Triumph Over the Machine

20 May

I’ve got this tiny problem at home called too much data for my computer.  I thought I’d solved it about a year and a half ago when I found a SeaGate FreeAgent external hard drive on sale at – it was 500 GB (as opposed to my 80 GB hard drive that seemed so ginormous when I built my computer in 2003) and under $100.  So I bought it.

For a while, it worked fantastically.  I’d take it everywhere with me, and had all sorts of things – .mp3s, photos, video clips, all manner of written projects – stored on there.  Then, after a marathon session of wedding photo editing during which the hard drive was used heavily, it started acting strange.  It would stop connecting, start making grinding noises, act like it was working and then suddenly freak out (and often left the computer in such a state of confusion that it required a hard shut-down).  I tried it on my desktop at home, our laptop, even my desktop at work.  I discovered that it couldn’t stay connected for more than a few megabytes’ worth of copying/pasting/saving.

I was seriously pissed.

What’s a girl to do when she’s saved everything on an external hard drive that’s now refusing to play nice?

I went searching on the internet for a solution to my problem.  This was back in November or December and I found a blog where several dozen people had commented about their issues with this particular external hard drive (leave it to me to buy a piece of junk).  A few had come up with solutions – disconnecting the internal LED light for some reason seemed to help, and everyone agreed that the casing was not allowing the thing to cool down – but most of them involved breaking into the hard drive casing.  Which I was too chicken/busy to do.

Until this weekend.

On Sunday, I decided I had nothing better to do.  I pulled up the blog I’d found, with its instructions about dismantling the thing, and grabbed a screwdriver, a hammer, and the new casing I’d bought.  And took a deep breath.

Now, for reference, this is what I started with:

What a hunk of junk

What a hunk of junk

It looks perfectly nice, a sleek black casing with a friendly yellow LED.  All you have to do to make it work is plug it in to the wall and the computer.  It springs to life and connects without any special drivers or programs.  Easy peasy.  Except when it’s not.

The instructions on the blog (which I can find and post if you’re interested, but more than likely you weren’t as dumb as me and didn’t buy this junky hard drive, and if you did…  well, good luck) were to get some sort of wedge-like tool and “spudge” the plastic base apart.

This was easier said than done, since there were several plastic clips that kept getting in the way.  Eventually I wedged the screwdriver (not really the weapon of choice, according to the blog, since jamming a piece of metal into an electrical component can theoretically ruin the electrical component beyond repair, but it was what I had available) between the two pieces of plastic and the bottom came off and flew across the room.  Success!

Then it was no simple feat to disconnect the curiously-tight-fitting wires from their plugs on the hard drive’s computer chip and unscrew the metal plate from the bottom of the upright part of the casing.  Someone on the blog I was reading said to bash the chip into a million pieces for giving you so much trouble.  I didn’t.  But I was tempted to.

Of course, the task was only begun, since there was a whole other plastic case that needed popping off – screwdriver wedged between plastic clips and all.  The screwdriver needed wedging in between the plastic bits all the way around the case this time, and in the process I gave myself a nasty scrape on the finger.  The plastic finally gave way and broke apart, the troublesome LED tumbling out.

There was, of course, yet another layer of seemingly impenetrable casing, a metal cage around the hard drive itself.  I’d have never realized that this wasn’t just part of the component if it wasn’t for four little rubber “feet” sticking out from the sides.  I went to fit the hard drive into the new case and found that it wasn’t quite going in.  At first, I figured I’d just gotten the wrong size case, so I took a drive to Fry’s.  Luckily, the salesperson I talked to described how a hard drive should look, and I realized that I needed to remove the cage.

This was, of course, not easily done.  In fact, my husband was truly scared to see me poking at the thing with a screwdriver and trying to get underneath the tightly-closed metal flaps.  I had to wedge my screwdriver under a bit of metal and bend it back, like peeling a particularly stubborn orange.  I ended up with a mangled metal piece and one finally free hard drive, which I popped into the new casing with nary another issue.  I plugged it in and – voila! – it hummed to life, finally giving me access to the files I’d thought I might never see again.  I’m not sure whether this new casing is a whole lot better, even though it’s supposed to be, so I’m not sure how long it’ll last.  But it felt like such an accomplishment when, after two hours of poking, prying, unscrewing, wedging, and popping, I had a working hard drive!!!  YEAH!

And I also had an interesting pile of discarded pieces.  Rather like modern art.

Blog Photos - May 09 001


Blog Photos - May 09 002


Blog Photos - May 09 003



2 Responses to “Triumph Over the Machine”

  1. Melissa McClure May 20, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    Yikes! That is bad that its a bogus drive!

    I still have the Buffalo one for sale if you want it!

    • liska02 May 20, 2009 at 11:32 am #

      Oh yeah! Remind me again the specs? I heard Buffalo are great drives… 😉

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