Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NAS Gone Bad

Today’s post is not about my usual topic (.NET programming), but about the solution I used when my NAS (Network Attached Storage) went bad. It was a Western Digital My Book World Edition with a 1 TB Caviar Green SATA WD10EADS 5-1/4 inch drive (the one with the white light). The thing is, I was pretty sure my drive (and therefore my data!) was just fine. It’s just that the enclosure and all the electronics that make it “network attachable” was the part that went south. Or so I hoped.

I took it apart (did I mention that I *hate* doing hardware stuff!!) and got the drive out. I thought I bookmarked a link to a video showing how to take it apart, but I guess I didn’t bookmark it and I can’t find the same video at the moment. Google for it though, you’ll find some “how-to” for taking the drive out of the enclosure. If you’re a whiz at hardware, you probably don’t even need a how-to video. It’s not rocket-science … even I could do it! ;0)

Then I hooked it up to a SATA-to-USB converter and plugged the USB into my laptop. At this point, Windows Explorer would not assign a drive letter, but I could see the drive with the Disk Management utility. It was listed as having a Healthy but Unknown partition.

After a little more Googling, I discovered that the drives that get put into these NAS devices are just about always formatted to some kind of Linux format … not readable by Windows!! Grrrr …. now I have a lot more Googling to do!

I found lots of discussions on the topic … apparently some of these NAS devices (not just Western Digital) give up the ghost on a regular basis! You can buy NAS devices that are disk-less … in other words, they’re just the enclosure with all the electronics for making it network attachable and you supply your own drive (I assume an unformatted drive). Which means that if Western Digital sold the same enclosure disk-less for this particular model, then I could just buy the enclosure, pop in my drive and be back in business!!!   Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one and I suspect that they don’t exist for my model. Grrrr …. back to the drawing board!

I found a ton of links talking about how to create a Linux boot disk and boot your machine to Linux and enter in a whole bunch of gibberish Linux commands and it may (or may not) do the trick. There were like 20 steps in some of these how-to discussions! And I know absolutely nothing about Linux. I really did not want to mess with this! So, I kept looking …

Then I found a nifty little driver that could allow a Windows machine to be able to read a Linux formatted drive! Because it’s a driver, it would work seamlessly with Windows. This was just what I was looking for! And it’s free! I downloaded it (Ext2 Driver for Windows). It will work for both Ext2 and Ext3 formatted drives. It installed just fine on my computer. Unfortunately, it didn’t do the trick … why? Because my drive wasn’t formatted with Ext2 or 3!!  More Googling showed me that it was probably an XFS formatted drive. Arrggghhh!!! Will it never end?!?!?!

One more round of Googling and I finally found a solution! It wasn’t free, but it was only about $30. I could live with that if it worked (UFS Explorer). It’s a utility that can read all kinds of partition formats and there was a free trial download (limited to copying files smaller than 64KB) … so I downloaded it to take it for a testdrive. If it worked, I would buy it. You can only read/copy from the drive …  you can’t write to it. But I intended to copy all the files off of the drive, then reformat it to NTFS and install it directly on my machine (yuck … more hardware stuff). Luckily I already had a 2 TB USB drive and I had plenty of room on that drive. The trial showed that it copied the small files flawlessly, so I plunked down the $30 and bought it. It also worked flawlessly, copying every single one of my files off of the XFS partition!  Wow! Disaster averted!

Now, all that’s left to do is reformat the 1 TB and stick it in my machine. But, since that’s hardware stuff, I’ll procrastinate on that task just a little bit longer.  =0)