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When I try to read a specific file by running

od filename

od hangs.

e2fsck reported no errors.

sudo e2fsck /dev/sdb6 -n -f

I plan to run a badblocks ckeck but that will take ages to complete. Is there anything else I can do?

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I recommend using SMART initially, assuming your hardware supports it. This would confirm bad block problems which you can deal with accordingly. If it isn't the disk you can look into sar, iostat, hdparm, and dtrace?

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It turned out to be a problem specific to my setup. +1 for taking the time to read and answer my question :) – George Politis Feb 9 '11 at 14:10
up vote 0 down vote accepted

It was a problem specific to my setup. I connect my USB hard disk via a USB cardbus adapter, which has two USB ports. If on the other USB port I connect a wireless adapter, my hard disk stops working randomly. So, the problem in my case turns out to be insufficient power supply to my cardbus USB adapter.

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