How to Repair a Dead Hard Disk Drive to Recover Data

Tina Sieber Updated 03-12-2019

They say your life flashes before your eyes before you (think you) die. When I realized my hard drive was failing, it was a little like that. All I could think of were the hundreds of photos I didn’t have a backup of. I was determined to bring them back and I succeeded; sort of.


If your hard disk drive has failed, this guide will help you with the repair and data recovery What Is Data Corruption? How to Fix a Corrupted Hard Drive Data corruption can destroy the data on your HDD, so it's wise to keep backups. Too late? Find out how to repair your hard drive. Read More . (If the device is fine, these five methods will help you get data off the hard drive.) Are you looking for help with a failed solid state drive 5 Warning Signs Your SSD Is About to Break Down and Fail Worried your SSD will malfunction and break down and take all of your data with it? Look for these warning signs. Read More ? It’s best to turn to an expert right away.

My Dead Hard Drive Story

Several years ago, I experienced a hard drive failure. My laptop acted strangely. When the problems persisted after a reboot, I knew it was more than an overstretched RAM. 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.

I had backups, but not 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. Ironically, I had already purchased a new external drive, but I had not taken the time to create a full backup. Now my photos 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. This article is the result of that effort.

External Hard Drive? Check the Enclosure and Cables

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. Remove the hard drive from its casing and use an IDE/SATA data cable and power connector to install the drive internally on your desktop computer. 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 and IDE connector cabels.
Image Credit: ivonnewierink/DepositPhotos

The image above shows a SATA connector (front) and an IDE connector (back).

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. The drive should pop up under File Explorer > This PC. You can also check under Disk drives in the Device Manager (press Windows + X to find the option).


If the drive didn’t show up anywhere, you can try to manually find your drive to further narrow down the issue; the process is described further down.

Internal Hard Drive? Check All Cable Connections

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 someone, make sure the data and power cables are firmly connected on both ends.

This is an image of a SATA hard disk drive with a Molex connector and SATA cable

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 When you find yourself running out of hard drive space, you can either delete something or add some more space. 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.

Does Your Hard Drive Make Sounds?

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.

This image depicts the bare internal glass platter of a hard disk drive
Image Credit: andreyuu/DepositPhotos


The damage can be either internal or external. A clicking sound, for example, suggests the head may be malfunctioning, 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.

Does Windows Recognize Your Hard Drive?

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 your computer recognizes the drive.

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 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. You should find this information under the Advanced menu, but you might also find it indirectly under Boot settings.

This image depicts a BIOS Boot Settings menu

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.

this image depicts a diskpart list volume menu from within the Windows Diskpart.exe executable

If Windows recognized your drive, meaning it appears under diskpart, 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?

Technically, the external PCB is relatively easy to replace. However, we strongly advise against swapping out the PCB yourself. It’s not as simple as finding a matching model.

Unless your hard drive is ancient, the PCB and disk will use a unique microcode to communicate. If you replace a PCB of a drive that requires this microcode to boot, you could permanently damage your data.


Hard Disk Drive with removed Printed Circuit Board
Image Credit: firstblood/DepositPhotos

According to, specialists can “copy, rewrite, or repair the micrcode using advanced equipment.”

Witchcraft and 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 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 all of these methods should give you the shivers!

Frozen Hard Disk Drive
Image Credit: foxiedelmar/DepositPhotos

Well, I didn’t dare to melt my drive, but my suspicion was that the head was stuck. So I did shake it; 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 low temperatures cause metals to shrink and contract.

So if the head was stuck, the cold might get it unstuck. Unfortunately, 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

Should you succeed with one of the questionable methods above, note that the fix will be temporary! So be prepared. Know exactly what you want to back up and how. Have the right backup software The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide We've summarized every backup, restore, recovery, and repair option we could find on Windows 10. Use our simple tips and never despair over lost data again! Read More to quickly copy your data 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 most reputable companies in the market, offers a free consultation and cost evaluation.

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.

Revive Your Drive

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 specialist. The more you know, the better. How far you go to diagnose and fix your hard drive will depend on how important the data is for you.

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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. The drive actually continued to work for many more years. Call me lucky!

Even if you managed to repair your drive and recovered all your data, I would not trust this hard drive again. Here’s what you can do with your old hard drive and here’s what you should know while buying a new hard drive Buying a New Hard Drive: 7 Things You Must Know Buying a hard drive is easy if you know some basic tips. Here's a guide to understanding the most important hard drive features. Read More .

And on the subject of data recovery, it’s a good idea to learn how to rescue your data from a malware-infected system How to Safely Clean an Infected Computer and Copy Your Files Own a malware-infected PC and want to copy your files for safekeeping? Here's how to clean the malware and keep your files safe. Read More .


Image credit: Dead HDD via Flickr

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Data Backup, Data Recovery, Hard Drive, Hardware Tips.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Bob'R
    April 23, 2020 at 1:52 am

    Constructive criticism...
    I'm sure this article was informative but with all the interrupts of adverts, EXTREMELY LARGE FONTS, blah-yadda, I gave up about 1/3 way thru.

  2. Arthur Nilssen
    February 22, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    If a hard drive suddenly starts working after having been laid off for ages, the reason for the problem is very likely a voltage in some internal component where there should be no voltage. Eventually the voltage in question leaks down to zero, and the drive works again.

    • German Vargas
      April 27, 2019 at 8:02 pm

      Wow I sure hope thats the issue with mine!! How long would the voltage take to leak down. Should I wait a few days or two wait much longer

  3. Sparki Games
    October 29, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    I need a fix because during the summer, overnight my hard drive just died and I kept getting the windows 10 error and I have very important files on it, - Sparki Games

    • Sparki Games
      October 29, 2018 at 11:27 pm

      its all recognized and stuff but I guess it just wont load it and I have important files on it so I can't replace it

  4. Oliver
    June 22, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    Lucky was not an answer i was hoping for.

  5. Oliver
    June 22, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Luck is not the answer I was hoping for

  6. shipdog7
    December 8, 2017 at 11:10 pm

    Has anybody else tried programs like Hiren's BootCD. I was able to go into dead drives with the CD I burnt with Hirens. Choose Windows XP after clicking on your CD drive as one of the options . My computer Boot Options is F12. It opened up and gave me access to the dead drive to copy what I needed to save. It also let me go on the internet for answers to questions I had.

  7. George
    November 25, 2017 at 3:01 am

    I have over 15000 photographs from my world travels, on 1 tb Seagate Hd. My 1.5 tb back up disk did not function properly and when the clicking sound suddenly announced itself, I did not realize the extend of the loss. No matter what I have tried, it is just as they say, RIP.
    I wish there was an advice from the manufacturer how to repair the drive or a simple warning label "Life of the product unknown" use at your own RISK!!!

    • Tina Sieber
      November 26, 2017 at 3:44 am

      Sorry about the loss of your photos, George! That's sad and really frustrating.

      Did you try anything to fix the hard drive? Maybe it will start working again, like mine did. You could also try one of those data recovery services. However, the good ones are expensive and the bad ones are worthless.

      Wishing you good luck!

  8. EddoX
    September 30, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    Scroll Down for the next article? Really. Not able to scroll down anymore. Maybe I'm at the bottom, but I'd expect the website to be smart enough to stop telling me to scroll down.

  9. AndySanderson
    February 16, 2017 at 6:12 pm


    nice hints and you'd been lucky.
    My HD seems to be mechanically fine. The heads are in the parking position and the disks can spin free.
    When I start the system the disks start to spin and the heads drive in - out - in - out - in - out ... Obvieously no problem. But after some further tries the HD shuts down. The heads are back in the parking position and the disks slowly stop down spinning.
    --> For my PC the HD does not exist.

    Is it true your data are lost forever if changing the circuit?
    It can only be a small reason for the failing. And I think: 4 years of usage is not that much for a Seagate Barracude.

    • Tina Sieber
      February 20, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      The data is written to the discs of your HD. Exchanging the circuit board will not erase the data.

      • AndySanderson
        February 20, 2017 at 10:42 pm

        Hi Tina,

        yes of cause - not erasing.
        But I thought I read somewhere that the firmware of the circuit influences the way, data are written. So with a different firmware it's not possible to read data written with an older one.

        My HD has the problem, that there seems no mechanical damage. But it is not able to start. Obviously not finding the 0-track.
        -> One of the heads failing or the controlling circuit.
        Who can help? How much costs?

  10. Michael
    February 11, 2017 at 12:09 am

    Hi Tina, I have a question for you.

    My hard disk drive is making an ongoing clicking noise (I guess it's the infamous click of death) and it isn't recognized by Windows, even though it shows up on the Bios menu, just like yours. So I'm wondering...

    Prior to sticking your faulty HDD in a drawer for two years, did you do a lot of tweaking & tweezing with it? Did you connect it and disconnect it and turn it on and off a whole lotta times? Because I'm willing to take my chances with the store-it-for-the-future method (the easiest one - call me lazy), but before that, I'd like to try and check whether it's not faulty cables, etc., but I'm wondering whether every attempt won't reduce my chances of it ever fixing itself "by miracle" in the future. What do you say? Should I try everything I can first, or just not mess with it and store it away?

    • Michael
      February 11, 2017 at 3:02 am

      Correction: I've checked again and the HDD clicks, clicks and then stops, and it won't let the computer boot anymore when it's plugged in (it's an internal drive). Oh, and it doesn't show up in the Bios menu either. This doesn't sound good at all...

    • Tina Sieber
      February 12, 2017 at 10:40 am

      Hi Michael, Thanks for your question.

      I did try some of the snake oil methods, like rotating and freezing it. Of course I also tried to run it two or three times after letting it rest for a night.

      Hope you'll find a way to revive it. If giving it time fails, you could try to replace the printed circuit board. Good luck!

  11. Steven
    December 21, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    Awesome story man, gives me a lot of ideas to use in the future

  12. Donna B.
    October 25, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    Thanks, still helpful in 2016!

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

    manohar wagh

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

    • Ken j
      September 27, 2016 at 4:41 am

      Soak it in boiling water, It works well

      • Tina Sieber
        September 30, 2016 at 3:26 pm

        Great way to keep the data inaccessible.

    • Tina Sieber
      September 27, 2016 at 10:44 am

      You may ignore Ken's unhelpful comment.

  14. 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

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

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

  16. Anonymous
    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.

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

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

  18. 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)

  19. 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...

    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.

  21. 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

  22. 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..

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. Anonymous
    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.

  26. Anonymous
    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:

    Hope this helps!

  27. Anonymous
    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: [Broken Link Removed]

    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

  29. 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.

  30. 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?

  31. 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:

    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!

  32. 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.

  33. 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?

  34. 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.

    • 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?

  35. 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.

  36. 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

  37. 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.

  38. 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,

  39. 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?

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

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    January 9, 2015 at 11:15 am


  42. 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!

  43. 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.

  44. 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

    • 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.

  45. 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.

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

    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.

  47. 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 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.

  48. 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.

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

    thank for the advice this information may be work for me

  50. 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.

  51. 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:

  52. 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!

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

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

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

    Thanks very much for this important article

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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...


  58. 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!

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

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

    You forgot one very useful software tool. Sipnrite, by Steve Gibson at 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.

  63. 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!

  64. 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.

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

    any ideas for the no spin error?

  66. 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

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

    Firmly confident after gaining hints

  68. 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!

  69. 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.