SanDisk USB stick for Timeshift Backups Error

Greetings lovely community,

I’ve been using a 64GB SanDisk USB drive as my Timeshift backup. Been using it fine for the last couple of months. I don’t have an exact science, but generally when I run Timeshift, it’ll take anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes to create a new backup. The other day it ran for almost an hour, so I just hit the cancel button on Timeshift and shut it down and tried it again, but nothing seemed to load. I just use the default Timeshift settings and manually create a backup every couple of days, usually about 2-3 times a week. I haven’t had to ever use a Timeshift backup, but you never know, so better to be prepared, but I’m not worried about any breakages in all honesty (…glares at Nvidia).

I’m wondering if my USB stick has “died” or if it somehow became corrupted and thus unusable in its current state. I’m not sure exactly what logs would help to provide, so let me know and I can provide those ASAP. For the time being, whenever I try to mount the drive, I get the following errors in Nautilus and Gnome Disks:

Screenshot from 2021-11-21 14-18-54
Screenshot from 2021-11-21 14-18-34
Screenshot from 2021-11-21 14-19-32

Basically the drive isn’t usable. If I need to reformat the drive I have no problem doing that, I won’t miss the data, it’s just a dozen or so Timeshift backups that I haven’t even ever needed (yet?) to begin with. Feel free to let me know how I can help you all help me, and as always thanks very much for any help :wink:

What filesystem is on the usb drive?

If it supports it, run fsck on it.

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Regrettably I can’t recall what I did a few months ago if I had reformatted it into Ext4 or if I just left if the default that it came with, which I think was Fat32, but I think I can provide a little more detail now!

[scott@endeavourOS ~]$ sudo fdisk -l
[sudo] password for scott: 
Disk /dev/sda: 238.47 GiB, 256060514304 bytes, 500118192 sectors
Disk model: HFS256G39TND-N21
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 4096 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 4096 bytes / 4096 bytes
Disklabel type: gpt
Disk identifier: 7FA27456-29B5-384C-87D2-2A4626D8ED63

Device       Start       End   Sectors  Size Type
/dev/sda1     4096   1052671   1048576  512M EFI System
/dev/sda2  1052672 500103449 499050778  238G Linux filesystem


Disk /dev/sdb: 57.33 GiB, 61555605504 bytes, 120225792 sectors
Disk model: Cruzer          
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
[scott@endeavourOS ~]$ 

Edit: Oh wait I don’t think that really helps, let me try to find something more useful.

Edit2: Does this help any bit more @dalto

[scott@endeavourOS ~]$ sudo fsck -a /dev/sdb
fsck from util-linux 2.37.2
fsck.ext4: Read-only file system while trying to open /dev/sdb
Disk write-protected; use the -n option to do a read-only
check of the device.
[scott@endeavourOS ~]$ 
[scott@endeavourOS ~]$ sudo fsck -n /dev/sdb
fsck from util-linux 2.37.2
e2fsck 1.46.4 (18-Aug-2021)
Warning: skipping journal recovery because doing a read-only filesystem check.
Timeshift_Backup: clean, 1323839/3760128 files, 11901911/15028224 blocks
[scott@endeavourOS ~]$ 

just a thought, but Is there an external read only switch on the USB drive? It seems like a lot of the messages seem to be complaining about the disk being readonly or write protected?

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Nope, nothing on the USB stick, it’s very simple and basic, like this: https://www.amazon.com/SanDisk-Cruzer-Flash-Drive-SDCZ36-064G-B35/dp/B005LFT37U?th=1

I’ve had it for a couple years, but rarely used it much in the past.

When I try dmesg

[scott@endeavourOS ~]$ sudo dmesg
[18835.212201] EXT4-fs (sdb): INFO: recovery required on readonly filesystem
[18835.212204] EXT4-fs (sdb): write access unavailable, cannot proceed (try mounting with noload)

I came across this error if that helps any.

@dalto also tried fdisk but got nowhere:

[scott@endeavourOS ~]$ sudo fdisk /dev/sdb

Welcome to fdisk (util-linux 2.37.2).
Changes will remain in memory only, until you decide to write them.
Be careful before using the write command.

fdisk: cannot open /dev/sdb: Read-only file system
[scott@endeavourOS ~]$ 

Also tried some fsck commands:

[scott@endeavourOS ~]$ sudo fsck -p /dev/sdb
fsck from util-linux 2.37.2
fsck.ext4: Read-only file system while trying to open /dev/sdb
Disk write-protected; use the -n option to do a read-only
check of the device.
[scott@endeavourOS ~]$ sudo fsck -n /dev/sdb
fsck from util-linux 2.37.2
e2fsck 1.46.4 (18-Aug-2021)
Warning: skipping journal recovery because doing a read-only filesystem check.
Timeshift_Backup: clean, 1323839/3760128 files, 11901911/15028224 blocks
[scott@endeavourOS ~]$ 

Found a relevant article over on the AskUbuntu side of things:

First try the command sudo hdparm -r0 /dev/sdb (method taken from another askubuntu answer). Then try remounting rw the partition. If these steps don’t work then you are most likely out of luck with that pendrive.

Since the kernel says that the whole drive is write protected you have to deal with the protection at the drive level.

hdparm does this. If it can’t solve this it is likely that your pendrive is write protected by design or it is failed.

Maybe it has a hardware switch under its casing if you take it apart. If it was writable before maybe this switch got flipped, if it was never writable maybe it was always on.

Also googling for your device gives out a lot of hits with the same problem even on windows. This is from the Sandisk forums:

For the SanDisk USB stick the answer has been posted many times. If new return it to where you bought it. If under warrantee return it to SanDisk. BOTH options will get you a new USB stick. There are no other consistent options.

Also from the Sandisk forum:

This is an offical answer if you contact customer service:

"I understand that you are getting write protection error while accessing your Cruzer flash drive. The flash drive has detected a potential fault and has become write protected to prevent data loss. There is no method to fix this. You will need to backup your data and replace the flash drive. Our team of developers is in combination with the OS developers looking into a solution to resolve this issue. Please note that only a minor percentage of users are experiencing the write protection issue and these are the customers posting on the internet to find a solution."

So likely there is no way to solve it. (SOURCE LINK)

Looks like the USB drive is just probably dead. I don’t really need the Timeshift backups, I’ll just get another drive to replace it and just create Timeshift backups from there. Ah well at least it was interesting trying some of this stuff out!

I have seen this a few times in the past. If the dumb flash storage (SD-cards, USB-sticks) detects an error they go into read-only mode. Since one instance was a big, expensive and relatively new SD-card I spend some hours looking into the issue: there’s no way around it.

Imo the stick is toast, and that even sounds reasonable if it was used as a backup drive for months.

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Just my opinion but I would not use a thumb drive for that purpose. They just aren’t reliable enough for that amount of sustained writes. You are probably going to keep having failures.

I would get a small external hard drive instead. They aren’t expensive and are much more likely to last longer for that use case.

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I’m surprised that they didn’t offer to send you a new drive?

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I agree you can get a 2.5" SSD and a case cheaper than buying an external drive and it has usb.

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Luckily there’s usually a multi-year vendor warranty at least with big brands. Alas “sneaker network”-devices are often unencrypted and who wants to expose their data when they have to send in the faulty device (everything is there in read-only mode)?

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What I’m alluding to is them offering to send you a new drive en gratis. No return required!

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As a few of the guys said don’t use thumb drives or SD cards (small once) as backup mediums. They fail due to a lot of read-write cycles. The best is to use a good SSD external or a normal mechanical external as your backup drive.

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@Scotty_Trees

Get these!

49730
56131

Edit: Case comes with the usb cable.

Edit2: I have a number of these and i install Eos on them remove os-prober and it’s a full system working on any computer you plug it into.

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Thanks for the replies everyone. I haven’t really used USB sticks much, usually just to transfer data around sometimes, but only started using it for TImeshift backups. The last backup or two took forever to do, and maybe like even a week or so before that it always took forever to unmount. I just thought it had something to do with a Timeshift backup, but now I realize it was more than likely a sign the drive itself was causing an error and went into read-only mode. I wasn’t aware until now not to use these types of devices for backups, but I know now so thanks very much for your opinions on this matter, it’s very helpful and luckily it’s not important data so I didn’t have to learn an awful lesson this time! Luckily I don’t really need the data, my system still runs fine, so I’ll just buy a new cheap maybe 1TB SSD external drive and save backups on there and that should be good enough for Timeshift backups.

Thanks again for all the advice and comments everyone, it was very informative and helpful :smiley:

@ricklinux whatever’s at the nearest Wal-mart :sweat_smile:

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Walmart? :scream:

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