Repair External Disk Issues on Mac OS X

September 2, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Have you ever experienced problems with external disk drives suddenly losing their connection to your Mac? This can be a frustrating and time consuming issue to sort out, often leaving you with the problem of finding another computer to test the drive with, a task that often results in more questions as the external device appears to work without any further problems.

There are various ways to troubleshoot this problem, from checking cabling to powering your Mac and the drive off and on. Apple also includes some useful testing tools that should also help in resolving the problem.

Note, however, that these fixes may not work in every occasion. If you find that you are unable to get the disk drive working with your Mac once again, do whatever you can to get the data off the device and burnt to an optical disk until you have a replacement hard disk drive.

Repair External Disk Issues on Mac OS X

Checking the Device, Power and Cabling

The first thing you need to check is how the external disk drive is connected. Is the power connector seated comfortably in the device? If the cable is stretched tight, try moving the drive closer to the electric outlet, or use an extension cable.

You should also check that the USB cable connecting the disk drive to your Mac is working correctly. The best way of doing this is to try a different cable, or use the original cable on another device; you might also purchase a brand new cable that is slightly longer if the disk drive isn’t positioned close enough to your Mac.

Finally, you will need to check that the disk drive is powering on correctly. Simply switch it on and listen carefully – you should hear a series of clicks and “whirrs”, indicating that the device is starting up. Also try switching the disk and your Mac on and off, which in some cases will restore the connection; note that this renewed mounting of the drive may not last long, however.

Fixing External Disk Drive Problems with Mac OS X

The first thing you should do after checking the hardware is to reconnect everything and then open Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility and click Verify Disk. Make sure you have your Mac OS X install disc to hand as any issues that are found will require you to insert the disc and restart your Mac with the C key held down. You will have a new option to launch Disk Utility, so choose Repair Disk.

Restart your Mac, and try again. The chances are this won’t fix things for long, so proceed with the next step, returning to the Disk Utility program in Mac OS X and selecting Repair Disk Permissions with your external hard disk drive highlighted on the left.

Next, restart your Mac again with the system install disc inserted, this time holding D and boot into the Apple Hardware Tests. Run Extended Tests – the results here could be disappointing, for instance if the problem is with your computer’s motherboard this could be expensive to replace.

One final thing you can do is tidy up some disk-related issues with the OnyX app from MacUpdate. Download and install the app and select all options on the Automate tab before clicking Execute.

Failure to resolve your problems here will result in you having to act quickly to recover your data…

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