How can data be recovered from a broken hard drive?

smayonak February 24, 2011

My professor dropped an external hard drive, while it was running, and it broke. He tried three data recovery specialists so far, but all have come up with nothing. The specialists have replaced the heads, but the drive remained unreadable, although the platter didn’t shatter.

Are there any specialists in really broken hard drives? His entire life, including ridiculously long academic works, like his dissertation, are all on that drive.

    February 25, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Hello, I have experienced success a few times with working with damaged drives, but maybe the damaged has not been as extensive as you describe. When I say success I mean that by using the softwares I am going to mention, the drives are useable at least to recover data. Depending on what the damage is, they can still work normally for some time. These softwares work pretty well as long as the drive is recognized on BIOS, if they are not, your chances are low. Hopefully it helps you. Both softwares are paid. HDD Regenerator is a tool used to recover data from your disk physical level regardless of the formatting of your drive. It is a long process and depending on the damage, the scanning and fixing can take a long time. You can download the trial and it will tell you if it can be recovered:

    The other tool is spinrite. You can use it to start your computer from a cd/dvd and use the tool or you can also use a flash drive. It works on any system and also the scanning can take a long time depending on how bad the drive is. Hopefully any of these two tools can help you out. If your drive is recognized, you have a good chance of success.

  2. Anonymous
    February 25, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    If the drive isn't being recognized by the BIOS, your software won't recognize it either

    If you're associated with academia, try DriveSavers. They will tell you what they can recover, usually without a fee.

    $380 for Windows recoveries. No recovery == no charge

    Recover Data From a dead hard drive using dd

  3. smallant456
    February 25, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Hi smayonak,
    It is hard to say whether your files can be recovered but I still want to recommend you an article and a software to have a try:
    Hope this can help you.
    May you can get the data recovered.

  4. Mike
    February 24, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Kroll Ontrack is also one of the best companies in Germany. But they'll already charge you for analyzing the Disk(s) even if no data can be recovered.

    Adroit Data Recovery are also in this business for a very long time and good at this stuff.

    Personally I can recommend Computerrepairs in Vienna! They will analyze your Hard Disks and send you the quotation for free. >ou only pay if you decide that it's worth recovering. They are also VERY inexpensive compared to other companies.

  5. Smayonak
    February 24, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Tina, you are amazing! Thank you!

    • Tina
      February 24, 2011 at 7:11 pm

      Hope the information was helpful and you or your professor can find a specialist to recover the data. Good luck!

    • Aibek
      March 9, 2011 at 10:04 am

      Let us know how it goes.

      • Smayonak
        March 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm

        I suspect that the disk, thanks to an earlier, botched repair, may have suffered some kind of catastrophic damage.

        Here's a status update: The majority of these companies specifically say that if other technicians have examined the drive by opening it, the likelihood of recovery is minimal. Unfortunately, in a few cases, I had to speak with salespeople first, before getting my questions passed on to a technician.

        I am still very optimistic about Convar, since their technicians needed more detail than the other companies. I'm currently waiting to hear back from my professor about this. I'll keep you updated.

        • Tina
          March 9, 2011 at 10:45 pm

          Thanks for reporting back! Fingers crossed that the recovery is possible and not too expensive.

  6. Tina
    February 24, 2011 at 6:35 pm


    the good news: it is probably possible to recover the data from your professor's hard drive. I know of a German company (Convar) that recovered data from hard drives that were retrieved from the debris of Ground Zero.

    The bad news: it could be insanely expensive, especially since someone has already opened the drive and exchanged the heads. I hope they did so under sterile / dust free conditions and didn't cause more damage.

    You should look for specialists in your country unless you are willing to send the hard drive to another country.

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