Recovering a Failed Hard Drive: 9 Steps (with Pictures)

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Recovering a Failed Hard Drive: 9 Steps (with Pictures)
Recovering a Failed Hard Drive: 9 Steps (with Pictures)

This wikiHow teaches you how to analyze and potentially repair a failed or dying hard drive. Please note that these instructions do not guarantee that you will be able to salvage the hard drive. And finally, expert help, while possibly the best option, is likely to cost a lot of money.


Part 1 of 2: Basic methods for finding errors

Recover a Dead Hard Disk Step 1

Step 1. Immediately stop using your computer

If your hard drive is still spinning but you notice that performance is deteriorating, it's better to turn off the hard drive as soon as possible. Once you've turned off your computer, don't turn it back on until you've had it repaired.

If you are concerned about a malfunctioning hard drive, you can simply disconnect it from your computer

Recover a Dead Hard Disk Step 2

Step 2. Try your hard drive in another port or computer

If you're able to get your hard drive to work on another computer, then the problem may lie elsewhere – it could also be the cable or your computer's ports.

  • If it's an external hard drive, it's as simple as disconnecting the drive from your computer and plugging it into another. You can also try another cable, in case the old one doesn't work properly.
  • Internal hard drives present a more complicated problem. To check the connection of your internal hard drive, you will first have to remove the drive from your computer. After you've done this, you can purchase a docking station for the drive or a USB adapter (both available online) to connect the external hard drive to another computer.
  • Before removing the hard drive, make sure that the computer has been unplugged from AC power and that the battery has been removed (if applicable).
  • Removing a hard drive is an incredibly difficult task on a Mac. If you want to do this, be extremely careful.
  • In rare cases, a hard drive that has stopped working on one specific computer (but works on others) may indicate a faulty motherboard. If your hard drive works with any computer except your own, it's a good idea to have the computer serviced.
Recover a Dead Hard Disk Step 3

Step 3. Know the different components of a hard drive

Hard drives have three distinct components that are often the cause of failure should a problem arise:

  • PCB – The printed circuit board (usually on the underside of your hard drive) controls most of your hard drive's functions, as well as converting the data on a hard drive into readable information. Circuit boards are usually green.
  • platters – Thin disks where the data is stored. Platters are responsible for most of the noise you hear when your hard drive starts spinning. Unless you're a professional with access to a dust-free area and the necessary equipment, you won't be able to repair your hard drive platters yourself.
  • Head Assembly – The read head or head assembly is what reads the data from the platters. Again, you will not be able to repair it without professional experience and equipment.
Recover a Dead Hard Disk Step 4

Step 4. Rate the noises your drive made

Depending on what is wrong, your hard drive will make certain noises. Check the model of your hard drive with the noise it is making to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

  • For example, if your hard drive is making a clicking noise, there is most likely a problem with the read/write head.
  • Unfortunately, most problems identified by the noise they make will require expert help.
Recover a Dead Hard Disk Step 5

Step 5. Stay away from quick DIY solutions

These are things like freezing your hard drive or putting pressure on it. While some people may have had success with it, such a quick fix will most likely make being able to secure your data by a professional service even more unlikely than it already was.

Even though a quick fix seems to work, the effect will not be long lasting. Your hard drive will stop working

Part 2 of 2: Hire a repair company

Recover a Dead Hard Disk Step 6

Step 1. Understand that hard drive recovery is work for professionals

Due to the incredibly complex construction of a hard drive, it is impossible to repair your hard drive yourself in terms of stripping the data on it, unless you have a solid background in electronics. Therefore, it is better to have your hard drive treated by a professional repair company.

  • Attempting to repair a failed hard drive will only reduce the chances of a professional being able to fix it.
  • Even replacing the circuit board is an advanced exercise that requires knowledge about soldering circuits and purchasing exactly the right parts.
Recover a Dead Hard Disk Step 7

Step 2. You can assume that the recovery will cost you a lot of money

True hard drive recovery requires dust-free areas, specialized equipment and highly trained people. Therefore, you will probably spend more than a thousand dollars recovering the data on the hard drive.

Recover a Dead Hard Disk Step 8

Step 3. Find a repair company that offers what you need

Usually it is possible to find a recovery service through an electronics store in your area, but some excellent options are the following:

  • Best Buy - Best Buy's 'Geek Squad' is a chain for dealing with data recovery. Expect to pay anything from $200 to more than $1,500, depending on the severity of the hard drive damage.
  • Drive Savers - Drive Savers is a 24/7 customer service based data recovery company with 30 years of experience. In addition to hard disk recovery, you can recover data from smartphones and cameras.
Recover a Dead Hard Disk Step 9

Step 4. Pick a company and stick with it

Every time someone opens your hard drive and tries to fix it, the likelihood that there's anything left to recover decreases. This is because opening the hard drive makes it vulnerable to dust, static electricity and other contaminants in the environment. To minimize this risk, it is better not to use the services of multiple companies. To be sure of a company's competence, you can ask which tools they use for data recovery. If they use PC3K or DeepSpar, that's a good sign.


There are a few useful data recovery tools you can use to rescue data from a failed hard drive, but a reliable one can cost you a lot of money


  • Removing the hard drive will void the warranty.
  • Attempting to repair the moving parts of a hard drive yourself will more than likely result in data loss.

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