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What To Do When A Hard Drive Fails

When a hard drive crashes, you can lose all your data. Corrupt hard drives happen out of the blue and for seemingly no good reason. If your hard drive fails, what can you do?

One option is to call a hard drive recovery company. If your data is worth a lot of money to you, you can pay a forensic computer company to get the data off your hard drive. Before you write a check though, try a little Do-It-Yourself first.

What is going on inside the hard drive is a bunch of little platters spinning at high speed. When data is accessed or written to the disk, a little head (sort of like on a record player) moves to the right spot and does it's magic. The space between the head and the platter is very very tiny. Freezing the hard drive will shrink the head and the platter ever so slightly, often allowing you to read data.

Here is how I got the data off of a failed hard drive.

  1. Remove the hard drive from the computer.
  2. Place the hard drive inside of a zip top freezer bag. (don't buy a cheap bag.)
  3. Place the wrapped hard drive inside of ANOTHER zip top freezer bag. (yes, you need to do this) (see figure 1 below)
  4. Place the double wrapped hard drive in the coldest part of your freezer.
  5. Leave the hard drive in the freezer for 12 hours at least. You want it good and cold! (see figure 2 below)
  6. Once very chilled, install the hard drive in your computer and start pulling off data. Begin with the most valuable data.
  7. At some point, the hard drive will fail again. When it does, mark the last successfully copied data, pull out the hard drive, double wrap it again and stick it in the Chill Chest for another 12 hours.
  8. You may need to do this a number of times to get all the data you want, or until the hard drive stops working completely.

Double Wrapped Hard Drive

Hard Drive in the Freezer




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