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Hard Disk makes “Click, click, click …” noise on system start. Won't boot

So my apartment building burned down, but my computer was not exposed to direct flame. It is a mini-ITX case with vents on the top, so it was filled with soot and ashes.

The hard drive was located at the bottom of the case and was buried in ashes. The computer may have been subjected to water damage when they were putting out the fire.

After I got my stuff back, I took the computer apart and cleaned it out with canned air and did not touch it for two weeks. Now I can boot the computer from CD fine, but the hard drive keeps making clicking noises.

Anyone have any advice on how I can recover data from the disk?

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migrated from Oct 10 '11 at 16:42

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

marked as duplicate by Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007, ChrisF, Sathya Oct 11 '11 at 10:53

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Conventional hard drives are most susceptable to two kinds of conditions: temperature over 50 degrees Celcius and dusty air. I guess you had both of them and the drive is pretty much dead. You might have a better chance getting data back if you didn't power it on... Unless you have some very important data on it, you should give up on the disk. – Oct 10 '11 at 16:50
That reminds me, it's time for an off-site backup! – slhck Oct 10 '11 at 17:35
Can you verify if the drive being recognized by the computer in the BIOS or by booting to a Linux Live CD? – jmreicha Oct 10 '11 at 18:59

The hard drive itself, is not completly sealed, it has a small breather hole in it. The breather hole has a filter to keep even smaller dust particals out. So althought It looks well sealed up and has seals and is screwed together, it can still be damaged by water getting in the breather hole.

Then apply some other simple sciences , if the drive was heating up, the air inside it would expand some, any mosture in the air inside it would expand even more. If it got "hosed" when it was all hot with cool water, the air would condence , and Tiny bits of water/moisture could have gone into the breather hole.

What to do I dont know? its just that there could be high moisture in the drive now, any Condensation of moisture on the platters themselves could rip the heads right off the armature, on the first spin-up/seek.

I have heard of putting thing in general your trying to dry, into dry rice (weird) or into a sealed bag with Silica packs, those dryers for foods. some way to get things really dry by using stuff that likes to pull moisture away. The silica packs have to be fresh sealed ones or recharged so they do thier job.

The controller board, getting exposed to soot which probably has a high carbon base? , might have to be cleaned completely also, any changed paths could change the resistance and cause the controller to not function correctally.

Magnatism, there are ~3 things that effect magnatism, extreeme heat, extremee shock, and (what was the 3rd) de-polarisation ? From you description , it is likly that the data on the platters themselves still exists.

There are companies that deal with hard drive recovery even for fire, even being experts they would not guarentee sucessfull recovery. I am just trying to think about what could have happend.

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Clicking noises, in general, mean that your disk is (or will be) dead.

If you want to try to recover yourself: try to put it inside a sealed bag with some moist absorvers (like silica gel) and put it in your refrigerator for 30 minutes. Than reconect it to your computer and try to copy your data as fast as you can. Sometimes this can make your Hd work again for some minutes.

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You mean moisture absorbers? Putting it in anything moist probably wouldn't be a good idea. :) – Staven Oct 10 '11 at 19:53
@staven: ops, yep – woliveirajr Oct 11 '11 at 11:44

Just from your description;

The hard drive was located at the bottom of the case and was buried in ashes. The computer may have been subjected to water damage when they were putting out the fire.

I would say this hard drive, and other electronics, are toast (no pun intended).

If the data is critical, maybe your renter's insurance will cover it, send the HDD to a professional data recovery service.

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The clicking noise is most likely the hard drive and controller trying again and again to read the boot sector off the drive. This is obviously a bad sign, since it means that the drive is never getting beyond startup.

A data recovery outfit might be able to help you, but it would be expensive, and with no guarantees.

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