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DIY Hard Drive Recovery - Last Resort Techniques

Luke Petterson

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The short answer to this question is probably no, unless you are feeling lucky or have some experience dealing with computer hardware. However, there are a few things you can try to do yourself to recover data from a hard drive that has failed. You never know what you might be able to do.

Keep in mind that none of these techniques are a good first option. They should only be attempted if you want to risk losing or destroying the drive, and your data, further than it might already be destroyed.

Recovery Preparation

To prepare for recovery, you'll want to connect your broken hard drive to your computer and also have another hard drive ready and connected. Connect the broken drive to your computer only after you make the necessary modifications to it in your recovery attempt. The other drive (a working one) will be your data dumping drive, the one that you will move your recovered files to if you actually manage to pull off a recovery.

Your secondary hard drive could also be your internal drive in your computer, just make sure you have enough space on your extra drive to store the data you might recover from the dead one. Always consider that there are risks involved with hooking up a bad hard drive to any computer.

One Chance

In most cases, you'll probably only get one chance to recover the data if you use the hard drive recovery techniques discussed in this article. . . so keep that in mind.

Controller Board Swapping

This technique consists of removing the controller board from a working hard drive of the same make and installing that controller board onto the drive that has failed.

If it is indeed the controller board that has failed this will give you an avenue to work around this particular failure issue. If this swap is unsuccessful, you very well could ruin both hard drives, so consider that circumstance.

Spindle Motor Spinning

Sometimes a drive will fail because the spindle motor refuses to spin, or it sticks. This can commonly be a problem with old hard drives. If the spindle motor sticks, you can actually open up the drive and try to spin the disc manually.

After opening it up, spin the hard drive disk a few times manually and then see if it fires up and works. This will compromise the cleanliness of the hard drive altogether, but hey, this is a last resort technique, right?

Repeated Booting

If a hard drive is suffering from problems that might be sporadic, you might be able to get it running just by trying to boot from it repeatedly. Yes, this might sound kinda ridiculous and simple, but it can work. If you manage to get the drive booted, hurry up and copy as much stuff as you can while it's running.

Freezing the Hard Drive (ha!)

It's long been a rumor that freezing dead drives can get a little more life out of them. This has been somewhat proven to be true and many people will swear that it works.

The idea here is that if the hard drive is physically damaged to the point where internal parts are pressing against each other, causing it to not work, freezing will contract the metal and other materials to free everything up and get you a few minutes or more of use.

Please note that this will probably not permanently fix a drive, but it might repair a “clicking" drive momentarily so that you can retrieve critical files. Ask around, you might find that others have actually been able to make this work!

When All Else Fails

Of course, the best option is to seek professional help. If you are not finding yourself wanting to take these risks, that is probably a good thing. For the do-it-yourself type of person, these hard drive recovery techniques could get you started in the right direction. But, remember, they should all be attempted only as a last resort. Good luck!

Luke Petterson is a long-time computer user and risk taker, which has led him to many interesting computer-related situations, good and bad.

Visit for more information on hard drive care and maintenance.


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