Dead USB harddisk? It may still be alive!

Abouttwo years ago I bought my first1 TB harddisk, an external USB-drive from Hitatchi. I been having it connected 24/7since then. It have mostly been used for backup purposes, Isyncronizeall my photos there from the internal drive where I normally store them. But I have also beenusing it to download files, especially when the other drives in my computer were full. At times I used Bittorrent to download things (like ISO images ofUbunty, SUS, etc), and since I then shared the files for a while, there were a lot of read and writes.
About 2 weeks ago I noticed a worrying clicking sound from the drive. I turned it off, let it cool off and turned it on.The sound got worse, and theexternal indicator was spinning for minutes instead fo seconds. And of course the computer refused to see the drive.
So what data did I lose? All the pictures werecopies of the ones on the internal drive, butI might have some other files on therewhich I did not have backed up. ISO images and similar could be downloaded again, but I hated to not know what else I might have lost.
I assumed I had to go buy a new drive, I need that space for files and I want somewhere to store a copy of all my photos. Iwent to the Hitachi website to check on warranty, even if I knew the warranty most probably was expired long time ago, but does not cost to check. Yep, expired. No surprise there.
Then it hit me. What if I could open the case, take out the physical drive and hook it up to my computer using one of my USB adapters? I started looking more closely at the drive. No obvious screwholes, butthere were two labels on the back, with teh text "Warranty void if removed". Feeling on them I could tell they were covering two screws. 30 seconds later the case had been opened. Another 60 seconds, and I was holding a 3.5" 1 TB SATA drive in my hands.
I hooked the drive up to my SATA & IDE to USB adapter, plugged in the power and connected the adapter to the computer. The drive showed up fine, I could look at the files, and running the hard disk diagnostics in Ubuntu showed that the drive was fine.
It seems like it was simply the electronics in the USB case that had died.
Then, just 2-3 days later, a friend called me intears. Her 500 GB external USB drive (Western Digital MyBook)refused to show up in her computer. It had made some sounds earlier,which she ignored. Now the drive was dead, and she was missing all pictures from the first five years of her daughters life. No other backup, of course, the USB drive was her only copy.
I did the same operation on her drive. It was much harder to open and had more screws, metal and junk inside. But finally I had a SATA drive in my hands and plugged it in to my computer. When I texted her a minute later that I was able to get to all her files, she was extremely happy!
So if your USBharddisk dies, it may just be the electronics. Buy a $20-30 USB adapter (should be in your toolbox anyway!), hook the drive up that way, and chances are that the datacan be saved. Also, don’t use a USB harddisk as only storage for important files…

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