Help with USB HDD not showing data

I am writing this post to get some help/advice on what could be going on with my current computer. What I am asking is not specific to Directory Opus at all. I am posting it here because Opus users seem to be experts on all things that go on with a computer. In the past, advice received on this forum when things were outside the scope of Directory Opus was amazing.

I have been dealing with an issue where external USB Hard Drives have lost data—these 3.5 hard drives are connected to a docking station with a dual slot. I had a problem when I went to my computer, and both hard drives connected to the docking station gave an error. The error states: An error occurred reading folder: Access is denied. (5). From this point, I never was able to gain access to the drive. I had to change things with permissions, and when I got in, I saw folders and no files. At this point, I used a recovery program to read the drive and could see the files. However, as time went on, I saw the files disappearing. Files that I initially saw were not there later.

This docking station has been acting strange. When the drives are not in use, it is very busy all the time. I thought this was strange.

The good part is I have all my important stuff on the hard drives that got ruined (4) backed up on tape drives. So the data is safe. Now I am concerned about making sure that I remove what has infected my computer if this is not a hardware issue.

Can a piece of hardware like a USB docking station cause a problem like I am describing?

Could a virus be the cause of what I have described?

Can a virus be sent to attack just the drives connected to a USB docking station? I ask that because I am curious why it did not affect any of my other hard drives. I am worried like it could just be waiting to attack and a later point. Some of the files I have copied over have disappeared. That makes me think it is a virus, and I am now using Malwarebytes antivirus on my computer.

I have changed the docking station to a new one, and it is not busy all the time. However, files seem to be still disappearing.

If this is a virus, what is a good way to clean out this type of infection?

Sounds more like flaky hardware than a virus to me. Maybe the NTFS permissions got somehow screwed up. I'd boot the system with a Live-Linux like Mint or GParted and have a look at the drives.

Also, connect the drives directly to motherboard connectors.

Mechanical hard drives? I would check connections, power supply and buy a different model USB docking station to compare. Try your setup on a different computer for some time if possible, boot into another OS as mentioned.
SSD drives? Could be corruption on an SSD, it is rather unlikely, but I had a corrupt SSD last year. There was logging output in notepad.exe-file and binary data in my script files, some things were gone, all was messed up from one day to the next - I still don't know what happened. This 1TB SSD is collecting dust since then, I don't trust it anymore, although it seems to work just fine again, maybe it was the rest of the system or OS going crazy.

Losing random files from time to time is difficult to research and resolve, that's for sure.

Any cpu/system/frequency optimization/over/underclocking stuff running? I had weird things happening whenever I used tools like that to reduce power consumption or increase performance (corrupt BIOS, BSODs etc.). Is your computer getting old? You can have bad connections over time anywhere, because of oxidation. Re-seating/cleaning USB, RAM, GPU connections etc. was necessary for me to resolve various problems in the past.

Just brain storming here.. o)

If you only lose data on USB attached storage, it also does not sound like virus infection to me, but you never know, try another anti virus, booted from disc or flash drive. If the scan does not come up with problems, you're probably good. If things don't get better, try another computer, swap things around, wiggle the cables, copy stuff back and forth, maybe try to reproduce the problem in some way.

If you can't get behind the issue, buy new drives, new docking/usb-adapter, new computer and have a fresh windows installation! o) Try to keep it simple and clean for some time, do not install the things you downloaded from MEGA e.g. o) As a side note, I would try to avoid USB-A attached storage, but if you run a laptop or something, there's probably not much you can do, unless your laptop has e-SATA or USB-C, which should work more reliable, but still not optimal from my perspective. If you need the disk space more than portability, maybe buy a simple NAS or use a spare computer as a file server. Drive and data are physically more safe, if you keep a certain distance (think of ESD, coffee, legs fighting cables etc.).

Keep us posted about what you tried and how you get along.

That did give me access to the drive. I seem to have it under control now. I did not loose a thing. Thanks

That is the one I am kicking myself for not doing. I just like the ability to change quickly. Ill be more mindful for the future. Thanks

I am looking in to NAS. It seems to be a better option than this USB stuff. Thanks so much! :grinning:

Yes, USB attached storage can be quirky. I only use USB attached storage for not so important data and before using any enclosure, you better double check all the cables (there are really bad USB3 cables out there). Wonky power connections and adapters are a thing as well.

Another important check with USB-2-SATA (or whatever adapters) is to make sure, it uses standard controller, BEFORE you start using it. There are a lot of USB enclosures out there, which might work quite okay, but once you remove the drive from the enclosure and attach it directly to your motherboard, you will notice that there is only a single RAW partition and no useful data. I trashed multiple of these enclosures in the past, since they call for trouble (you even get them from brands like Western-Digital). Not sure what they are thinking, when they sell "backup drives" in USB enclosures which actually double the risk of losing your data, but it's real. I only bought multiple of these enclosures in the past, since it was cheaper than buying a xTB disk on its own.

An USB docking station is less likely to have a non-standard controller/driver inside, but better check before seriously using a drive with any adapter. If you encounter cheap DIY NAS solutions like RaspberryPi or other low-end NAS labeled stuff, I think it's not worth the time and money. I have multiple RaspberryPis 3+4 e.g., they fail very often, they cause nothing but trouble, so don't go that route.

Regarding a proper NAS solution, I would like to share some points..

As mentioned, I think the most safe and maintainable NAS-like device is an old spare computer, you can get them for free. I have half a dozen on hold which would do the job. People wanted to get rid of them, I find them still nice to play around with. Install whatever OS you like, I found Linux takes another 10 years to get you going, so just use Windows and eh voila, you have a nice NAS! o). It supports all the software there is, if something breaks, no problem, you can get spare parts anywhere and anytime for little money.
You can easily upgrade it as well (I found I need more connections and CPU power on my Computer-"NAS" over time (VMs, databases etc.). Upgrade to 10gbit network required, because you deal with huge files when video editing or raw images? No big deal on a regular computer with PCI(e) slots.

A windows machine as NAS "backend" comes in especially handy if your main computer runs Windows as well, since you don't need to care much about user/password issues, just create your user on all systems (with same password) and you have instant access to all the files anywhere. Use DO and enter a path like "\thatnascomputer\c$" to access drive C on "thatnascomputer" and boom, you're in - no need to setup special accounts, permissions, shares or network-drives (you can do that of course if you want). Getting this to work in all directions reliably with samba on Linux is not easy it seems (I failed.. o).

I would start with an Intel i3/i5 Intel Dual Core from within the last 10 years, the more recent, the less power they consume. A very sane choice is an OEM office machine like Dell Optiplex or Lenovo ThinkCentre (they come in tiny/slim variants as well). You can get them on eBay if you don't have access to random old computers. These OEM boxes are made to work for years, and they do that silently while not consuming much power (you can get away with 35-45 Watts). This might be more than what a regular NAS will consume, but since a good NAS costs some hundred bucks, you can run your cheap Computer-NAS for quite some years until it starts to get "too expensive" regarding power consumption (assuming 24/7h power "on").

I run a machine like above with 3Ghz dual core, 8GB and Windows Server OS for years, it's up 204 days since last reboot, rock solid. I literally found the same system in the trash some time ago, I use that as auto-backup machine, since the "always on" Computer-NAS is not a backup of course. The backup box auto starts once a week, pulls in files from the other systems and shuts down. Having the same hardware in these two boxes makes an affordable emergency repair as well (try to replace motherboard or PSU in your NAS, it will hit you hard. o). In case of problems, it's also easy to connect a monitor and keyboard and get into the device, not sure how NAS users fix their problems over the web interface.

I know 3 people using dedicated NAS boxes and they reported issues with updating the OS, hardware too slow, only weird filesystems supported etc.. You might want to make sure that your NAS supports ADS, as is written by DO (rating, comments, labels etc.). An NTFS windows machine will do that easily, while a dedicated NAS system might not (Linux filesystems will be used). If you care about striping, software RAID-0/1/5 etc., it is built into Windows and easy to setup. Migrating or reading disks from the Computer-NAS in any other machine is granted as well, while dedicated NAS boxes necessarily don't "eat" disks from other NAS, it's similar to the USB adapter/controller thing.

There are dedicated "NAS operating systems" available for x86 hardware too (if you don't like to use Windows). There is OpenMediaVault e.g., I never dived into it, but it seems this is basically what you get with a real NAS box these days. It's Linux based though.

Keeping it simple and sticking to standards is what gets you a reliable system, I also don't use hard drive or hot swapping cases inside the Computer-NAS anymore (all the NAS come with this type of disk-slots). They started to deteriorate at some point for me (bad connections -> disks missing all of a sudden, unusual disk spin-downs etc.).

To wrap this up: A standard PC with standard form factor motherboard, standard brand PSU and just data-cables is the most reliable and affordable way to attach storage over network for regular people (from my perspective).

Now choose your weapons. o)

Out of 7 or 8 USB external drives I've been using I've had 2 dead - because of enclosure problems. After shucking the drive, it appeared that data were intact - it was USB-SATA bridge that was dead.
I still use USB external drives, just never keep the only copy of data on them.

NAS is really annoying as "local" storage - they have performance nowhere near locally attached SATA drives. There are scenarios when they are sufficient though - like storage of big media which is not manipulated.

After using a few popular solutions (PC with Debian, Rockstor, OMV, Xpenology, Synology, Zyxel, QNAP) I must say that a dedicated NAS is the least cumbersome solution. But, depending on your scenario, it may not be the cheapest.

All significant NAS vendors use popular file systems that don't lock you out of your data in case a hardware failure.

Personally I use a QNAP.

I actually use the remote filesystem from the Windows machine as "local storage". I mounted various UNC paths directly into the local filesystem. It allows me to browse and work on all the remote files and folders as if there were local. For heavy use cases (flipping through RAW images e.g.), it could be faster, but for regular use, it is very good. I often do file searches, viewing images and stuff in these folders, no issues, I think the native Windows indexing service also helps (local or on the server, I don't know). And let's not forget, Windows had years to level up performance and proof it in corporate environments, I don't how many companies run QNAPs for storage and services. From an experience and development point of view, these devices are new and consumer grade, they actually cannot compete, in theory this is. o)

I just looked up some QNAP prices, I see several hundred bucks for such a box, 400-700+ EUR depending on features. Uff, that's steep I thought, but there will be hard drives already in there. Uhm, well, turns out they are not. Which made me "uff" another time! o) Hell, this is expensive compared to a spare PC, isn't it? I cannot see what a QNAP box with IntelJ Celeron CPU and little RAM could do better than a standard PC. I can see why things could be slow with it and you did not try the Windows PC as NAS solution, why not? I see you tried Linux PC and OMV, what made you go for the QNAP? The Linux hassle, when fighting with the packages and OS? I can see some advantages with already pre-installed services on these QNAP boxes though, some things probably work right away and don't need tinkering, but not sure this is worth the extra price if your main goal is "remote storage".
No offense.. o)

I use a DS718+ (dont know QNAP), upgraded to 16 GB RAM, for home & office access. Setting Windows up with same features also requires lots of extra (non-free) software, lots of (security) know-how, time and at the end will never feel same like a DS. The main difference is, it simply works and is stable over years and most things are easy for everybody to configure/realize. No chance for Windows. I also had a Windows HTPC... it was always "overloaded" and much more work to keep it up-to-date. You can't compare if you never tried.

For people/small companies wanting an easy storage solution with extra features like cal-/carddav, vpn, basic server-functionality, media-access, redundancy, etc. a NAS can be the cheaper and easiest solution. With Windows you definetely can't do same things "out of the box" and it will be not cheaper with the extra software.

The DS runs fine w/o me everyday and I can concentrate doing all the other things a NAS can't do with Win11 and DO :slight_smile:

I read "cheap" again, what was in your tea today? o) It's 700 EUR for the base model, which has similar performance than any 12 year old PC - I'm in no way convinced! o) Yes, setting up things takes some time, but there is Docker now and it's everywhere, even the NAS can run it, so things got a lot easier and probably require the same setup steps in both worlds?

Here are some links to hardware which does the job just as well:
30 EUR -> Intel DQ43AP Intel Core 2 Duo E5300 2,60 GHz 4GB DDR2 mATX Mainboard-Bundle | eBay
25 EUR -> PC Bundle FSC D2950-A11 + CPU Intel Core 2 Quad mit 2,33GHz + 4GB DDR2 | eBay
Just for reference.. o)

Maybe it's because I don't feel much of the "consume and buy new" ideology anymore. Many modern products are designed so simple, that I actually feel offended. o) Having a little challenge here and there, combining things you already have and reaching the same goal, I guess that's how I like it. o)

I can't tell what happened to your HTPC, the Windows NAS is snappy, it even plays movies over RDP. I would like to know though, what software do you run on the NAS, which is expensive on Windows? Isn't it all open source these days? Media server, card/caldav, vpn, nextcloud, etc.?!

Is a machine running all this stuff a NAS after all? o)

I'm not sure if card/caldav, media-access and other small services require a 700 EUR machine, but I will not argue. o) I also find Windows to be rock solid in general. I don't have unexpected reboots or crashes. My Computer-NAS is up 7/24 for 8 years, better on-time than facebook! o) I also like being able to login in to a remote desktop, with different users, having an audio output to let the computer speak if it does not feel well etc.

I guess we won't find consensus in this thread. o) It seems there are NAS users, willing to spend a bunch of money and then there is me, using the PC from the bin and running the same sh*t (and more?). o)

Thank you for taking the time, it was fun reading and writing. o)

First, it's a mistake to match a NAS and a PC (especially running Windows) just by raw hardware specs. A few times cheaper NAS has probably the same performance in real world NAS scenarios as your box.
And then, it's a matter of how much your time is worth - you need to set it up and maintain, plus everyday usage is often much less streamlined than in case of an integrated solution. Not to mention extra values added by NAS software and the need to manually patch the software on a PC box.

To sum it up - if you have time and skills to tinker with a PC box plus you cannot afford a NAS - visit your nearest thrash dump for your perfect solution.

Otherwise, except for some specific and CPU/memory capacity driven scenarios, a NAS is much more reasonable solution.

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First, please don't google for prices for older NAS you won't get anymore! The 718+ was around € 450-500,--, not 700,--!

Feel free to use your win and additional software, I like the close and less complex DSM. You don't really use RDP for external remote access?! Uff! And you don't really think it's all done and cheaper by only buying a (large and used) 30-Euro-board (for a productive environment?!) without all the other things like case and extra paid/monthly abo-software? Come on, more realistic please or I can't take you for full, sorry. That's no comparison in any way starting with the poorly researched NAS-price.

There are people who needs ext. support for all that things, which is much more expensive on Windows side starting with 1st install, because it takes much more effort to make Windows a NAS-like-system (which you really can't at the end).

You really seem to believe that a NAS will be thrown away every year like a smartphone! There's support over years. As I said before, you should first try before talking about! My previous Synology was bought 2007 for € 160,-- and used til 2014 (and still working for a friend... 8 years, lol)! And there was no extra costs all the time except replacing to a more silent fan. And last but not least it' s more safe and hacking is less than on windows machines.

Of course a 718+ is oversized for my needs, but I can afford and I use it for 3 years now.

If you don't like NAS, its ok (I don't like Apple), but please don't tell others that they have no idea. Since I have some NAS additionally in a few small companies I have nearly no work to do and if they call me, it's always Windows stucking after updates or other software problems. FOR ME and my customers combining both is the trick, using best from both worlds. You may can't imagine, but that's your problem.

Hello all, looking at this matter further, I wanted some understanding for future reference. I explained that all that was affected by this situation backed up on tape media. So, this gave me the freedom to explore the corrupted files and try to see what was restorable. I have nothing to lose. As I investigate, all the files seem to be there. However, their directory structure is what was lost. I need to use a program that can read the files in this form. I use EaseUS Data Recovery. Paying attention to what is there now, I notice many files in directories that have a part of the path named Sage. The name Sage sounded vaguely familiar as some virus/ransomware I have heard mentioned. For example, two of the files that EaseUS Data Recovery show and give me access to have the name:

G:\found.036\dir0007.chk\Sage\Android\190330 After Dominican Rep
G:\found.036\dir0007.chk\Sage\ABR File Temp\MG\Users\Mike\Documents\Digital Wave Player

After the word Sage, all that is mine. I searched for the name Sage, and this is what I found. I know in computing names can relate to other things than what Google searches come up with, but I wonder if this could be related. I have reached out to EaseUS to see if this is anything related to how their software works. I figured it could be a naming convention they use. However, I mention it here to see if any user has experience with the term. The advice I received here of what could have happened to me was sound. I have been making sure to scan the recovered data thoroughly. I do not mind investigation more to try to ensure no reoccurrence happens. Thanks

I can't say anything to the "Sage" folder, to me it looks like this folder was already there, when the checkdisk tool ran? The "found.0xx" folders seems to be the results of an attempt to recover bits and pieces from a corrupted filesystem. If you still have the backup and peace of mind, that it is completely fine, I would suggest to just recover from there and move on? o)

When recovering, maybe try to temporarily disable write access to the backup (via network/permissions etc.) and use a clean system to recover data by pushing it back into place via network directly to your data-share, instead of pulling stuff in with the (maybe still) compromised system from the backup (as it might still have processes running, which could mess with the backup files). Before you do so though, you need to make up your mind how to approach backups in the future.

I think whatever runs your backup, it needs to be able to detect malformed/encrypted files. If it does not, you risk overwriting your backup with encrypted/corrupted stuff one day. If your backup solution has proper version handling, you have a chance to recover from that, but you need a huge amount of disk space for history/version data reserved for that to work and you need to notice early. I'm not sure how modern backup solutions take care about that, maybe the NAS fans can give advice.

I use custom code on windows with honeypot files spread across the disks. If one of these files shows different checksum than expected, backup will not run. It also will not run if expected sizes of folders are above/below thresholds (it could be malware cleaning some folders or my own stupid move of course. o).

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Nice idea!

Yes, yes.. thank you! o) I was looking for backup software to handle stuff like that, but I'm still not aware of any that does, I find this pre-check quite essential these days, even though I never had issues with malware encrypted files, but you hear a lot of things you know. o)

My personal method that fits for me: No backup if x percent has been changed, monthly external backup via VPN to NAS (other location), NAS drives mirrored, local weekly-monthly-quarter backups, backup user account and always using UNC-paths.