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Iomega NetHDD Data Recovery

Ronald MacDonald <ronald@rmacd.com> v1.0, Fri Nov 28 19:14:21 GMT 2008

Introduction

This HOWTO is aimed at people who own an Iomega NetHDD (Ethernet), specifically those who have had troubles with files stored on the drive becoming "lost" or inaccessible.

What you Need
  • The NetHDD
  • A small (c.5mm) philips (+) screwdriver
  • A computer with a spare IDE bay
  • R-Linux - Freeware file recover utility for the Ext2FS file system, available here.

About the recovery process

The Iomega NetHDD uses a 3.5'' IDE Hard Disk within a box which also contains some basic linux-based firmware providing a basic Samba server so as to enable file sharing. Unfortunately, Iomega uses the ‘old’ Ext2 Filing system which is highly susceptible to errors as compared to the newer, journaled Ext3 file system. As well as this, Iomega also employs the Hitachi Deskstar (or Deathstar, as it is most commonly and aptly known) hard disk, also renouned for numerous problems ranging from strange noises to complete corruption of all data.

The error which I have seen thrice to date on this drive, unfortunately lies in the fact that the data on the disk becomes corrupted and inaccessible to any user which tries to access the data via the ethernet connection. Instead, we have to ‘transplant’ the hard drive from the NetHDD box to a computer with a spare IDE bay so as to attempt data recovery.

Opening and Removing the Drive

There are 5 screws on the underside of the NetHDD. Three are visible and two are underneath the back feet. All 5 must be removed before opening the case. Having opened the case, disconnected all cables from the NetHDD, and removed the HDD from its ‘caddy’, take the drive and put it into the host computer. Take care not to touch the circuit board — doing so risks damaging the sensitive components on the disk drive from static shock.

Attaching the drive to the host computer and booting

Attach one of the IDE cables on your computer to the hard drive, noting that the jumpers beside the connection must be set correctly before the drive is recognised by the host computer. It won’t damage the drive to get this wrong, it’ll just be that you won’t see anything on the drive. Make sure you also connect one of the power cables inside the computer to the drive - these are rectangular, with 4 leads coming from them - otherwise, it won’t function!

With all that out of the way, switch on the computer and leave it to boot into your Operating System (OS). If the drive does not appear, this is due to the BIOS not recognising it, and so it does not inform the OS of its presence. In which case, follow these steps:

  • Reboot your computer as normal.
  • While the computer is starting up, an option may appear to “Enter Settings F12” or “BIOS Settings F12” or something. Push F12 on your keyboard and see what happens.
  • In the settings menu, there should be an option for ‘Drives’ or similar, which will allow you to inform the computer where the new hard drive is located. It should come up with an option to ‘Autodetect’ your hard drives, which will basically scan for any new devices and add them to the list.
  • Save settings and reboot

Recovering the Lost Data

Having rebooted into your OS, the drive should be visible on the Desktop or in My Computer depending on the OS. Note that since the drive is in Ext2 format, I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t appear in My Computer in Windows.

Download, install and run R-Linux. This will come up with a list of attached drives on the left hand side, one of which will be the Iomega’s drive. Now, the drive must be scanned for missing files, so right click on the drive and select ‘Scan…’. It is a good idea to save the results to a file to allow you to come back to where you left off if the process is interrupted. The scan can take a long time, so it may be a good idea to leave it on overnight.

After the scan is done, double click the drive and select ‘recover’ from the menu above.

Problems

The drive doesn’t appear on the R-Linux (or other file recovery software) menu. This is most probably caused by an incorrect jumper setting on the ‘transplanted’ hard drive.

The jumpers can be found on the side of the drive, just beside the IDE connector:

Disk drive jumpers

Set these jumpers to the correct setting, according to the IDE channel the drive has been connected; PRIMARY or SLAVE.

Conclusion

I can happily say that all my data was recovered. It was a different story with the drive though; a week after having had it opened, it was back to its old tricks. Unfortunately, since the internal samba server cannot read in Ext3, I doubt there’s anything anyone can do.