How a RaspberryPi saved my dead 500gb Western Digital HD

So I had a 500gb Western Digital external hard drive that died… It had been going in an out for a few months and then finally just died, no blue ring, nothing…

western digital my book

All of my backup data, including my entire MP3 collection was sitting in a dead external drive….

I decided to buy a thermaltake sata drive reader and use it for network drive using an airport extreme…


SURPRISE! After taking out the drive from the Western Digital enclosure and dropping it in, thinking that it would just magically work… it didn’t…

The drive was formatted using linux raid by Western Digital and was not readable by my mac…

Raspberry Pi Time

Let me be honest, it was just sitting there, I hadn’t touched it since I gave up trying to make J.A.R.V.I.S. using Jasper, so I figured, it’s running linux… worth a shot…

Below is pretty much, step by step what I did to rescue my data using my Raspberry Pi….

/* connected Raspberry Pi to network... */
/* connected usb to Raspberry Pi */

/* installed mdadm to support RAID file system */

sudo apt-get install mdadm

/* selected 'none' and 'no' for install configuration */

sudo fsck /dev/sda4

/* Said no to error's  */

/* hmmm.... */

/dev/sda4: ***** FILE SYSTEM WAS MODIFIED *****
Recreate journal? yes
Creating journal (32768 blocks):  Done.

*** journal has been re-created - filesystem is now ext3 again ***
e2fsck: aborted

sudo mount /dev/sda4 /mnt

So now I have the drive mounted using my usb sata drive reader from thermaltake, I need to share this accross the network to back up the drive…

/* install samba */

sudo apt-get install samba samba-common-bin

sudo nano /etc/samba/smb.conf

/* Added this to the very end of the file */

comment = USB Share
path = /mnt
read only = No
create mask = 0777
directory mask = 0777
guest only = Yes
guest ok = Yes

sudo service samba restart

/* Need to add 'pi' user to samba */

sudo smbpasswd -a pi

I am now able to see my drive and it’s contents from my mac finder window…

I copy over all the files to my local drive on my laptop…

NOTE: Drag and drop from finder was SUPER slow… so I used rsync top copy over all the data…

sudo rsync -vaE --progress /Volumes/usb/REMOTEDIRECTORY /Volumes/Macintosh\ HD/Users/me/Desktop/me/DESTINATIONDRIVE

/* this takes a very long time if you got a lot of data, go grab a snack! */

Now that the data was copied off the Raspberry Pi shared drive and all of my data is safely on my mac…

I unplugged the thermaltake usb sata reader from the Raspberry Pi and plugged it into my mac…

I then reformatted the 500gb disk using Disk Utility on my mac…

Once the formatting was completed, I simply unplugged the thermaltake usb sata reader from my laptop and plugged it in to my airport extreme…

Configured my airport extreme to share the drive on the network…

Now I have a central network drive!


Hope this helps you if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself with a dead Western Digital drive!

Special Thanks

Special thanks to these dudes who provided the references that helped save my stuff!


Khaled from ServerFault

Kragen from Ubuntu Forums

The Urban Penguin

Simon the Pi Man



Graham Miln


  • Cool to learn this method.

    Copying a large disk like that will take a long time. But was the Raspberry Pi the bottleneck or the slow disk transfer speed? If you had another computer available, I think running Ubuntu or other Linux distro could speed up the process. Booting from a thumb drive is fairly painless, and Kali Linux has a lot of built-in tools for date rescue if more is needed.

    -- Tommy

  • Hi Tommy,

    It was just a lot of files… Raspberry Pi worked like a champ.

    -- Cesar Serna