How to Repair a Dead Hard Disk Drive to Recover Data

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How to Repair a Dead Hard Disk Drive to Recover Data

They claim that before you (think you) die, your life flashes before your eyes. It was similar to that when I learned my hard drive was failing. All I could think of were the hundreds of images I hadn’t backed up. I was determined to bring them back, and I kind of succeeded.

If your hard disk drive has failed, this tutorial will assist you in repairing it and recovering your data. (If the device is working properly, these five procedures will assist you in removing data from the hard disk.) Do you need assistance with a failed solid state drive? It is advisable to consult an expert as soon as possible.

My Dead Hard Drive Story

I had a hard disk failure some years ago. My laptop was behaving weirdly. When the issues remained even after a reboot, I realized it was more than just overstretched RAM. I instantly began backing up recent files. After around 30 minutes, the hard disk failed noisily and the laptop would no longer start.

I had backups of certain things, but not of everything. My backup disk had surpassed capacity only a few weeks before. I had opted to erase my personal images in order to back up crucial business information. Despite having acquired a new external drive, I had not taken the time to build a comprehensive backup. My images were now gone, and I was horrified.

Over the following several weeks, I looked into techniques to recover the data and pondered doing everything under the sun—-and did most of it—-to bring the old hard drive back to life. That work resulted in this article.

External Hard Drive? Check the Enclosure and Cables

When an external hard disk dies, it might fail for the same reasons as an internal drive. However, it is not always the drive that fails, but rather a connection inside the enclosure! And in such situation, reviving the drive is simple.

Before you open any device, discharge your body’s static energy by grounding yourself. Remove the hard disk from its enclosure and install it inside on your desktop computer using an IDE/SATA data cord and power connection. You may also acquire an IDE/SATA to USB converter or a new USB enclosure to connect the disk outside via USB.

SATA and IDE connector cabels.
Image Credit: ivonnewierink/DepositPhotos

The picture above depicts a SATA (front) and an IDE connection (back).

Given that the enclosure was the cause, Windows should identify the external drive and assign it a drive letter once you reconnect it to your computer. The drive should be visible in File Explorer > This PC. You may also look in the Device Manager under Disk drives (click Windows + X to discover the option).

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If the drive does not appear anywhere, you may attempt manually finding it to narrow down the problem; the technique is outlined further down.

Internal Hard Drive? Check All Cable Connections

It is not often the drive that fails, but rather the physical connection of cables that link the disk to the computer’s motherboard. You can only hope that this is your issue! So, before you employ someone, double-check that the data and power cords are securely linked on both ends.

It is essential to switch off the computer and unhook the power cable to avoid health risks. As previously said, you must also discharge your body’s static energy, i.e. ground yourself, before working on the internals of your computer. Then, open the case and double-check that all connections are secure.

Which connectors to avoid are highlighted in our instructions on how to physically install an internal hard disk.

Reboot the computer once you’ve double-checked the connections. If you have a desktop computer, keep the cover open but avoid the inside.

Does Your Hard Drive Make Sounds?

Listen to the sound the hard drive makes as you attempt to get it to work. Is it fully extinct? Is it still turning? What does it sound like exactly? Compare your sound to the Data Cent collection of hard drive noises. This will assist you in determining the sort of damage.

Hard Disk Drive Repair
Image Credit: andreyuu/DepositPhotos

Internal or exterior harm might occur. A clicking sound, for example, indicates that the head is dysfunctional, indicating internal damage. A fully dead drive, on the other hand, might be caused by a damaged printed circuit board (PCB), which is an example of external damage.

Does Windows Recognize Your Hard Drive?

You can sometimes hear your drive spinning, but it never appears. Or it might be utterly dead. To determine the sort of damage, manually verify whether your computer recognizes the drive.

If it’s the main hard disk and your computer no longer boots, you may do this using the BIOS. Enter the BIOS by hitting a trigger key, which may be Del, Esc, F2, or F10 depending on the manufacturer.

Navigate through the various menus in the BIOS to locate the section that lists the sorts of disks that are attached to the computer. This information should be found in the Advanced menu, but it may also be found indirectly in the Boot settings.

You don’t need to enter the BIOS if you’ve connected the drive to another computer. In Windows, press the Windows + R key combination to open the Run input window.

Enter cmdin into the box and press Enter. This launches the Command Prompt. To open the appropriate tool, enter diskpart and press Enter. Enter list volume in the diskpart window to see all disks attached to your computer.

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If Windows identified your drive, which means it displays under diskpart, but it does not appear as an accessible drive, it is likely that Windows just identifies the PCB and the drive itself is broken (internal damage).In other words, if the drive is recognized in any way, the PCB is most likely functioning well, and replacing it will not cure the hard drive!

Is the Printed Circuit Board Broken?

The exterior PCB is technically simple to replace. We highly advise avoiding replacing the PCB yourself. It is not as easy as choosing a suitable model.

Unless your hard drive is really old, the PCB and disk will communicate via a unique microcode. You might permanently destroy your data if you change a PCB on a disk that needs this microcode to boot.

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

Specialists may “copy, rewrite, or repair the micrcode using modern technology,” according to

Witchcraft and Wizardry

When my hard drive died, the PCB was OK; the drive was still recognized and running, but it didn’t appear in Windows, which meant I couldn’t access it, and no software recovery program could assist.

So I placed my last hope in some of the strange tactics circulating around the internet, such as shaking the drive, slamming it against a hard surface, exposing it to dry heat in the oven, or freezing it overnight. If you know how a hard disk works, all of these ways should give you goosebumps!

Frozen Hard Disk Drive
Image Credit: foxiedelmar/DepositPhotos

I didn’t dare to melt my drive, but I had a feeling the head was stuck. So I shook it, but to no avail. Because I understood the logic, I wrapped my drive in an airtight Ziploc bag and placed it in the freezer overnight. Metals shrink and contract at low temperatures, according to the theory.

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 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.

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Consult aSpecialist 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 market’s most respected businesses, provides a free consultation and cost estimate.

Before you choose a firm, be sure you understand the terms! Most demand a fee just for inspecting the drive and providing a suggestion. They will charge an additional fee for trying to restore the data. Some may demand a full recovery price even if the data is not recovered.

Revive Your Drive

Diagnosing and repairing a damaged hard disk is a serious matter. Take it seriously, but attempt to rule out some of the more easily fixed problems before paying hundreds of dollars to an expert. The more information you have, the better. The extent to which you go to diagnose and repair your hard disk will be determined by how critical the data is to you.

You’re undoubtedly curious about what happened to my hard disk. So, as I was dissolving my flat, I decided to give it one more shot before letting it go. After more than two years of doing everything I could think of to get it to function, I just plugged it in and it worked.

I was able to restore all of my info. The drive genuinely worked for many more years. Call me fortunate!

Even if you were successful in repairing your drive and recovering all of your data, I would not put my confidence in this hard disk again. Here’s what you can do with an old hard drive and what you should know before purchasing a new hard disk.

In addition, while we’re on the topic of data recovery, it’s a good idea to understand how to recover data from a malware-infected machine.

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