A few months ago my computer’s hard drive began having problems. It started with loud buzzing noises and vibrations, and soon my computer could no longer boot-up. Like many of us, I didn’t have a backup for my files, for I had never needed one before. Understandably, I was very concerned about losing all of the music, pictures, and documents that I had accumulated over the three year life of my laptop.
With my hard drive inoperable, my computer-inclined roommate suggested I buy a new hard drive, get my computer back up and running, then plug the old drive in as a mass storage device and pull the files I needed off the barely working drive. The idea was that the drive still might work well enough to pull data from, even though it was obviously not well enough to boot from. So we did that and to my surprise, we were able to recover a small amount of the data before the hard drive conked-out for what appeared to be the last time. The problem was, I still had pictures and music and documents on the drive that I hadn’t been able to get to, and I was left very frustrated.
In despair, I searched the internet for methods of “fixing” my hard drive temporarily so that I might be able to get those last few files off. What I found was a website called free-backup.info. On the site was an article titled “Diy Hard Drive Recovery for the Extremely Desperate”, authored by Andrew Whitehead. The article provided step-by-step instructions for taking apart the hard drive and getting it working long enough to retrieve the needed files. The site emphasized that this method was only a last resort, and only for drives that would otherwise be discarded for being completely “dead.” My hard drive fit the bill, and I figured it was at least worth a try. But with a short supply of time, I decided to put the old hard drive in my desk drawer to save for a day when I had nothing better to do.
Today was the day. The following is an account of how I took my otherwise “dead” hard drive and salvaged ALL of the data from it! Before I go on, I will emphasize that this procedure will effectively ruin your hard drive for future use, and should only be performed on a drive that would otherwise be discarded for being useless. This procedure is truly a very last resort, but if you have no other choice, it just might work wonders. I learned of this procedure from free-backup.info and credit the author of the article, Andrew Whitehead, with the entire idea. This is simply my personal account of performing this procedure on my own hard drive, and I hope that I can show many other people how they too can save their files in dire circumstances.
In order to perform this procedure, you’ll need some way of plugging the old hard drive into your computer as a mass storage device. The easiest way is to buy or borrow an external hard drive enclosure. They make them for both 3.5 inch standard hard drives and 2.5 inch notebook hard drives, and they plug into any USB port. I initially had to buy an adapter and plug my 2.5 inch hard drive into my roommate’s 3.5 hard drive external enclosure, but by the time I did this procedure I had purchased a new 2.5 inch external hard drive enclosure and connected the “dead” hard drive to that.
The first thing I did was connect the hard drive to the enclosure connector but not yet to the computer. Then I took the labels off of the hard drive to expose all of the Torx screws that held the lid on. On my 2.5 inch notebook hard drive, there were seven screws, and all were a Torx size T5. I unscrewed and removed all of the screws and very gently removed the lid, exposing the platters (discs.) Now I plugged the USB cable into my computer, but the platter didn’t spin. This told me that my problem was that the platter motor was indeed stuck, and had likely been the source of my problems. I gently spun the platters, only touching the center hub and NOT the platter surface, and just like that the platter started spinning and the arm began moving. I disconnected the drive momentarily to reset it, then plugged it back in. Within seconds it showed up on my computer as an external drive. I’d actually done it! I had spun my hard drive back to life, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet. I still needed to transfer all of my data over to the computer. I immediately began transferring the files from the hard drive over to my computer and was amazed at the speed. Not only was the hard drive no longer making noise, but it was transferring just about as fast as it ever had. In about 20 minutes I had completed the task, and had all of the data off of my “dead” hard drive.
In all I am very surprised and please with the outcome of this procedure. While my old hard drive is now trash, I was able to recover every last bit of information that I needed off of it, information that was considered lost before attempting the procedure. Of course, this isn’t a fix-all, and isn’t for everyone. Opening the hard drive is only really going to help if the hard drive failed because the platters are stuck or the motor is having issues. Because of all the noise I heard leading up the hard drive’s failure, I reasoned that the motor was probably the problem, and in this case it looks like I was right.
Another important consideration is what to do after a hard drive failure to ensure that your data is protected in the future, because you certainly won’t want to go through this experience again. After my ordeal, I bought a small external hard drive and have been backing up my files on a weekly basis. The benefits of a backup hard drive are numerous. Not only do I not need to mess with backup CDs or whatever, but I also have the additional storage space that the extra drive affords, and a means of transporting large amounts of data from one computer to another.
For more information on this procedure, be sure to visit the article that inspired me to take the chance: http://free-backup.info/diy-hard-drive-recovery-for-the-extremely-desperate.html