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When It’s Time to Start Over: Resetting a Drobo

After I migrated my Drobo gen. 3 device to a 5D3, it worked flawlessly for two days. Then, after a brief power outage, I was no longer able to mount my Drobo to my desktop. It was seen with the Drobo Dashboard app, but the hard drives would not mount.

A Little History

Prior to my 5D3 upgrade, I had several problems with my Drobo and iMac. It took me a while to figure it out, but the power strip and iMac power cable I was using were not providing enough power. This was causing both the Drobo and iMac to reboot at least once a week.

After a trip to the Apple Store, we were able to eliminate any hardware causes with the iMac. On a whim, I tried unplugging the iMac and Drobo from the power strip, and it was no longer restarting as often, but it was still having problems. I called up AppleCare, and a support agent overnighted me a new power cable for my iMac, and since then, I’ve had no trouble with restarts of either device.

Because of this, though, my hard drives were most likely damaged in the process. Meaning that even with switching to a 5D3 device, the hard drives were still troublesome and it was a matter of time until I had another issue.

And sure enough, when the power outage hit, I was no longer able to mount my Drobo. I tried everything from working with Drobo support with an unreleased firmware to DiskWarrior to restore my drives. But the time back and forth I spent communicating with support grew frustrating.

A Glimmer of Hope

While I couldn’t mount my Drobo, it was still seen in the Drobo Dashboard, meaning it was still seen by the system, just not mountable. After talking to Drobo support, they recommended I restore files to other external hard drives using the app R-Studio (available for Mac and Windows; $79.99). After a scan of the Drobo’s files, I was able to restore all of my photos in their folder tree. It was a time-consuming process — restoring everything from 2015 to 2018 took a few days to do. But when it was done, I checked and all my photos were still there.

Bringing Drobo Back to Life

Once all my photos were in a safe place, I decided to format my Drobo. This not only resets my Drobo device, but it also erased the hard drives that were present in it. Once the reset was finished, it re-formatted the drives, and the Drobo finally showed up in my Finder window, fully mounted.

From there, it was a matter of copying over all the files to the Drobo device. This took quite a bit of time, but after it was complete, my Drobo was back to working as expected again. And I haven’t had an issue since.

Preventing Drobo and Power Issues

There’s a number of things I’d suggest to prevent this from happening to fellow Drobo owners. First and foremost, invest in an uninterrupted power supply. This will ensure that, even during a power outage, your Drobo and computer will remain on, preventing any power shocks from happening to either device.

Second, always have a backup. I was lucky enough to realize early on that my photos were important, and had all my photos backed up via Backblaze. But in this case, an online backup wasn’t fast enough at getting me my files back. Going forward, I’m planning on turning my gen. 3 Drobo into a mirrored copy of my new Drobo 5D3. But regular external hard drives will do the job just as well, allowing you to quickly restore the files.

Conclusion

Having a Drobo, or any hard drive, fail is never fun. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening to you. And even if you do have a failure that results in you reformatting everything, being able to use tools like R-Studio or Backblaze will ultimately save you from any further headaches.

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