10 Ways to Revive a Hard Drive

By: Phongsak Sridedch

1. One trick I have learned as a technician, when the problem is data-read errors off the platters themselves, is to freeze the hard drive overnight. It makes the data more 'readable,' but for a one-shot deal. If this data is critical, and you have a replacement hard drive (which, if it's a drive failure, you probably do), then you can hook up your frozen hard drive and immediately fetch the data off before it warms up.

2. If the problem is heat related, I put the drive in the freezer for about 15 minutes to cool it down...sometimes this gets the drive up long enough to copy any critical files.

3. Put the drive in a waterproof sealed bag, put it in the fridge for an hour or so, then have another go.

4. Well, I won't start playing with your specific situation, too many steps or possible solutions where everything starts "If that last thing didn't work try..." But I'll give you one for free that was a nice hero moment for me. Had a drive where it sounded like the drive motor was engaging but not getting anywhere, so we stuck it in the office freezer for an hour!. I'll be darned if it didn't work. The drive was up long enough to get the data ghosted to another drive and we turfed it, even though it sounded fine at that point. I can't really take credit for it though-I had heard it in some geek bull session but I thought it was some jedi-geek urban myth. Goes to show you that you know you're really screwed when you say something to the effect of "Okay, hold on tight, I'm gonna try something I saw in a cartoon once but I'm pretty sure I can do it"

5. If this drive isn't spinning up, putting it in the freezer for about an hour will usually get the drive spinning again so you can copy needed files before the drive warms up again. The first thing you want to do is run a disk utility like Norton disk doctor or wddiag (if it's a western digital drive) to verify whether the drive is working mechanically or not. If it is a master boot record problem, sometimes running Fdisk/mbr will correct the problem. It could also be a virus, and a program like F-prot will look at the drive as a physical unit. As an A+ PC technician I have seen this problem many times. Usually if the drive is not making a clicking sound I am successful in recovering the data.

6. I've run into this scenario numerous times. One time it involved the main Novell SYS volume on our HP File Server. I was really sweating as the server would not boot. I took the drive out and put it in a freezer for 30 minutes. I then reinstalled it into the file server and Presto! I was up and running. Need less to say I quickly mirrored the drive onto another and got rid of the bad drive. In stand alone client systems, the method I've had the most luck with reviving drives from death has been removing the drive, firmly tapping the top of its case several times, and then re-installing it making sure all cables are secure. I've had a better than 60 percent success rate with this method.

7. If the drive is spinning and you are experiencing these kinds of errors, my experience has been that you are out of luck. If the drive is not spinning, I have been able to remove it from the computer and 'spin' the drive on a flat smooth surface (much like spin the bottle). This will usually free the drive and when placed back in the machine, it will boot. You should immediately back up you data after a successful boot, because the problem will return. The next 'fix' was actually given to me by a Compaq technician several years ago. I had a drive that would not spin and he told me to put the drive in a plastic bag in the freezer overnight and then install back in the computer. Believe it or not, the drive booted. I have only tried this the one time.

8. In the past, when a drive has failed after it has been running for a short period, I have removed it from the machine and placed it in a freezer for a couple of hours, then hooked it up again. It sometimes will run long enough to remove the data to another safe storage medium.

9. One of the methods I have used before (sometimes even successfully) is to actually remove the drive from the PC, place it in the freezer for a day, then quickly put it back in the machine and try to access it. Why does this work? Who knows, but I heard about this tactic years ago, and it has saved my behind on a couple of occasions. (Of course, if it comes back up, back up the data immediately.... Guess that should go without saying.)

10. Hard drive revival: A technique I have learned is if you bring the temperature of the hard drive down to the freezing point by putting it in a freezer first and then taking it back out, somehow the condensation from bringing it back to room temperature helps revive it for about 20 minutes. It can be repeated about 5-6 times tops. Long enough to get out any important files that need to be backed up. It has been proven to work a number of times.

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