Can information be recovered from a dead hard drive?

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SargeW

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So my DW 7 year old Acer Windows 7 laptop finally died with little warning. She tried to turn it on one day last week, and the only message on the screen was "no bootable drive found, insert boot disk to continue". 

My poking around and opening the case looks like the HD wont spin at all. The case had an empty HD slot, so I changed to that slot and still nothing.  My laptop is similar as her's just a year or so newer so I also tried her HD in my laptop. Still nothing.  She didn't' have a lot on the drive, but on document she would really like to get back is a Excel document she made to log the last 15+ years of RV parks we stopped at. It's all text so it's not a huge file, but it would be ton's of work to do over. 

Any suggestions?
 

Arch Hoagland

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You can add it to a working system as a second drive and see if you can read any of the data.

Do you know if it is an SSD drive, in which case you won't hear any platter spinning. With an SSD drive you can buy an adapter to plug it into a USB port. Otherwise you need a free Sata port

If it is a regular hard drive with a spinning platter and it's not coming on then your only other option is to send it to a company that recovers date from dead drives but that can be very expensive.
 

Isaac-1

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If it is an old style spinning hard drive, you can try freezing it, I have had this temporarily restore function to old hard drives before long enough to get the important data off.
 

phil-t

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Sorry for the problems -
Tapping, freezing, etc. all worth a try. After that it becomes a matter of how valuable that data is and how much you might want to pay for recovery.  Last time I was involved in a recovery, at the university where I worked, they charged a set fee plus some amount per kb for what the customer wanted.  Lots of business for those places these days.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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A Best Buy store (Geek Squad) can either figure out how to access it  or arrange for recovery thru a subcontractor.  Or Google hard drive recovery to find a recovery service yourself.  Not all drives are recoverable, but if the data is important it may be worth the cost to try (not cheap).
 

scottydl

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This thread reminds me that I need to run a backup of our important files. I have an external 2TB hard drive that I use for that purpose, and I used to be pretty religious at running it once/month. Now I've gotten a little lazy and am lucky to run it every 6... 8... 11 months? So I'm sure it's time.
 

8Muddypaws

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Try one of these: https://www.amazon.com/Sabrent-2-5-Inch-Adapter-Optimized-EC-SSHD/dp/B011M8YACM/ref=sxin_3_ac_d_rm?crid=GQ7QKT95GM8B&keywords=sata+to+usb+cable&pd_rd_i=B011M8YACM&pd_rd_r=468ec575-db8a-421f-9c6c-c535fe31f3ec&pd_rd_w=IwUyT&pd_rd_wg=h0fzZ&pf_rd_p=0bc35c17-1e0d-4808-b361-20ab11b00973&pf_rd_r=6S02VQC93VDGFFV35DQF&qid=1560264482&s=gateway&sprefix=Sata+to+%2Caps%2C801

You should be able to hear the drive spin, or try to spin, as soon as it’s plugged in if you hold it close enough to your ear.  If you hear nothing then it may be possible to remove the controller board on the drive to get it working.  Freezing does indeed sometimes work but recent perpendicular recording drives use heat so they warm up quickly.  Using the USB adapter to keep the drive in the freezer might help.

If it only hums or clicks a professional drive recovery service might be required.

Just saw a 500 Samsung SSD at Frys for about $60.  I highly recommend that you replace mechanical drives with SSDs, also that you do backups.  I use Easus Todo backup from majorgeeks.com.  The free version does everything you need.  Be sure to make bootable todo backup media and make sure it boots and recognizes your backup drive.
 

TheBar

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Try the freezing method first, then warm it up slowly to 150 degrees in the oven then try it. 150 sounds high but many laptops operate close to 200. If the drive spindle just stuck in the bearing cold or hot may free it temporarily. Use backup software like the free version of Macrium Reflect to back up on a set schedule so you don't forget. It does a good job and we used it many times at work to recover drives. You don't have to buy a bulky external hard drive enclosure, just get a cheap SATA hard drive with capacity as large or larger than your main drive. You can just store it in a zip lock bag in a protected location and hook it up with a USB cable suggested above when you want to back up. A 2.5" drive is smaller than a pack of cigarettes so it takes up little of our precious space. Here's a new 500 GB for $28.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Western-Digital-WD5000LPLX-500GB-7200RPM-SATA-6Gb-s-2-5in-Laptop-Hard-Drive/283416728582?epid=1037303918&hash=item41fcf41406&enc=AQADAAAC4FjVrDbVsZ8oH%2F8PNHtt9VX4%2Fw7FZcmMuqsX8uaFEduVNDIfw90MYAzHvP8ZnkjYEQfeklKu58rjNMr2bx0i9O2DnKlFOOjerpyHihdK32Hjn5d18WnD2YhnbopE20PoRc0h1%2Ba%2FduaMrdIbPuC3yZ6NValPfbJMnyahXqxvB8LdLYV0O7bzjQZOKxB%2Fp7gFg5CQX1NzoPF3WOW3YQhnTBgFpCMPAiucbh7Eq0S0stvsTIfH%2BSCTxpAlgVVhJhrQCh9oTazliC3HDTC7jOEUq9cBT1tW1VPzMGfSpbR5Pcugbo3IM5NuM5I2Jt8i9VSmJsV%2FAlu4dklGYzOA4YD4Dt9x6TDHxUst%2FDbw63t40k3v1GPOPhVMFbt0JeI6Phrehk7Ridm%2F6TH3u3uZBJD7dE6Z43JnNPxJWIZ%2B4aWkn3SzN9r0gM2G3xL7%2F80frwIX10BDRk%2Fqcn1NlIJlCGZuAd0hYQXbf6mcZsaV842EVfxa6qE2RfZa2%2FG8wo99j4Qu3Vtc4XizT9i33h0jwDDQml85%2FcCXzHTLCjRnTY3C27qP5593Tq0rcXBHBCjf%2F5FBdAlGPizZxBqc96zFJKGgItrhU19dKGbwDw8qGt1drB4%2FERqG3yyEbeFq3dlCccAqLY0ZwdM7%2Br7vbwX6KLymDRmfs2f4xbBKixNXU3J6ZSYM4kZdpK2PIcKEEOrFFB3%2BBcs2aECOFI4z2HbNXqD9ALgk%2BGb1rtUGsBKpJkmLRCZrClNk3M%2BVfzNFvU7ALPODPZDUYSSKOZepcH1nFhUvb%2F6Em88LaiXxHTiwGcFrSWGnTjNtZAC4GUpiqPWkY6T9e2NRyRoGn0P6gzcZc1lju6gtvxnPpRVdAePhbv4obF%2B1twgZqhl2%2FLJMsJPrV0bhcIkHDqC7D2BAHkO6j9HMsIdexxpTSePrcnSfj4QFHylNXOmlZVwrhMbvRKYyF2gVG5ag8Sm1fn%2FFvoIGID6Hqt0%3D&checksum=2834167285826d1ef7bdf57b4fa997125ce401322ba8
 

SargeW

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Isaac-1 said:
If it is an old style spinning hard drive, you can try freezing it, I have had this temporarily restore function to old hard drives before long enough to get the important data off.

Can you describe this process for me?
 

Isaac-1

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Try the simple stuff first, put it in a ziplock bag, put it in your freezer for 30-45 minutes, then put it back in the computer and see if it spins up, if not then try cooling again, then adding heat, though not too much heat, and repeat.
 

8Muddypaws

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Put the drive in a zip lock plastic bag and seal it.  Place both in the freezer overnight.  Have a computer ready so you can plug the drive/usb adapter in immediately after removing drive from freezer.

If the drive mounts copy the My Documents folder from the drive to the computer you?re using ASAP.  I?m assuming you?re using some version of Windows.  The location of the My Documents folder may be different for older versions.

I?m in the process of doing this for a USB drive and so far the frozen drive works for just a couple of minutes before it gets warm enough to fail.  Unfortunately the files I?m trying to recover are larger than I can recover in the time the drive works.

You may be able to get recovery media from the computer manufacturer.  It?s worth a try.  If not it?s possible that your windows activation code is imbedded in the machine and you can download and install a fresh OS. 

In the future you might consider storing duplicate files in the cloud.  I use OneDrive (free) and Dropbox (free) for documents.  OneDrive can be set up to synchronize automatically but that might only be if you have an Office 365 subscription. 
 

SargeW

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Thanks guys! But I just had a one in a million shot of luck. After reading your previous posts I started examining the DW old laptop to see if I could figure out what kind of drive it had (before taking it apart again).  Then I realized that my laptop was the same series # as hers, just newer (and windows 10. Hers was windows 7). 

So I made a recovery drive on a 128GB USB drive and tried it in her laptop. I tried changing the boot order all around, but I never got past the windows logo without the machine saying that "there is a problem with your computer and will restart". 

I was about ready to give up so I figured I would just return to the original HDD boot, and see if I plugged in the USB drive while it was starting if it would recognize it. I pulled the USB drive and hit the power button again, but this time the thing started to boot up!

It made it all the way through, and I was able to get to the start page. I opened up and went right to the back up manager. I stuck the USB drive back in and copied all of her documents. It only took seconds. Then I figured what the heck, I am now attempting to make a copy of her whole hard drive.  She didn't have a lot of stuff on it, so it should fit easily on the USB drive. 

Yaay! Thanks for the bump, I may not have ever started examining the computer specs without your help. 
 

SeilerBird

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8Muddypaws said:
 

In the future you might consider storing duplicate files in the cloud.  I use OneDrive (free) and Dropbox (free) for documents.  OneDrive can be set up to synchronize automatically but that might only be if you have an Office 365 subscription.
Really good advice Mud. I have been using a Chromebook for the last six years and I have never lost a file since then. And I have never had to backup my hard drive. It is always all there in the Cloud.
 

SpencerPJ

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SeilerBird said:
It is always all there in the Cloud.

Absolutely  :)) :)) :))


Sarge: Very Happy for you  :)  Set your stuff up to automatically back-up to the Windows One Drive (aka Cloud)  You can then access it anywhere anytime with any computer (with internet of course) 
 

Jim18655

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Ubuntu will run from a CD/DVD or flash drive. I keep a copy around so I can recover files from computers that crash due to system failures. Sometimes it's only the boot sector or operating system that has a problem and I can get files out before reloading OS and losing them.
 

Back2PA

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Sarge, glad you recovered what you wanted.


I use Carbonite to automatically back up everything to the cloud, including a 1TB external drive. Plus, roughly monthly, I create an image of my HDD using the free version of Macrium Reflect, and store that image on a second external drive
 
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