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Other Hardware and Peripherals Other Apple systems and peripherals discussions including the Apple Watch.

External USB drives trashed with Spotlight

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Member Since: Dec 02, 2011
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I am not a Mac person & have Googled unsuccessfully for info. I hope somebody here will be kind enough to help. I have a home network with several hard drives on it. Thanksgiving my nephew visited and logged on to the network. He tried to connect his Mac to two drives that are available on the network as external USB drives. He got an error message, something like "no volumes could be read." He disconnected and went to bed. I logged on from my pc and the two drives now show a directory of only a few file folders: .fserentsd, .Spotlight-v100, .Trashes, ._.Trashes. One of the drives also has a rash of directory entries that are just garbage symbols. Each of the drives are 650GB with more than 500GB of data. Drive properties show that the drive space is still mapped as used.

The drives were only connected to the Mac for a few minutes. It appears that the Mac, without warning, substituted a directory structure in place of the FAT32 structure. I found mention of this happening to flash drives about 2GB in size but can't find any information about how to reverse the damage.

Can anybody PLEASE help. I run W98 & XP on the network. I do not have access to a MAC. I have been unemployed for two years and cannot afford to pay for data recovery. Any help will be sincerely appreciated.
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Let's cover a few basics.

Your drive is still FAT32. This is a file system, which is completely separate from any directory structure.

The .Trashes, ._.Trashes, .Spotlight-v100 etc are the same as the Recycle.Bin and desktop.ini respectively. That is to say that deleted files are stored in the Trashes, until emptied (just like the recycle bin) and the spotlight files are used for search metadata. You can safely delete those without concern (please check to ensure no files in the trash directories are essential before doing so).

Now, on to the real question..

since none of that should have caused a dataloss, or corruption (really, I connect drives between a windows box and mac all the time, it's no big deal). What's actually happening?

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Member Since: Dec 02, 2011
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I appreciate knowing what the files are. I will leave them in place until I figure out how to retrieve the disc contents. I told it as it happened. There were six computers on the network that night. Four were doing automated activities and two were guests in my home. One was only connecting to the net to file a business report and the other was my nephew, a teacher in his late twenties. He logged on to watch an episode of MST3K and received the no readable volume notice. He tried the other drive with the same result, gave up and went to bed. I was in the room while he tried but not watching over his shoulder. When I finished in the kitchen, I logged in from a PC to see why he had trouble and found both drives in the condition I described. I had used both of the drives without problem not long before (a matter of hours) he tried to log on. They are supplied to the network by a Belkin Wireless Hub and appear as external USB drives. They act as a USB drive would if it were sitting next to your computer. There are no convoluted drivers or protocols.

Since properties reports that the drive usage is, as near as I can remember, unchanged it appears that the MAC "readied" the USB drive with something like a "quick format" setting up a blank directory with a recycle bin. I read online that OSX had done that to small USB thumb drives and am afraid that is what has happened here. The only difference between the two drives is that the first one is "clean" with only the dot files appearing and the second one has many folder entries with ANSI graphic characters for names. My nephew was using the first drive longer; waiting for it to connect. When the second drive appeared to not be connecting either, he just shut down his MAC (perhaps interrupting the process?). All of the drives on the network are set for quick disconnect and can be pulled at any time without waiting for a cache to write out.

The drives held multimedia content and were scanned regularly for viruses. No new content had been added to them in at least two months.

I do appreciate your taking the time to puzzle over this and respond. If you or anybody reading needs more detail about what happened please ask pointed questions because I think I've covered it as best I remember. And again, thank you for your willingness to help.
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