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Once upon a time, my little 10 GB drive in my webserver failed and of course I had no backup, teaching me to immediately set up an automatic backup job afterwards.

Anyhow, this drive refused to start and as a last-ditch effort I put it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer overnight, since I had heard somewhere that it might work and I really didn't have any other options.

The next day I take it out, immediately plug it in outside the case and lo and behold, the drive works long enough for me to copy my data off it.

Have you ever had a similar experience with this method?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Tog, random Feb 2 at 18:43

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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I put a drive in the freezer with the intent of doing this. As it turns out I found a backup of the files I needed elsewhere a few days later. Come to think of it, that drive is still in there... thanks for reminding me! –  Saul Dolgin Jul 15 '09 at 12:04
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You also need to watch out for condensation once you power it back on. –  Luke Quinane Jul 19 '09 at 23:35
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Anyone know why it works? –  Andrew Grimm Aug 10 '09 at 5:02

16 Answers 16

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Yeah, I've had success with the hard drive in the freezer trick a couple of times.

Another one that sometimes works is:

Place the hard drive on a smooth surface. Grab the ends and physically spin the whole unit around (careful it doesn't slide off of the edge)

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A FYI about this:

The freezer is NOT a generic solution for a failed drive. It addresses ONE failure mode--a failure to spin up due to sticking bearings. If the problem is anything else it's not going to do a bit of good.

For more detailed information on why this procedure is not recommended check this post: Freezing your Hard Drive - A Bad Idea.

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I disagree. This answers the spirit of the question quite well. –  Synetech Jan 6 '10 at 3:12

My hard drive died a few days ago, couldn't detect any disc so we took it in to see if they could recover any of our data. They couldn't even access it and said it was completely dead. I had a techie friend who came over tonight and suggested freezing it. I laughed at him but figured what the hell, why not... Nothing to lose.

He put it in a plastic bag for about 15 minutes and plugged it back in and viola!!! It booted up long enough for him to back up our data onto an external drive. I never heard of this technique so I did a little research at work and sure enough, there are many instances that this has worked. I don't know the success rate but hey, it's worth a shot if everything else fails!

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I had a drive in a 3 drive RAID 0 array failing so badly that the OS wasn't even found on boot half the time. Then it dropped from 80 degree F to 50 degree F in my house(I try to not turn the heater on during the Fall because half the time it warms up in a few days), and after a few days I tried to boot it again and it found the OS, did a scan disk, fixed some indexes, and right now I'm successfully booted into the OS recovering data.

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I had a drive die on me fairly recently. It would work for a little while on start-up, but soon lock up. A couple friends suggested I try the freezer trick. I was reluctant to try it because nobody ever says how to deal with condensation after taking the drive out of the freezer. It turns out, for me, it wasn't really a factor.

The first try, I had the drive in the freezer for 10-ish hours. I had left the plastic bag on it just in case, but it didn't seem to matter. The drive did work for longer, but not long enough. It was maybe 30-40 minutes. I gave it another time-out in the freezer for about 12-hours this time. The second run was about the same. I left it sitting out for a couple hours. I wanted to give it another go, since I usually got 10-15 minutes without the freezer. To my surprise, the drive continued working for over a day. I could copy large chunks of files with no problems. I still returned the thing to get a replacement, however. I didn't trust that it would last.

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It never lasts, it's just for getting it temporarily working to get your data off the drive. –  Stefan Thyberg Sep 6 '09 at 12:03

It has never worked for me, I did it once upon a time with an old 120gb WD and more recently a 2.5" 120gb Hitachi. Both of them weren't recognised by the BIOS.

Both times, no dice. I'm pretty sure I even made things worse by frying the circuit boards with condensation as it heated up, some solder points started going brown.

Granted the boards could have been the problem on both drives from the start, I've stopped holding any faith in this 'technique'.

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The hard disk in the freezer trick has worked for me in the past. I was able to retrieve data from my crashed disk by connecting it as a USB drive and booting the system with a Knoppix live CD.

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One of the admins I worked with did this in the freezer at work and apparently it fixed the disk. He has also tried dell laptop keyboards in the dishwasher :)

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I'm actually trying this now with a 250GB drive. I'll be pulling it out of the freezer after work. I'll edit my answer with the results!

EDIT: It didn't work for me.

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Never worked for me.

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How many dying hard drives have you tried it with? :O –  Andrew Grimm Aug 10 '09 at 5:04
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Three or four. –  arathorn Aug 10 '09 at 11:09

Yes, I've recovered data from several disks by doing this. The current state of the art in free software is ddrescue to create an image of the disk, then PhotoRec to get the files back if the filesystem is damaged.

Note that ddrescue is not the same as dd_rescue, dd_recover, ddrecover or dd_rhelp which are all perform a similar function, but ddrescue is the newest and best one available.

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For info, on Debian-based distros ddrescue comes with the gddrescue package. –  landroni Feb 1 at 19:33

In situations where the head has crashed, you can temporarily get it up and running by turning the drive upsidedown. Keep the drive upsidedown while you back up your files.

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I have an old computer that still works, except that the hard-drive will stick. To get it to start working, I have to turn the end of the stepper motor that sticks out of the side of the hard-drive.

Yes you read that correctly, it is that old.

If you really want to know, it is an old Mitsubishi 286 Laptop (read: portable). That you have to plug in. Whats interesting about it is that the screen is actually a color lcd, but the controller only works in shades of grey (CGA).

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I have had success doing this, but it was on an old 2GB hard-drive, and it didn't really work long enough to get much data off of it.

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Yes, I've tried this myself.

Like Russell above, I've also had success by just spinning the unit sharply along the axis of the blades. I never thought to spin it on a table like a top, though.

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If you want your data back get SpinRite. It has recovered hard drives in terrible states. Personally I have used it for recovering data off a laptop that had been dropped several times. The price tag is worth it. This is the only method of hard drive recovery I have tried, but I will give the freezer idea a shot next time.

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I was more thinking along the lines of not even being able to detect it in BIOS. –  Stefan Thyberg Jul 15 '09 at 12:09
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Spinrite is a bad idea IMHO - it writes to the failing disk which is just asking for futher failure. –  TRS-80 Jul 19 '09 at 21:43
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Yes but if the drive is that bad anyway then you have bigger problems. SpinRite can recover your hard drive from practically any other condition and does wonderful work. I'd recommend it to anyone with disk problems. If you listen to the author's podcast, he has testimonials on every week that just keep proving how well it works. –  RCIX Jul 21 '09 at 2:55
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@TRS-80: Don't forget that it's also a maintenance utility too. –  jasonh Jul 21 '09 at 2:57
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SpinRite does nothing about drives that don't spin. The freezer trick is for drives that won't spin up. –  Loren Pechtel Aug 30 '09 at 18:47

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