How To Fix Dead Hard Disk Drive To Recover Data

By | February 23, 2022

When I realized my hard drive was failing, it was a bit like a twinkle in the eye. All I can think of are hundreds of photos of me and no backups. I was determined to bring them back and I did it

If your hard disk drive fails, this guide will help you with data repair and recovery. Are you looking for help with failed solid state drive? It is best to immediately turn to an expert.

My Hard Disk Story Dies

A few years ago, I had a hard drive failure. My laptop is acting weird. When the problem persists after a reboot, I know it’s more than just too much RAM. I immediately started backing up the latest files. About half an hour later, the hard drive failed audible and the laptop wouldn’t boot up again.

I have backups, but not all of them. Just a few weeks earlier, my spare drive had reached capacity. To back up important work files, I decided to delete my personal photos. Ironically, I’ve bought a new external drive, but I haven’t taken the time to make a full backup. Now my photos are gone and I’m ruined.

Over the next few weeks, I looked for ways to recover data and considered doing everything and doing most of it to bring the old hard drive back to life.

External Hard Drive? Check Enclosure and Cables

When your external hard drive fails, it can do it for all the same reasons internal drives can fail. Sometimes, though, it’s not the drives that stop working, it’s the connections within the enclosure! And in this case, the drive is easy to revive.

Before you open any hardware, make sure to discharge your body static electricity e.g. Connect yourself to the ground. Remove the hard drive from the case and use it IDE/SATA data cable and power connector to mount the drive internally on your desktop computer. Alternatively, you can get a new IDE/SATA to USB adapter or USB enclosure, so you can connect the drive externally via USB.

The image above shows the SATA connectors (front) and the IDE connectors (rear).

After you reconnect the external drive to your computer, considering the enclosure to be the cause, Windows should recognize it and assign a drive letter. Drive will appear below File Explorer> PC this. You can also check below disk drives in Device Manager (Press Windows + X to find options).

If the drive doesn’t show up anywhere, you can try to find your drive manually to narrow down the problem; the process is explained further below.

Internal Hard Drives? Check All Cable Connections

Sometimes, it’s not the drive that fails, but the physical connection of the cable that connects the drive to the computer’s motherboard. You can only hope that this is your problem! So before you hire someone, make sure the data and power cables are properly connected at both ends.

To prevent harm to your health, it is important 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 work on the internals of your computer. Then open the case and make sure all connections are OK.

How to Physically Mount a Second Internal Hard Drive

After you make sure the connection is OK, boot the computer again. If you have a desktop computer, you can leave the case open, but stay away from the interior.

Is Your Hard Drive Making Sounds

When you try to run the hard drive, listen to the sound it makes. Is it really dead? Or is it still spinning? What is it really like? Compare your voice with list of hard drive sounds provided by Data Cent. This will help you diagnose the type of damage.

Damage can be either internal or external. A click, for example, indicates the head may not work, e.g. Internal damage. A completely dead drive, on the other hand, could be caused by 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 shows up. Or maybe really die. To determine the type of damage, try to check whether your computer recognizes the drive or not.

You can do this through the BIOS if it is the primary hard drive and your computer is no longer booting. After you turn on the computer, enter the BIOS by pressing the trigger button, which can be Del, Esc, F2, or F10, depending on the manufacturer. or see this article How to Enter BIOS on All Your Computer Brands

In the BIOS, navigate through the available menus to find where it lists the drive types connected to the computer. You should find this information under the menu Advanced, but you might also find it indirectly under settings Boot.

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If you have connected the drive to another computer, you do not 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 press Enter. This will open a Command Prompt. Here type diskpart and press Enter, to open the respective tools. In the diskpart window, type list volume and press Enter to display all the drives connected to your computer.

If Windows recognizes your drive, meaning it appears under diskpart, but doesn’t appear as an accessible drive, it’s likely that Windows only recognized the PCB, but the drive itself was 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 Circuit Board broken

Technically, external PCBs are relatively easy to replace. However, we strongly recommend not replacing the PCB yourself. It is not easy to find a suitable model.

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

according to datarecovery.com, specialists can “copy, rewrite, or repair microcode using advanced tools.”

When my hard drive fails, the PCB is fine; the drive is still recognized and spinning, but it doesn’t show up in Windows, meaning I can’t access it, and no software recovery tools can help me.

So I put my last hope into some obscure tricks you’ll find floating around the internet, like shaking the drive, hitting it against a hard surface, exposing it to hot drying in the oven, or sticking it in the freezer overnight. If you know how hard drives work, then all these methods will give you chills!

Well, I dare not melt my drive, but my suspicion is that the head is stuck. So I shook it; not successful. Since I could follow his reasoning, I also wrapped my drive in an airtight Ziploc and put it in the freezer overnight. The idea is that low temperatures cause the metal to shrink and contract.

So if his head gets stuck, the cold might be able to release him. Unfortunately, that didn’t work either. And I might cause condensation on the hard drive plate, which could cause more damage. I finally gave up and saved the drive for the future where I hoped to pay for a professional data recovery.

Backup Strategy Suggestions

If you had success with any 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.

If you want to copy files manually, just copy one set of files at a time! If you make your head spin between too many files by starting multiple copy and paste processes, you will slow down the entire backup process and increase the chance of crashes.

Consult a Specialist for Professional Data Recovery

If you can get professional help or can’t wait for a miracle, consult a specialist. My recommendation is to go with a reputable company.

They must work with professional technicians and equipment, be able to open your hard drive in a clean or dust-free environment, follow industry standards, and have strong credentials and excellent recommendations. After all, you will trust them with your personal data.

Before you choose a company, make sure you understand the conditions! Most of the cost is just to view the drive and make recommendations. They will charge extra for actually trying to recover the data. Some will charge a full recovery fee, even if they fail to recover the data.

Diagnosing and repairing a damaged hard drive is serious business. Don’t take it seriously, but also try to exclude some of the simpler causes to fix before you pay hundreds of thousands to a specialist. The more you know, the better. How far you go about diagnosing and repairing your hard drive will depend on how important the data is to you.

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