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Having trouble installing a piece of hardware? Want to know if that peripheral is compatible with Linux?


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Old 01-05-2007, 02:35 AM   #1
Registered: Apr 2006
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usb hdd error after dd of=/dev/sda



i purchased an external hard drive--its from digital research, w/ usb 2.0 and 500g of storage.

it showed up on my linux box with a volume label of FAT32, and mounted as a vfat volume.

(i am trying to back up an os x drive directly to it with dd. the reason is so i can recover data from the hfs+ volume.) i decided to experiment with the usb hdd before using with the system on which i have lost files (os x).

so i tried some experiments on my linux box, figuring dd is my friend.

well, it quit each time i tried to use it. i played with different bs values to no avail. basically in linux my commands looked somewhat like:

# dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda

for example. i found that it would always quit before reaching 1g tranferred. the numbers seemed to get smaller. the last output i had said it transferred 10M to the disk.

now i have tried to use cfdisk and fdisk on it, they fail to open it. i thought they could take a drive with garbage on it and simply write a new filesystem & partitions.

lsusb reports
root@1[~]# lsusb
Bus 001 Device 001: ID 0000:0000
Bus 004 Device 001: ID 0000:0000
Bus 003 Device 001: ID 0000:0000
Bus 002 Device 001: ID 0000:0000

i am using ubuntu 6.06 dapper with backports, and have reproduced the last state and confirmed fdisk/cfdisk still fail under knoppix 5.01.

i don't know if it matters but this is not a drive enclosure but a sealed unit (does the firmware store anything on the mbr, or other partitions?)

i didn't think dd did anything too low-level with a drive, how can i format it?

thnx, tim

Last edited by stairwayoflight; 01-06-2007 at 03:11 PM.
Old 01-06-2007, 01:02 PM   #2
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Registered: Oct 2003
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What partitioning tools do you have other than the native linux tools, cfdisk and fdisk and their various front ends?
I've had some bad experiences trying to use cfdisk and fdisk on usb hard drives and now avoid using them. The most reliable partitioning tool I've found for usb drives is Acronis Disk Director but it's not free.
Other than that, you could try zeroing out just the mbr on the drive and see if that helps:

# dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=512 count=1

Of the free linux tools, parted and its graphical front end, gparted, seem to work better with usb hard drives than fdisk/cfdisk. You might want to give parted a try.
Old 01-06-2007, 03:10 PM   #3
Registered: Apr 2006
Posts: 59

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faulty drive


thanks for the advice but it must have been malfunctioning. it was an open box from best buy (good grief--and ~$350!).

i opened "my comp" in xp, and i showed 4 additional drive letters. g h i j. usually they show up when i insert my usb stick and the stick shows up as k, but g-j are always nothing. after a reboot of just the usb hdd, win showed nothing. didn't show up in linux either. so it must have been faulty. the instructions show how to quick format the drive in win, and that was impossible.

so i returned it.

the good thing is i payed partially with a best buy gift card, but the refund was pure $$, baby!

the only concern i had was the system is obviously supposed to abstract out the "usb" and give you a "hard drive." i don't know how high-level this abstraction is supposed to be (ie. medium--let you dd, partition, format ext3, etc.; or high--let you read/write to ntfs/fat32 partition only).

i wonder if some of the "smart" externals only let you do high level stuff. pooh.


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