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Computer was humming away happily. It had downloaded a kernel update eariler in the week and been asking for a reboot since. This morning I relented.

When the computer powered back up it made a loud repeated clicking noise which I tracked down to my hard drive by opening the cover. Since then I can't boot the computer - it keeps failing out to netboot (which goes nowhere).

Based on a quick google I think the disk is history.

Does anyone know of a way to recover the disk? I realise I'm probably SOL but it's worth asking.


Thanks for the answers. All very interesting and informative.

Nothing on the drive is worth the cost of a professional recovery service and my backups cover the important bits anyway. I was just hopeful that I might be able to avoid the nuissance of a rebuild on a new disk.

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Get a new one and restore your backup, may take half a day. This thing is dead 99% sure. – matthias krull Jan 30 '11 at 1:41
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Methods of quick and dirty recovery are to manually spin the drive past it's stumbling point, by exerting clockwise centrifugal force on it.

In other words hold the drive, with one hand, fingers on one edge, thumb on the other and twist your wrist, fast. If you are lucky it will spin up and become active, if it works, GET ALL THE DATA OFF NOW, do not expect this to work more than a few times.

There is also the freezer method, put the drive in the freezer for about 30 mins, take it out, leave it in a cool dry area for about 5 mins, and try powering it up again, if it works, GET ALL THE DATA OFF NOW.

If the data on the drive is critical you must send it to professional data recovery specialists. Preferably one that offers a no fix no fee service, or a similar concession.


I've used both of these methods in the past, and had a reasonably good success rate, however, these methods are by no means guaranteed to work, and could damage the drive further making professional recovery efforts difficult or perhaps impossible.


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I might try the freezer method out of curiostiy. As I mentioned in my edits to the question it's not worth the cost of a professional recovery service. – LRE Jan 30 '11 at 3:36
The hand spin method has proven most successful for me in the past. – Slomojo Jan 30 '11 at 3:46
Given how clumsy I am the hand spin method will likely result in a broken window ;-) – LRE Jan 30 '11 at 3:50
I have had good luck thumping the drive on the top center with the flat of my hand. One quick, firm thud often does it. – David Schwartz Jan 7 '13 at 8:01

Going on the onomatopoeia, it sounds like the click of death, which can occur for a variety of reasons, but often just occurs after the disk has lived out its days with no real 'cause' other than the disk slowly deteriorating.

I have heard of people removing and replacing the platters into an identical drive, but whether you want to do that, I don't know. I would also guess that it doesn't have a particularly large chance of success, you would need a "clean room", or, failing that, an environment which has as little airflow as possible. It would at least be cheaper than most recovery labs if your data is important enough to you to buy a new hard drive and potentially cause the failure of even the new one with the transplantation.

And, naturally, this would void the warranty of the new one (and the old one if applicable).

Other than that, not much you can do. I wouldn't recommend powering up the device in case you decide you do want to take measures to recover the drive (like having it sent to a lab), as powering it up might cause more damage to occur.

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I've heard of people replacing the controller board on the hard drive with success, but never the platters. – firedfly Jan 30 '11 at 1:31
It depends on the error. Replacing the controller board could cure it if that is part of the issue. Either way, I think I heard it on overclockers -- I've heard many tall tales from there, so whether it's true or not, I don't know ;) – Matthieu Cartier Jan 30 '11 at 1:33

Very rarely you can get lucky with sata/ata to usb converters. Connect the hard drive to the usb converter and hook it up to another computer that you can use to copy critical files to.

There are a lot of voodoo magic tricks people claim works. Putting the hard drive in the refrigerator for a while. Hooking up an identical good drive to a good computer, then putting the computer to sleep and waking it with the bad hard drive hooked up.

If your serious about getting your data back, I wouldn't mess around too much. Just send it in to people that know what they are doing.

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If you do decide to do this, think about where the files you really want to copy are located before you try it, so that you do it as fast as you can (the disk may well fail during the copy, or it may not work at all). – Matthieu Cartier Jan 30 '11 at 1:41

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