7 Tips to Recover Data from a Bad Hard Drive

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It’s a moment we all dread.

You punch the computer’s power switch and …


Losing a hard drive can be devastating.

But, the reality of hard drives is–they fail all the time. While some models are much more reliable than others, as hard drives age they become much more likely to fail.

Thankfully, you’ve got options. If your hard drive has problems, there are a few things you can do to try and recover your data.

Read on for a few tips to recover data from a bad hard drive, and how to keep your data safe before disaster strikes.

Back It Up

It’s tough to do after the fact, but you’ll thank yourself so much if you do.

The simplest and most straightforward way to recover data from a hard drive gone wrong is to prepare for the worst. Keeping a reliable backup of your computer’s hard drive can be a real lifesaver and isn’t hard to do.

Start by picking up a reliable external hard drive that you can connect to your computer through USB or another connection. Windows users can use the built-in backup tool to make a copy of important files. Mac users can use Time Machine or one of the other popular backup utilities like SuperDuper.

For added safety, make an extra copy of important files on a cloud backup service like Dropbox.

Inspect the Drive

If your hard drive has gone down and you’d like to try and recover your data, get started by taking a look at your hard drive.

If the hard drive is in a laptop, inspect the outside of the computer. If it looks like the computer was dropped or damaged in some way, that could be the source of the problem.

Next, look at the hard drive itself if you can. This is easy to do on some computers and next to impossible on others.

Unless you have a solid state drive, hard drives have moving parts that can become damaged over time or if the computer is dropped or knocked around.

If the hard drive looks like it was damaged or can no longer spin, your data may be gone. But, if it looks okay, you may still be able to recover your data.

Listen Closely

For computers that will start up–or at least attempt to–try listening to the drive work. Most traditional hard drives should just sort of hum along with the occasional click.

Hard drives making excessive clicking sounds, beeping or making other odd sounds you’re not used to likely have a problem.

If your hard drive is making odd sounds, go ahead and back it up if you can. The drive will probably need to be replaced soon.

Make a Connection

If your hard drive appears to be in salvageable condition and has no significant physical damage, you’ll need a few tools to repair the drive or recover your data.

For starters, you’ll need some way to connect the damaged hard drive to a working computer. If you happen to have a USB drive enclosure, it can be used to house the damaged drive and connect to another computer. You’ll just need to connect the damaged drive to the enclosure.

A SATA connection can also work. If you want to get really interesting, you could even try using an old computer that you could install the damaged drive in.

Connect to a Working Computer

Once you’ve found a way to connect to a working computer, it’s time to get down to business.

With the bad drive connected, you’ll also need some data recovery software to extract data if the drive is damaged badly enough. There are lots of tools available to do this, like Recuva. Mac users may be able to use the Disk Utility in some situations.

Most data recovery software works well for browsing through the damaged drive if the data has not been overwritten. Just remember to try and get in and out quickly. The more work you do with with a damaged drive, the more likely it is to just quit altogether.

Try Something Unconventional

Technology can be frustrating and fickle. But, if nothing else seems to be working, doing something a little unconventional may be worth a try.

One trick that can work with traditional hard drives is to put the drive in a freezer for a few hours. While this trick won’t fix the hard drive permanently, it may shrink some of the moving parts in the drive just enough to get them spinning long enough for you to copy your data to a working drive.

If you try the freezer trick, be sure to put the hard drive in several layers of zipper bags and leave it in the freezer for at least 10 to 12 hours to get it nice and cold.

Call in the Experts

If the hard drive has been damaged physically, was overwritten somehow, or just won’t do anything or respond to whatever you’ve tried, it might be time to give the pros a call.

Hard drives can be tricky–especially if something has gone wrong or they’ve been damaged in some way.

A hard drive recovery service, like Geeks 2 You, has access to methods and tools that the average computer user probably doesn’t have. Calling in a data recovery expert may cost you a few dollars, but if the data on your damaged hard drive is important to you or your business, it’s money well spent.

Putting It All Together

Losing a hard drive and valuable information is no fun.

Scrambling to try and save your drive and salvage data is difficult and often unsuccessful unless you act quickly. If you find yourself in this situation, try some of the tips above, but don’t wait to call the pros if you’re worried about losing valuable information.

For more on computers and other tech issues, check out the rest of the blog.

Post Author: Approid Technologies