrow.

  • This last question I would like to pose to the other users of this forum who have had this happen to them: what recommendations would you offer to fix this problem? Again, I’ve looked at some other topics a day or two ago before I joined the forum myself and found some recommendations for data recovery software and so forth; I’m kind of begrudgingly resigned to the fate of most likely having to shell out $300 on up at some point in the future to either submit the drive for physical repair or rescue my trapped data, but since I never had to confront this issue until now, better to ask the other “victims” how they managed to correct their own variation of the problem. Fortunately, by my best calculation, I have no immediate need to get my drive fixed at my own great expense, so I can wait and do a lot of comparison shopping for the solution. I’m all ears, so feel free to share your own solutions – assuming you’ve had one.

It ■■■■■ that this has happened, so thank you for allowing me to vent some frustration while asking for help at the same time. I thank you for your time in reading my topic, and thank you in advance for whatever replies you plan to leave.

  • daggermouth_790

UPDATE [11/13/2018]: I’ve a link ready for that smartphone video I mentioned, ready for all to see—everyone is welcome to view it for yourselves; click here

That’s a heck of an essay! :slight_smile:

First, don’t waste your money on software. Software isn’t going to fix your issue.

Every drive I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of purpose-built ruggedized drives, have an Achilles heel. If impacted along a particular axis, the heads are jarred from their parking ramps and “loaded” onto the platters.

Given the amount of searching you’ve done, you’ve probably been made aware that if the heads are loaded onto non-moving platters, they’re not “floating” on an air cushion like they are when the platters are rotating at operational speed.

The drive motor simply doesn’t have the torque to spin up, and even if it did, it’d scrub the heads on the platter surface rendering damage to both. The sound you’re hearing is the drive motor trying mightily to spin up and/or the voice coil that move the head assembly trying to unload them.

IF this is what’s happened to your drive, a data recovery company can fix it fairly easily (but that doesn’t mean inexpensively) by opening the drive in a clean-room type environment or enclosure and, using specialized tools, lift the heads from the platters and unload them back onto the ramps. Optionally, they will also immediately make a copy of the drive onto a replacement.

If the heads are damaged, they will need to replace the entire head stack assembly.

There’s lots of YouTube videos demonstrating both procedures - but they’re quite often shown working on a table top in a kitchen or some other unclean environment. A single speck of dust will crater a drive because of the microns-wide gap between the platter and floating heads. Crazy stuff.

I was trying to be very concise with my issue, so I appreciate how concise you were with your response, TonyPh12345. In case you missed it, I retroactively included a video link in my original message to show the problem I’ve faced.

Once I became aware that my PHD had sustained functional damage, I did some modest digging and realized the prognosis wasn’t gonna be very good, mainly by reading others’ posts here on the forum resembling mine. The software suggestions which came up were more geared towards data recovery or duplication, and an initial YouTube search outlined the whole procedure to realign the heads; in fact, the first video tutorial might’ve come from a clean room from a data recovery firm in Florida, as I recall.

From what I gather from your reply, it seems to be a mechanical failure with the drive that may be easily repaired, though not inexpensively. :disappointed_relieved: Again, with my own research since last weekend, I’m begrudgingly resigned to my fate when it comes to the high price of a fix. Even some forms of purported data recovery software generally has a floor of about $300. Hopefully, such repairs can be put off for a while; fortunately, I don’t need the drive to be repaired right away, and I’ll likely need to budget and save towards whatever solution I decide on anyway. It wouldn’t hurt to comparison shop, though; if anyone–WD-affiliated or not–has the name of such a firm that did good work for them for as minimally painful of a cost as one could hope for, I would appreciate a referral in the meantime.