Why do my files on external HDD seem to disappear after a few minutes?

Anonymous March 18, 2014
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Hi, I’m currently having a problem with my External HDD.

My OS is Windows 7 Professional, SP 1. 64bit.
the HDD device is Hitachi H3640US, 600GB model.

Recently it started showing all the folders empty. When I reboot the device, the first 2 minutes or so I have access to all files, and they are visible.  However, soon all the images and videos start becoming completely invisible (Folder Options switches on Show Hidden Files on and off are not working at all)

I’ve tried attrib -h -r -s /s /d g:*.* and the results display messages as:
“Unable to change attribute – G:\[file or a folder name here]”

I can’t scan it with my Avast Antivirus nor Malwarebytes at all because the programs can’t detect what’s inside.  Windows 7 Disc Check also doesn’t work because it runs out of the accessible time to the files.

I guess it is a severe malware problem, what should I do to fix this problem?

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  1. Abilash A
    March 24, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Definitely a malware activity. Use Malwarebytes and AVG antivirus to detect and clean those malwares.

    • Hovsep A
      April 3, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      nice idea, sometime better to do the scan with livecd

  2. Oron J
    March 19, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    It's possible that this is the result of malware, but I must say it doesn't sound like it. Malware is much more likely to hide your files permanently than to start trying to hide them a short time after each boot up.

    It's much more likely that there is either a hardware problem with the drive (for example, underpowered PSU) or a problem with the PC (USB driver problem or the like). I would suggest you conduct two tests:

    1. Connect the drive to another computer, making sure that the USB port on that computer has been tested and shown to work. Ideally, test it on a Mac (so that viruses etc won't be an issue). If the same problem recurs, it's a hardware problem.
    2. Connect another drive (even a flash drive) to your PC, using the same USB port as before. Does that work OK? Over time? If so, the PC is OK and this is unlikely to be a virus.

    If it's a hardware problem, report back to us and let us know what kind of drive it is (2.5 or 3.5", with or without an external power supply, ideally tell us the make & model as well) and we'll try to suggest ways to recover your data & repair the drive if possible.

    • Bruce E
      March 20, 2014 at 5:35 am

      Since this appears to be affecting the external drive only, it could be something that is starting up in an autorun.inf on the external drive. There is plenty of malware that use this method to jumpstart themselves and only affect the drive they are currently sitting on. So when the drive is first accessed, the files and folders can be seen while the malware is loading and initializing itself and the files are gone once it is in place.

  3. Hovsep A
    March 19, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Maybe you can scan with Clamwin portable
    http://www.softpedia.com/get/PORTABLE-SOFTWARE/Antivirus---Antispyware/Portable-ClamWin.shtml
    transfer Clamwin portable to the external hard drive and scan there.

    attrib -h -r -s /s /d g:*.*
    i think g is the hard drive letter yours can be different?

  4. Bruce E
    March 18, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    Download and burn a rescue CD and use its antivirus/antimalware scanners to do full scans of your primary hard drive AND the external drive. I use Trinity Resource Kit or Hiren's Boot CD. I would recommend using at least 2 different scanners.

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