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Recovering data from a downed drive
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Nov 8, 2006, 11:13 PM
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Registered: Nov 8, 2006
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Recovering data from a downed drive
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From your description it sounds like the drive heads have "crashed". Now I am guessing since I can't see the drive, but what that means is that the data read/write physical component has touched the spinning disk platter (like a metal CD spinning at 7200 RPMs). What happens when the contact is made is that the metal in the "heads" (the read write arm that move over the metal platter) welds to the disk platter. The noise you hear is the physical drive trying to retract the heads, which it cannot do because they are stuck to the drive platter.

Here is what I would recommend you try. First, set the disk jumpers to "slave" then put the disk in a zip-lock bag. Then put that one in another one. Put the double bagged drive in the freezer. Wait awhile (at least two hours). The everything ready before you take the drive out of the freezer. You want to attach the drive to a functioning computer as a "slave" and try to access the data if the drive will "spin-up".

Once the Drive is nice and cold take it from the freezer, remove the bags and hit the top of the disk (not the circuit board part" with your knuckles right in the center of the drive. Hit it pretty hard.

Ok so someone out there is going to ask why the heck I am telling you to do that. The purpose of putting the drive in the freezer is this: if the drive has "crashed" and the drive heads are welded to the platter if you can fee the heads you might be able to read some data off the disk. Freezing the drive causes the metal to contract, both the drive platter and the read write head. The contraction of the metal might be enough to free the heads. Wrapping on the center of the drive will send a physical shock wave through the metal and is more likely to free the heads.

So after you have hurt your knuckles plug the drive into the machine as a slave and turn on the machine. If all goes well the disk should spin up. Now if this works you will have a very short window to try to suck your data of. So if when the machine boots you can see the disk in Windows Explorer (or some other way for other OS's) immediately start copying your files to the "good" drive. Now if this does work and the drive eventually does crash again, which by the way it will definitely do, simply power off the computer and repeat the whole process again.

If you can see the disk in "Disk Manager" but cannot access the files, don't despair. The hard part was to get the heads free. Use one of RunTimes software to try to recover whatever data my still remain.

A couple of cautions. First every crash destroys more data. When the heads touch the disk platter they physically score the drive platter. Any data physically located where the heads touch is irretrievably destroyed. So this isn't the method of choice for extremely valuable data, send it off to a recovery company and pay the $2000. This method is for those who are trying to get whatever they can from the drive and have nothing to loose. Second, this may not work. If the heads are not crashed it could be the controller board. These can easily be replaced, find the exact drive on Ebay and removed the screws on the bottom of the drive, carefully disconnect the ribbon cable and you have a new controller card. Make sure the drive models are identical.

I have used each of the methods above to recover data for my company and my clients ( I used to have my own consulting business doing IT work). They do work. It is fun to see the expression on someone's face when you put a hard drive in the freezer.

I hope this helps someone out there.



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