External HDD unusualness - is it bricked?

I’ve had a Seagate 500GB Expansion Portable USB 2.0 Hard Drive for about a year, no problems with it until today. After transferring a few files back and forth, then going out to jet ski and bench press dinosaurs I come back to find that without warning all its folders are intact, but every single file has vanished. Running Windows 7.

A couple of image files that I dumped on I: are still there, but when I open them I get “Windows Photo View can’t open this picture because either the picture is deleted, or it’s in a location that isn’t available”. Trying to move a file to it gets “This is no longer in Computer. Verify the item’s location and try again”.

In Computer, everything looks just fine, exactly like it should be - shows 72GB used. In properties Windows reports on “Seagate Portable USB Device” that “This device is working properly”. Running WinDirStat (a drive-mapping program) on the other hand shows that only 3.6MB is used (!). If I try and run Windows Error-checking on the drive nothing happens. The device itself looks fine, no weird noises or overheating, the lights are on like they always were.

What the fudge is going on with it?

The Windows “this device is working properly” just means the driver can talk to it. You could try going into Disk Management and looking at the drive’s SMART status, which should read as “healthy”. Fair warning, though: I’ve seen dead drives have a SMART status of “healthy” before, so that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Assuming you have good backups and don’t need to recover data, my next step would be to format the drive, doing a full format (which will warn you about bad blocks, and “fill in” known bad blocks) instead of a “simple” or “quick” format.

But you know what? I’m a paranoid person and 500 GB drives aren’t very expensive. You could just crack the enclosure and swap the drive out for a new one, in far less time than it’ll take a full format to even finish. That’s what I’d do in your situation.

Thanks for the advice, Blakeyrat, it didn’t have any critical data on it but it’s still a pain in the arse. Still, better than losing it altogether I suppose.

It does not take much to corrupt the drive table and you would get the result you are seeing. You are quite probably boned but it might be worth putting the drive in another case to confirm this before trashing it. Whatever you do do not use the drive any more than you have to before trying another case.

Take a look at the disk with Recuva, then TestDisk.