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Several years ago, I experienced a hard drive failure 5 Signs Your Hard Drive Lifetime Is Ending (And What to Do) 5 Signs Your Hard Drive Lifetime Is Ending (And What to Do) Since a majority of people today own laptops and external hard drives, which get dragged around quite a bit, a realistic hard drive lifetime is probably around 3 - 5 years. This is an extremely... Read More . I was at work when my laptop suddenly started to act particularly strange. First, I thought it was because I had too many windows open and the RAM was full, but when the problems persisted after a reboot, I knew it was more than that. I immediately started to back up recent files. About half an hour later, the hard drive failed audibly and the laptop wouldn’t boot anymore.

Thank God I had backups These Guys Didn't Back Up Their Files, Now Look What Happened These Guys Didn't Back Up Their Files, Now Look What Happened If there is anything I learned during those early years of working with computers (and the people that use them), it was how critical it is to not only save important stuff, but also to... Read More ! Except that I didn’t have backups of everything. Just weeks earlier my backup drive had reached capacity. To back up important work files, I had decided to delete my personal photos. The irony was that I had already purchased a new external drive, but had not taken the time to back up my photos. Now they were lost and I was devastated.

Over the next couple of weeks I researched ways to recover the data and considered doing everything under the sun — and did most of it — to revive the old hard drive. I eventually did recover my data, but not in the way you would expect. If your hard drive has failed physically, maybe this little guide can help you or at least give you some hope. So roll up your sleeves and get to work.

External Hard Drive? Check Whether The IDE / SATA to USB Enclosure Is OK!

When your external hard drive fails, it can do so for all the same reasons an internal drive can fail. Sometimes, however, it’s not the drive that stops working, but a connection within the enclosure! And in that case, the drive is easy to revive.

Before you open up any hardware, be sure to discharge your body’s static electricity, i.e. ground yourself Your Sneakers Can Kill Your Computer: How Static Electricity Works [MakeUseOf Explains] Your Sneakers Can Kill Your Computer: How Static Electricity Works [MakeUseOf Explains] Static electricity is the number one computer hardware killer, and its everywhere! Panic aside, if you do any work with computer components - even as simple as upgrading your memory - you need to know... Read More . Remove the hard drive from its casing and use a IDE / SATA data cable What Are The Different Computer Cable Types You Should Know As A User? What Are The Different Computer Cable Types You Should Know As A User? Take a look at any piece of equipment related to computer harder and you’ll soon find yourself in a swirling maelstrom of acronyms and foreign jargon. What does it matter if you use IDE or... Read More and power connector to install the drive internally on your desktop computer 5 Things to Consider When You Install a SATA Hard Drive 5 Things to Consider When You Install a SATA Hard Drive Before you install a SATA hard drive, here are a few things to consider so you don't mess anything up. Read More . Alternatively, you can get an IDE / SATA to USB adapter or a new USB enclosure, so you can hook the drive up externally via USB.

SATA vs. IDE

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The image above shows a SATA connector (left) and an IDE connector (right).

Once you re-connected the external drive to your computer, given the enclosure was the culprit, Windows should recognize it and assign a drive letter. If this doesn’t happen, you can try to manually find your drive to further narrow down the issue; the process is described further down.

Internal Hard Drive? Make Sure The Hard Drive Connections Are OK!

Sometimes, it’s not the drive that failed, but the physical connection of cables that connect the drive with the computer’s motherboard. You can only wish that this is your problem! So before you hire an expensive technician, make sure the data and power cables are firmly connected on both ends.

SATA Hard Drive

To prevent hazards to your health, it’s essential to turn off the computer and unplug the power cord. As mentioned above, you also need to discharge your body’s static electricity, i.e. ground yourself before you get working on your computer’s internals. Then open up the case and make sure all connections are OK. Our guide on how to physically install an internal hard drive How to Physically Install a Second Internal Hard Drive How to Physically Install a Second Internal Hard Drive Read More shows which connections to watch out for.

Once you have made sure the connections are OK, boot the computer again. If you have a desktop computer, you can leave the case open, but stay clear of its interior.

What’s That Sound?

As you are trying to get the hard drive to run, listen to the sound it is making. Is it completely dead? Or is it still spinning? What exactly does it sound like? Compare your sound to the list of hard drive sounds provided by Data Cent. This will help you diagnose the type of damage.

Hard Drive Disk Platter

The damage can be either internal or external. A clicking sound, for example, is suggestive of a malfunctioning head, i.e. internal damage. A completely dead drive, on the other hand, could be due to a faulty printed circuit board (PCB), which would be external damage.

Is The Hard Drive Recognized?

Sometimes, you can hear your drive spinning, but it never pops up. Or maybe it’s completely dead. To pinpoint the type of damage, try to manually check whether or not the drive is recognized by your computer.

You can do this via the BIOS in case it’s the primary hard drive and your computer no longer boots. After you turn on the computer, enter the BIOS The BIOS Explained: Boot Order, Video Memory, Saving, Resets & Optimum Defaults The BIOS Explained: Boot Order, Video Memory, Saving, Resets & Optimum Defaults Your computer’s BIOS (basic input/output system) is the low-level software that starts when you boot your computer. It performs a POST (power-on self test), initializes your computer’s hardware, and passes control over to the boot... Read More by pressing a trigger key, which could be [DEL], [ESC], [F2], or [F10], depending on the manufacturer. Within the BIOS, navigate through the available menus to find where it lists which types of drives are connected to the computer. Usually, this information is found under the Advanced menu, but you might also find it indirectly under Boot settings.

BIOS Boot Order

If you have hooked up the drive to another computer, you don’t need to access the BIOS at all. In Windows, click the key combination [Windows] + [R], which will launch the Run input window. Type cmd into the field and hit [Enter]. This will open the Command Prompt. Here type diskpart and hit [Enter], to open the respective tool. In the diskpart window, type list volume and hit [Enter] to show all drives connected to your computer.

DiskPart

If the drive is recognized and thus appears in the list above, but doesn’t show up as an accessible drive, chances are Windows only recognizes the PCB, but the drive itself is damaged (internal damage). In other words, if the drive is recognized in any shape or form, the PCB is most likely working and replacing it will not fix the hard drive!

Is The Printed Circuit Board Broken?

As mentioned previously, your drive can be damaged internally or externally. The external PCB, if damaged, is relatively easy to replace. However, data recovery specialists warn that swapping the PCB can ruin the drive and cause you to lose all data on it. So if you do care about your data, better err on the side of caution.

HDD Circuit Board

Even if you can see that your PCB is damaged, there might still be internal damage. Moreover, as mentioned above, replacing the circuit board yourself can damage your drive further, which reduces your chances of recovering your data. Now that you have been warned extensively, here is a video that explains how to swap the PCB.

Note that many websites now sell PCBs and provide guides to find exactly the right circuit board for your drive. You can easily find them on Google. So if you really can’t or don’t want to afford professional help and are certain that (only) the PCB is damaged, those resources might save you a lot of money and your data if you’re lucky. Or not.

Witchcraft & Wizardry

When my hard drive failed, the PCB was fine; the drive was still recognized and spinning, but it didn’t show up in Windows, meaning I could not access it, and no software recovery tool Recover Lost Data For Free With Pandora Recovery [Windows] Recover Lost Data For Free With Pandora Recovery [Windows] Last night I inadvertently deleted 17GB of data with a mis-press of Shift+Del, causing a classic "oh sh*t!!" moment. I’d chosen to "permanently delete" the folder, skipping the Recycle Bin and instantly freeing up some... Read More could help me, either. So I put my last hope into some of those obscure tricks that you’ll find floating around the Internet, like shaking the drive, hitting it onto a hard surface, exposing it to dry heat in the oven, or sticking it in the freezer overnight. If you have any idea how a hard drive works, then any of these methods should give you the shivers!

Frozen Hard Drive Head

Well, I didn’t dare to melt my drive, but my suspicion was that the head was stuck. So I did shake it, but to no avail. Since I could follow the reasoning, I also wrapped my drive in an airtight Ziploc back and stuck it in the freezer overnight. The idea is that the low temperatures cause metals to shrink and contract. So if the head was stuck, the cold might get it unstuck. In practice, that didn’t work either. And I probably caused condensation to settle on the hard drive platter, which could have caused a lot more damage. I eventually gave up and stored the drive for a future in which I was hoping to be able to afford professional data recovery.

Backup Strategy Advice

One last thought about the weird methods above: If they do work, they will only work temporarily! So be prepared. Know exactly what you want to back up and how. Have the right software to quickly back up your data 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 By now, we're sure you've read the advice over and over: Everyone needs to back up their files. But deciding to back up your files is only part of the process. There are so many... Read More and have enough storage space available. If you want to copy files manually, only copy one set of files at a time! If you make the head jump back and forth between too many files by kicking off multiple copy and paste processes, you will slow down the overall backup process and increase the likelihood of a fatal head crash.

Consult A Specialist For Professional Data Recovery

If you can afford professional help or simply cannot afford to wait for a miracle, do consult a specialist. My recommendation is to go with a reputable company. They should work with professional technicians and tools, be able to open your hard drive in clean rooms or under dust free conditions, follow industry standards, and have solid credentials, as well as excellent recommendations. After all, you will trust them with your private data.

Kroll Ontrack, one of the more reputable companies in the market, has an extensive and well-designed compendium of consumer myths in regards to data recovery, that will help you pick the right candidate. We have also had a discussion on Answers, where several data recovery companies were recommended.

Data Recovery Consumer Myths

Before you pick a company, be sure you understand the conditions! Most charge just for looking at the drive and making a recommendation. They will charge extra for actually attempting to recover the data. Some will charge a full recovery fee, even if they failed to recover the data.

Conclusion

Diagnosing and fixing a broken hard drive is serious business. Do take it seriously, but also try to exclude some of the more simple to fix culprits before you fork out hundreds of dollars to a so-called specialist. The more informed you are, the better. How far you go to diagnose and fix your hard drive will depend on how important the data is for you.

You probably wonder what happened with my hard drive. Well, one fine day, when I was dissolving my apartment, I decided to give it one last chance and then let go of it. More than two years after I had tried everything I dared to get it to work, again and again for weeks, I just plugged it in and it simply worked. I recovered all my data and the drive is working until this day, almost six years after it failed initially. Call me lucky!

Have you ever experienced such a miracle? What helped you revive a hard drive in the past? And how did you recover the data?

Image credit: Hard Drive PCB via Shutterstock, Frozen Hard Drive via Shutterstock, Dead HDD via Flickr

  1. manohar wagh
    June 20, 2016 at 8:49 am

    manohar wagh

    pls help, my hard disk is not detect .help me,

  2. bill t
    April 25, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    I have a read element failure and my PC will not boot will running a Disc Check harm my Hard drive

  3. Devansh
    April 23, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Hello!!!!!!
    I have a 500gb WD hard disk and it shows window detected a hard disk failure
    Sok kindly Help me

  4. Christopher robinson
    April 14, 2016 at 11:29 am

    I have a Seagate 320gb external hdd it used to show up in windows as local disk but wouldnt work unless formatted of course the format failed no matter what I did, so I found a method online where I created a new simple volume or something like that and it worked fine so I began to copy files to it but eventually on the same day the drive was no longer recognised in windows explorer only device manager, the disk management screen was forever stuck on connecting to virtual disk service and nothing I did would save the drive. SO I took the risk of removing the drive from its case and attempted to use it internally of course it didn't work. I then open the drive completely to the point where I could touch the disk and I am now clueless on what to do I have no interest on keeping any of the data on the drive I just want to get it working if you know anything that might help me please tell.

  5. Javaid
    March 24, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    Hi Ishaan, Try running chkdsk on that drive. hope it works.

  6. yunus shaikh
    March 5, 2016 at 9:28 am

    please help, i opened my back panel of my hard disk, so is it going to harm may data?
    where as spin sound is good but it doesnt show (no detect)

  7. yunus shaikh
    March 5, 2016 at 9:24 am

    hie.... Tina..... how r u?
    my problem is when i plug my internal ide hard disk it spin good but dont show.... so bymistakly i open my back panel of hard disk to explore., and just put it back. so, it is going to harm my data which i m trying to recover...

  8. B.VASU DEVA RAO
    February 20, 2016 at 10:40 am

    I would like to ask if i can still see the content of this HDD of mine. It is a 2TB i used for my backups.
    When i open Disk Management it will let me choose if MBR or GPT, if i choose either of the two, it will see Cyclic redundancy Check.

    And it shows only 3.86 GB, it cannot also be initialized.
    I have not taken any backup before. Please help me to recovery the data from this drive.
    Thanks for advance solution for this.

  9. ishaan
    February 9, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    I have a 500 GB hard disk in my desktop, 1 day the window crashed. And now when I tried to connect the same hard disk to the laptop using the universal connector, all the drives in that hard drives are readable except the C drive.
    I want to recover the data from the C drive of the desktop hard disk. How can I do the same? Have also tried Ubuntu, in Ubuntu the C drive is not visible. And when I connected the hard drive to other system running windows its showing the C drive but I cannot open the same
    NOTE: hard drive that crashed was running on windows 7

  10. Mushtaq
    January 20, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I had window 7 and bitlocker was on on a drive now i installed windows 8 but my drive is not running now..

  11. simon
    December 21, 2015 at 2:48 am

    thats helpful advice u gave. actually my laptop have a problem with strange sound saying some kind of connection have established like u can find it in some movie when doing some hacking or secret connection with fbi lol. i just strated for the fix these past day and i found the problem similar to this like dog barking or something like that. they said its the hd failing when u boot ur pc. mine is when in the middle of doing something. im not sure the problem is with the hd. i tried uninstalling some programs that i think its the cause but didn't fixed. i want to confirm it is problem with my hd or not because i want to try ur method with my laptop and if it wasnt that wud be waste of time fixing hd thats not broken.

  12. guy
    November 27, 2015 at 4:40 am

    I recently had a hdd that seemed to stop working after an accidental forced shutdown. when i plugged it in windows had an issue with it. I fixed that with the OS disk booted up and the hdd wouldn't show up.
    Turns out all that was wrong with it was the drive letter was somehow forgotten...
    All i had to do was give it a new drive letter and everything was working perfectly.

  13. Rune Bjørnsen
    October 21, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    My HDD gave up on me today.
    It shows up in win explorer with just a drive letter, with no volume name.
    When I try to acess it, win explorer crashes, and restarts.
    All applications that try to acess it will also crash. Including several recovery tools. Some of these will not even open when the drive is plugged in.
    Chdsk will just heng with a blinking cursor.
    Device manager will also hang if I try to acess the settings from there.
    Disk manger will also just hang, but starts if i unplug the drive.

    Been trying all the tricks in the book to get it goeing again. At least the tricks I could google my way to.

    The only progress I made was with partition magic on a bootable stickdrive. With that I found the partition, and could see my files. But not much else.

    So I made a linux flashdisk, and now have full acess to the drive, and seem to be able to copy and paste files. So I am trying now to save my files to another drive, hoping I will be able to acess them there...

    • Larry
      February 12, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      @Rune Bjørnsen
      Partition software did the trick and my hard drive is again recognized!
      Hard drive stopped booting, (hung at startup screen). Pulled the drive and attached to different computer through USB using parts from an external HD. Tried 3 or 4 data recovery software and they would just hang when the drive was plugged in, (even tried the freezer trick, (desperate times call for desperate measures)). I'm now backing up my .jpg and .doc files and will back them up again to disc. Thank you, thank you.

  14. Terry Miles
    October 14, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Thank you so much! Worked fine for me with an enclosure.

    Also, I've found another tutorial that allows to recover not just files, but also settings and - most important for me! - programs. Got my Office, Adobe, and emails back just as before the crash. Here it is:
    http://www.zinstall.com/how-to/how-to-recover-your-programs-and-files-from-a-broken-computer

    Hope this helps!

  15. Talib Hasan
    June 15, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Reviving a drive like that one—even if only long enough to copy its data before you throw the
    drive in the garbage—is a tough challenge.
    When this document was first compiled back in 2010 data recovery was (and still is for many) a very expensive option. While the Freeze it, Hit it, and Drop it options are still experimented with by some, the current size and sensitivity of the newer larger hard drives makes these options extremely risky and definitely NOT recommended for hard drives with a capacity that’s greater than 100 gig. And even then some of the operation suggested here should be approached with caution. Getting it wrong by trying to save some money will only end up costing you more if you then decide to pass on your hard drive to a data recovery company…
    If your hard drive does work and you are attempting to recover a FAT or NTFS file system, then this FREE step by step guide could help you get back your lost files...

    Try this free manual at: http://bestfreebooks.org/200-ways-to-recover-revive-your-hard-drive/

  16. JOHNBON
    April 9, 2015 at 3:15 am

    I have a 3th Hard drive for Backup Data and it stops, it stops showing in my computer or disk management,it comes ang goes out, i check the disk management it shows a RAW drive, but still can not access files, any ideas how to recover the partition. should i replace the pcb board

  17. selma
    March 30, 2015 at 2:30 am

    easeus data recovery is a good software to recover your files. Less hassle! and it is also downloadable in google. no more inconvient.

  18. muhammed
    March 26, 2015 at 1:52 am

    when i try to connect my hard drive using a ide cable, there r no any affects. the computer doesnt show that a hard drive is connected. and the hard drive is not spinning as well. what is the issu?

  19. MJ
    March 17, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Hi Tina, thanks for the informative article! I too have a dead drive and in my quest for answers found your article. However I'm unable to find similar symptoms to my drive online. Mine's a WD Passport model number: WD10TMVW-11ZSMS1.

    When connecting my drive, it starts up, the spindle tries to read the platter, and then it stops spinning. I recorded a video of it here which shows the beginning before the platters stop completely:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB9bgogOOSc

    I use a mac and the drive is mac formatted. Disk utility is also not able to detect it. Would you have any idea what the issue is? Many thanks in advance!

  20. jraju
    February 12, 2015 at 6:36 am

    Hi, Quite interesting.
    But consider this and tell me why? My friend has supposedly failed hard drive and he bought a new one. But on other computers, he could install his OS dvd, and he tried to hook it with his computer. It does not pass POST. Even if he tries to reinstall it does freezes at mother board logo? How could one hear sound spinning, if it is working. Since he has OS installed, his hard drive is supposed to be working.

  21. P.s.Kanheyalal
    February 7, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    I don't know what my friend has done.....I'll provide all details here tomorrow...
    Btw what is the difference between Actual hard drive & solid state drive?

  22. P.s.Kanheyalal
    February 7, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Hello Tina...

    I am in a huge trouble now.My internal Hard drive not showing.
    Just 5 days before my friend borrwed my Laptop (Dell Inspiron n5050).When I called him to return he says my Lapotop is not working .While turning on it shows "Insert boot media" or something like that.He said he has not used atleast once since he has borrowed but how is it possible?
    He went to repairing centre but technician says "Your Internal Hard drive is not detecting(500gb)"
    and less possibilities of geting your files back.
    I can't show you but seriously am Crying now.....I've lost every moment of my life....
    Please help me to get my all imp. files back.
    Please....please....please.....

    • Tina
      February 7, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      Can you hear the hard drive spin up? I'm assuming this is an actual hard drive, not a solid state drive.

      Have you tried booting from a Linux Live CD / USB, to see whether it can read the drive?

      What did the technician actually do?

  23. Bo
    January 25, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    Thanks for the life saving tips. I had a 4TB back-up drive with family photos and videos die on me over Xmas. Worse was that some of the older material was lost a few months before and I had not yet built a new back-up.

    After reading your post and references and other articles over the last month I felt confident of my diagnose. I knocked the drive a few times and literally iced the casing with two ice packs. After a few hours of "mothering" the situation and multiple start-up failures, it finally healed and I got access. All saved and transferred!

    Thanks again!

    • Tina
      January 25, 2015 at 11:35 pm

      Happy to hear that Bo! Glad you got your photos back.

      Even if the drive seems healed now, I wouldn't trust it with important data anymore. Really sucks, but maybe -- if it still works -- it can serve another purpose.

  24. 4yr-Lifespan
    January 25, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Just to add my own recent experience, a week ago, I boot win7 and it tells me one of the data drive (a WD 2Tb green) can't be mounted (or something to that effect) and recommend re-initialzing it. Knowing it would wipe it, I chose not to, and just rebooted the pc, which kinda worked. Had to run checkdisk, then it seemed ok for a little while. I ran a hdd utility just long enough to notice that drive was litterraly burning up at 54 degrees celcius (all other drives in this pc were running avg 30c) .
    I shutdown the pc overnight and that was the end of that drive.
    Windows is unable to boot if this drive is present. I tried to use it externally and same thing happens, as soon as I flip the pwr switch, the whole computer goes unresponsive.
    It was "just" a data backup drive, and the original data is safe and sound on another computer/drive. So no big harm done, but a trip to the pc store to replace it ASAP

  25. Hard Drive Recovery in Belfast
    January 21, 2015 at 11:03 am

    I was looking for a company of Hard Drive Recovery in Belfast and found your blog which has taught me a lot about data recovery and I’ll surely share it further.

  26. Professional Data Recovery
    January 17, 2015 at 9:29 am

    This is a very good and helpful article if you are trying to Damaged Hard Drive Recovery. A hard drive may suffer a malfunction for a great number of reasons; these cross the spectrum from general degradation, to dropping the computer, mechanics coming into contact with any foreign substances or corrupt firmware; due to the complexity of the hardware, the list of possibilities is almost endless. As stated above, there are numerous reasons for hard drive malfunction; however,

  27. sifon
    January 16, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    I have an issue with my DEll inspirion N4020. I left it in good condition but just realised when booting; internal hard disk drive not found. To resolve this issue, try to reseat the drive.
    No bootable devices- strike F1 to retry boot, F2 for setup utility. Press F5 to run onboard diagnostics.
    We have tried these suggestions but the drive is still not found. Unfortunately, i have no backup for the past few months. Please what can I do as am told that it is bad and needs replacement?

    • Tina
      January 16, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      Have you tried booting with a live CD / USB to examine the drive?
      Lucky for you, this was just published: 5 Best Rescue Disks For A Windows System Restore. Some of the tools could help you with checking the drive health.

  28. Damaged Hard Drive Recovery
    January 16, 2015 at 5:14 am

    This is a very good and helpful article if you are trying to Damaged Hard Drive Recovery. Many users will like it just like me.

  29. SRINIVAS
    January 9, 2015 at 11:15 am

    iT IS WELL NO DOUBT YOU ARE PROVIDING AN AMAZING SOLUTION TO THE DATA RECOVERY.BU THE THING IS THAT WITH OUT DISTURBING THE DISK MANAGEMENT CAN I REVOVER THE DATE FRO M MY LAPTOP

  30. Roll One
    January 8, 2015 at 9:01 am

    My external HDD shows on Device Manager and when I open Disk Management, it`s not responding. When I type dskchk in cmd, the disk list did not appear. Any advice for that? Please!

    • Tina
      January 8, 2015 at 3:02 pm

      From the article:
      "[I]f the drive is recognized in any shape or form, the PCB is most likely working and replacing it will not fix the hard drive!"

      You could try to access it from a Linux Live CD or hook it up as an external drive to another computer. If that doesn't let you access the files, I recommend to consult a professional for further advice and support.

      Good luck!

  31. John Decruz
    January 6, 2015 at 5:04 am

    I was looking for data recovery in Manchester from a long time and found your blog, which actually helped like anything. Though it is a perfect solution for recovery but still there are users who fail to do this task and hence they require a professional for this.

  32. Hassan
    December 30, 2014 at 5:59 am

    Thank you for the reply, Tina. I'm having a WD Elements external drive. I tried using Acronis True Image to back up the files but unfortunately I had to cancel the process because the whole time it was stuck in calculating time left. Could it be that, head is malfunctioning? I'm still able to browse the hard drive, and according to defraggler, the hard drive remains healthy and only 1% is fragmented.

    This is a screenshot of fraggler details on hard disk health
    http://imgur.com/xncULWW

    • Tina
      December 31, 2014 at 10:38 am

      Hassan, if you can see and open (read) files, it should be possible to back them up. I don't know why the backup isn't working. I think you need to take this information somewhere else for better advice.

  33. Hassan
    December 27, 2014 at 4:34 am

    Hello, My hard drive shows up in explorer and I'm able to browse it and play files in it but playing videos is kind of slow. The problem is, I cant transfer any files in and out of it. When I copy a file from it to local drive there's a sudden burst of transfer speed and it just drop to 0MB/s and hangs like that. What could be the problem?

    • Tina
      December 27, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      Hassan, this does sound like a faulty drive. Instead of trying to back up your files with Windows Explorer, use a dedicated backup tool that ensures the files were really copied.

      If this is your system drive, I'd take the drive out and hook it up as an external drive to another computer. If that's not an option and you're worried about installing software on an already shaky drive, you can also use an Explorer addon called TeraCopy, which can perform a quality check on copied files.

  34. Guilifort
    December 16, 2014 at 2:42 am

    Ruhul,
    How did your experiences go? I recently experienced the same issues as you. I took the drive to a place that specializes in "data recovery" and was told that I need to send it to a different place that specializes in "REALLY data recovery" at the tune of $1000. I have no doubt that my drive is dead as nothing recognizes it and it will not spin except for the first few seconds upon power up, occasionally.

    I am now going to try and purchase the exact drive and replace the PCB to see if that works. I do hope that the REV of both hard drives match as I am not clear on how one would make them match if they are different.

    I do understand the importance of backing up your drives but we just downloaded two years of pictures from our phones and didn't back up the drive right away. Lesson learned!!!

    Anyway, thanks all for your great tips and thank you Tina for having this page in the first place. I will definitely let people know how my "experiments" work out.

  35. charlie
    January 19, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    hello.just to make it clear.the video above shows pcb was taken out from the damaged hdd,then transferred it to a 'good running hdd'.and that 'good runnning hdd' was revived.im asking then is that all the data is on the pcb? please correct me if im wrong

    • Tina S
      January 20, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      Charlie, you mixed things up. The video shows how to replace a faulty PCB. The assumption was that the HDD was perfectly fine. If a drive is not recognized at all by the computer, chances are the PCB is damaged.

  36. radharenu
    October 19, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Hi Tina
    An excellent article on the subject. Very useful information about getting back a damaged hard drive. Hard drive tends to face these issues very often. One must keep this in mind that the best defense against failed hard drive data loss is backup of your data in real-time. I have written a blog post on this which may be useful also.

    http://www.the-tech-addict.com/how-to-recover-data-from-a-dead-hard-drive/

  37. Anin
    September 30, 2013 at 4:34 am

    thank for the advice this information may be work for me

  38. Ruhul
    September 8, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    I just lost all my data from my laptop.
    The hard disk is not showing in BIOS. I tried to connect through USB port on different laptop, still not recognizing. The disk is completely dead. I bought a new hard disk and sitting with empty laptop and virtually useless (other than net browsing) at the moment. I lost last 2 years of family photo collection along with other personal docs.
    I will try few methods as you mentioned and let's whether my luck favours or not.

  39. Paul P
    August 1, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    This article is the best one I've seen written on the subject although I have not tested the methods, it seems to be the most authoritative:

    http://wiki.lunarsoft.net/wiki/Data_Recovery

  40. Brian
    July 29, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Turned on my XP recently and it kept resetting during bootup. Ran a low level HD test from CD and the drive passed, but Windows Repair couldn't even mount it. An NTFS to USB drive converter couldn't read it either. Surfed the web and followed advice to create a boot CD with the Linus Puppy OS. Booted-up with it and, "low and behold" there was my "bad" HD and all of it's files intact. Bravo Linux!

  41. Stephanie S
    July 29, 2013 at 1:41 am

    Tina, thank you for common sense info. I am printing this one "just in case". :)

  42. Hisham S
    July 28, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks very much for this important article

  43. Ajarn D
    July 28, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Thanks a lot Tina. This really is very valuable news. I really do appreciate it very much.

  44. David Smith
    July 28, 2013 at 3:42 am

    Backing up to CD-R or DVD-R is also very unreliable. I used to back up my files to CD-R or DVD-R on a regular basis, only to find out recently that backups I did 10 years ago no longer are readable on any platform I have tried so far (tried Windows 95 thru 8, Mac OS X 10.0 thru 10.7, & various Linux Live CDs, with no luck). Apparently the chemicals in blank CD-R or DVD-Rs will break down over time making them useless. Some spin up and give various disc read errors, or they show up asking to format. I even tried using an older DVD drive to read them from several years ago thinking it may have been related to the speed at which they were recorded. But my old tape backups from almost 20 years ago still worked fine (used an older computer & Windows 2000 to recover those "ancient" files dating back to 1994). So newer tech is not always better tech IMHO.

  45. Josh
    July 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    External Hard drive tends to face these kinds of issues very often and above all, One must keep this in Mind "Prevention" which states make sure to use your hard drive and get rid of unwanted read-write errors by performing "chkdsk".. I came across an situation with my ext hard drive - "Inpage error" which most of us might face and i've wrote a blog post regarding this which has been useful to many...

    - http://www.technotipsblog.com/2011/10/error-performing-inpage-operation-on.html

  46. Ashley
    July 25, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Fortunately, I have only had one experience of HD failure.
    About ten years ago (when external HD's were almost unheard of, and very expensive), I had bought a 40GB external HD. It was attached to my laptop by a long enough cord that it sat on the floor beside my chair and virtually never moved.
    Then one day it started "ticking". I decided I'd better back up a few files and downloaded quite a few to CD-ROM. - but not all. I couldn't get everything off before the computer would no longer recognize it.
    So it sat in a drawer for several years until recently I decided that since I'd likely already lost everything anyway, I may as well let an "amateur" friend try and see what he could do with it.
    Result: turned out that there was enough gap at one end for the drive inside the case to get knocked loose at the (internal) plug (probably from all the times I took it with me on holiday); just the action of reassembling the drive in its case was enough that everything worked again.
    Such a simple solution - and I fretted about some data that I'd "lost" for about 5yrs!

    • Tina Sieber
      July 26, 2013 at 9:52 am

      I really wonder how many people 'lost' data that were just a simple fix away from being recovered. Glad this didn't happen to you, Ashley!

  47. Richard Steven Hack
    July 25, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    No backups! How true! I just spent three days last week recovering a client's old Windows 2000 system which had a Registry problem (and also user profile corruption) which had never run a backup, so no backup versions of the Registry were available.

    I first tried the Microsoft Windows 2000 Registry Repair utility. This stupid tool requires one to create a set of six Windows XP Install Diskettes, then it writes the recovery utility on the last diskette. Unfortunately no one including me had any usable diskettes that weren't old and unreliable.

    Fortunately, I discovered that using Windows XP Regedt32 to load an external Windows 2000 hive would actually repair the hive, allowing it to be used again.

    There is NO SUBSTITUTE for BACKUPS! Your data MUST exist on (at least) TWO separate locations simultaneously. Your hard drive WILL fail! It may fail a week after you buy it or ten years later (I've had clients with seemingly immortal drives!), but it WILL fail eventually. Scrabbling to freeze your drive to get your data back is just brain dead.

  48. sigman
    July 25, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    I've used the freezer trick for over 30 years. When a drive would no longer allow data to be read. I only failed to recover 1 drive in over 49 drive failures. I got the drives after others failed to recover the data.

  49. John
    July 25, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Apart from the fans, the hard drive is the last mechanical thing left in a computer.
    Frankly - if it whizzes round at 7200 rpm all the time, at some point, as sure as death and taxes, your hard drive will fail.
    Do you wear eyeglasses? Bet you have a spare pair. Got a spare tyre in your car? - of course you have. Got two speakers on your stereo? You bet. Got one (singular) HDD with all your life on it? Where's your RAID array? Where is your external USB drive.
    C'mon guys - how long have you been using computers?
    And Don't assume your SSD is invincible either! Do some bloody backup FFS.

  50. Bill Fulford
    July 25, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    You forgot one very useful software tool. Sipnrite, by Steve Gibson at https://www.grc.com/spinrite.htm. It can often recover read errors. Now it is even reporting success recovering problem SSDs. I have used it for many years. He is currently working on an update that should improve it's speed on modern "large" drives along with other improvements. It will be a free upgrade to current owners.

    • Tina Sieber
      July 26, 2013 at 9:50 am

      The focus of my article was on how to get a hard drive to run again, less on how to recover data. But of course it all plays together. And better yet if you can make sure your drive or your data never degrade in the first place.

    • Spike J
      July 28, 2013 at 8:00 am

      Have been using Spinrite for over 25 years and it has been a stalwart tool in my kit of tricks. I am happy to hear of an update to this, as I have been a paid user for most of that time. The idea of using a LINUX Live CD is also excellent advice, also saving my bacon more than a few dozen times. Have tried at least once or twice every suggestion here, including the freezer trick (only as a last resort) with about 40% success rate. I do quite a lot of HDD recovery being located on an island in the Caribbean with no other local options available that can be trusted.

      One of the newer options is the replacement of the circuit board, but that requires two trips with the vendor so that the original 'firmware' can be copied to the new PCB. With freight and customs duty issues here i is not as palatable as others, but when a client is really desperate, like a mutual photographer friend, it is viable. I had tried switching a known good PCB with the same production codes and date with no success until I found a vendor offering the firmware copying. Evidently the exact sector map of the existing drive is stored on the PCB and is required in most cases torevive the drive!

      Thanks for a great article on the issue. Of course the best defense is MULTIPLE redundant backups, especially when you are a photographer or other professional with hundreds (or in my case nearly a million!) critical files representing a lifetime body of work which is irreplaceable. I too have seen that optical media is not reliable ling-term as it is advertised. Unlike other comments I have NEVER been able to recover data saved to 'tape backups' successfully and don't have any faith in them at all. That began with WIN95 where I backed up my whole system (WIN3.1) as recommended by MS and was never able to read the tapes in the new WIN95 due to a format change in the media! That cost me weeks of restoring old drives and thousands of photos from previous HDD's which I had thankfully saved. Installing a new O/S should always be done on a fresh HDD, or at least a cloned new drive using the original as a safety backup!! Never can be too careful with a life's work.

  51. Graeme S
    July 25, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Though there are tools for Data Recovery, that everyone can use like Spin Rite from GRC. Which even can recover most SSD's. And yes the website is written in Compiler! https://www.grc.com/spinrite.htm

  52. tom g
    July 25, 2013 at 10:28 am

    There is also a filter thing that allows air in so prob not in a vacuum. Plus when I take them apart they dont make a suction noise when the cover is pulled off.

  53. Frank P
    July 25, 2013 at 9:43 am

    any ideas for the no spin error?

  54. Kieran C
    July 25, 2013 at 6:16 am

    On the "try to manually check whether or not the drive is recognized by your computer." point, another option is to use a linux bootable CD and see can it be mounted there. Just because a HD isn't recognizable by windows doesn't mean it isn't accessible, a few weeks ago my work laptop died with a HD error and windows wouldn't boot, but when I shoved in my linux livecd I was able to mount it and back up all my files to a usb stick.

    • Tina Sieber
      July 25, 2013 at 10:34 am

      Good point! We also have an article explaining how a Linux LiveCD can be used to access data and an entire guide on cool uses for a Linux LiveCD.

    • Darryl Gittins
      July 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm

      This is a good point. I've rescued data from a couple of drives this way.

    • epiquestions
      July 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      well if your bios/cmos doesn't recognize the drive it doesn't matter what os you try.

      i use hdd regenerator and it has worked for me of course not all the time. If the damage is severe then it would not be able to fix it

  55. mukuye Daniel
    July 25, 2013 at 5:55 am

    Firmly confident after gaining hints

  56. Dan
    July 25, 2013 at 3:48 am

    I have success several times by storing the drive in the freezer. In all cases the the drive would spin up but had trouble reading. You must keep the drive in a sealed bag, open just enough for the cable connection. You don't want moisture on the drive.

    I have also had success taping a drive with a screw driver handle. In these cases the drive would not spin up until the tap.

    Lastly I have had luck with rotating the drive so the so it is on a different plane. In these cases the drive would spin up but it seemed the heads were stuck. This seems to happen when the drive has been in storage for an extended period.

    Good luck... All efforts should be attempted when all other recovery methods have been tried. Also if the drive starts working, copy all important data, then all remaining data.

    • Tina Sieber
      July 25, 2013 at 7:44 am

      Technology is fascinating, isn't it? Once you gain an understanding of what's wrong inside the black box, some of the wizardry actually makes sense.

      Thanks for sharing and great advice, Dan!

  57. Darryl Gittins
    July 25, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Great articles. One point though: the drive platters are sealed in a vacuum. Therefore there could be no condensation on the platters from freezing it.

    • Dan
      July 25, 2013 at 3:54 am

      I am not sure that is true. For the heads to fly there must be air or at lease some type of gas. Also I have been to several hard drive repair shops and never seen any equipment that could be used to restore the drive to a vacuum state. I could be wrong, maybe the technology has changed, but I don't think so. dan

    • Rick Stanley
      July 25, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      Sealed but no vacuum. There may be a filter to allow air in and out due to the temperature changes thus there is some humidity present as well.

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