Best way to recover data from dead drive

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Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 12:46 pm

So I am helping out a friend of a friend.. crappy Samsung Netbook, getting boot error with windows.

I had a larger spare drive, so I swapped it out, and proceeded to do a fresh install of the OS.

I plugged the "dead" drive into my main PC, and after a bit of time, I could see the files, so I started to copy off the clients docs, pics, etc.. The progress eventually stopped, and then any attempt to access the drive would lock Windows Explorer hard.. reboot, manual scandisk /f, after about an hour it froze.. Installing same drive in linux box, it was unable to mount it.

Any ideas? Other software to try?

My client (a very nice girl btw ;)), had some files backed up, but of course, not all the files, so I'd love to be able to save as much as possible.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 12:50 pm

She's dead, Jim.

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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 12:52 pm

If the data is very important - just find some data recovery company, they'll do it (not for free, of course). If not - just throw it away.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 12:56 pm

You can try the old method, I'm not sure how modern drives will respond. Wrap it up in a ziplock and throw it in the freezer. Leave it overnight, or for quite a while to let it get real cold, then hook it back up and boot. You will often get an hour or so of use till it warms up.

I doubt you will damage it doing this but YMMV.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 1:04 pm

The freezer trick for an HDD is a Hail Mary. It will further damage the drive. The condensation that forms on the platter forces the head to pass through water.

http://youtu.be/ad1uVAB5bNA
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 1:36 pm

I always try to get as many files off as possible before doing anything else to the drive as the drive is only likely to get worse after it starts to fail. I've had a lot of success using Spinrite to get unreadable files off and check the overall condition of the drive. The last solution I try though is the freezer trick and only if I wasn't going to keep the drive and was desperate for the files. I usually put the hard drive in a zip lock bag, freeze it, plug it in and try to get the remainder of the unreadable files off as fast as possible.

Ryu Connor wrote:The freezer trick for an HDD is a Hail Mary. It will further damage the drive. The condensation that forms on the platter forces the head to pass through water.

http://youtu.be/ad1uVAB5bNA


There is a Schrodinger's cat scenario played out in that video, until he opened the drive there is no way of knowing if there is condensation forming inside of it or not and the act of opening it will expose the platters to humidity in the outside air. Manufacturers do their most to prevent water being present inside the HDD when it is built and commonly the various filters in the drive incorporate silica gel to absorb any present water, that said I'd probably be less skeptical if the video wasn't made by a data recovery company. One solution (partial) might be to keep the drive in the freezer while you work on it, you'd need a pretty long eSATA cable though
Last edited by puppetworx on Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 1:59 pm

SpinRite junk does nothing against mechanical drive failures (such as controller, spindle motor or actuator failures or physical damage to the surface of the platters) and it can actually do more harm since it puts additional stress on mechanical components (it tries to read each bad sector multiple times - I think up to 1000 or more, then tries to write the recovered data back to the same HDD). Same goes for "freezer trick". They are worth to try if you don't really care about the data anymore, but if you do - the only correct way is to use professional data recovery services.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:37 pm

It depends on how dead the drive is, and why it died.

If it's bad sectors, GNU ddrescue works well. If it's mechanical, you'll need a professional lab, as others have mentioned.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 4:28 pm

puppetworx wrote:There is a Schrodinger's cat scenario played out in that video, until he opened the drive there is no way of knowing if there is condensation forming inside of it or not and the act of opening it will expose the platters to humidity in the outside air.


http://youtu.be/F3iBSqVe1Jg

Different organization, same discussion.

Drives breathe and that small white square up in the corner is the filter in the drive.

The filter doesn't have a desiccant in it like you see in shipping packages.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:06 am

Ryu, that might happen in some cases, but I've salvaged not one but several drives with the freezer trick. To minimize condensation as much as possible, I keep the drive inside a bag when in the freezer.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:54 am

No one says it doesn't work. Even the companies demonstrating the impact say it can work.

If you do the freezer trick, you are doing more damage to the drive. Knowing that means you have all the facts.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Tue Oct 22, 2013 12:59 pm

I would think it much more likely that a frozen drive would actually EXPEL air as it warms up, thus minimizing any condensation. Everything inside the drive (including the air) is at 0 degrees F when it's taken out of the freezer. As the drive housing warms up, the air inside the drive will gradually warm up as well, and as it does so it will expand and increase pressure inside the drive. In order to equalize pressure this expanding air will be released from the breather hole.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:04 pm

Ah, the Internet.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:22 pm

nerdrage wrote:I would think it much more likely that a frozen drive would actually EXPEL air as it warms up, thus minimizing any condensation. Everything inside the drive (including the air) is at 0 degrees F when it's taken out of the freezer. As the drive housing warms up, the air inside the drive will gradually warm up as well, and as it does so it will expand and increase pressure inside the drive. In order to equalize pressure this expanding air will be released from the breather hole.

You're ignoring the fact that the outside air will be warmer than inside the drive until equilibrium is met. If left on a bench without powering the hdd on (since the drive motor generates heat when running), the warm exterior air would be trying to get inside. Right?
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:46 pm

DPete27 wrote:You're ignoring the fact that the outside air will be warmer than inside the drive until equilibrium is met. If left on a bench without powering the hdd on (since the drive motor generates heat when running), the warm exterior air would be trying to get inside. Right?

Can you explain why warmer exterior air would be "trying" to get inside? What forces would be at work? In order for air to flow INTO the drive, there would need to be something causing the pressure inside the drive to be lower than the pressure outside the drive. I think the inverse would be true.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Tue Oct 22, 2013 3:42 pm

The drive already contains warm air when initially placed in the freezer. The moisture in this air will condense inside the drive while it is being chilled. After the drive is removed from the freezer, additional moisture from the ambient air will condense on the circuit board, potentially causing short-circuits.

The "freezer trick" is an absolute last resort, and you should not count on the drive working at all afterwards.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Tue Oct 22, 2013 3:55 pm

nerdrage wrote:there would need to be something causing the pressure inside the drive to be lower than the pressure outside the drive.

Blow up a balloon and put it in the freezer.

nerdrage wrote:Can you explain why warmer exterior air would be "trying" to get inside?

Same reason you gave that warmer interior air would be trying to escape. Just reverse since you got the temperature gradient backwards in your original argument.
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Re: Best way to recover data from dead drive

Postposted on Tue Oct 22, 2013 5:19 pm

I did have a success recovering data from 2.5" HDD by freezer method. I did not feel comnfortable to FREEZE it and so I left it in the freezer for about 5 minutes to lower the temperature inside the hdd.
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