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I had an external hard drive (Seagate) that I accidentally pulled down on my desk. Immediately after falling it started making a soft beeping noise, and my computer no longer recognized it. I unplugged it and tried again but (as I expected) it didn't work anymore. So I tried everything. I tried a different USB cable, a different USB port, a different power outlet, a different power supply. After concluding it was either the enclosure or the hard drive, I took the hard drive out of the case and it didn't work. So then I put it in a different enclosure and it was still beeping.

So I have two questions:

1). What does it mean when a hard drive is beeping?

2). Is there anything else I can try to fix it besides sticking it in the freezer?

Thank you.

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2 Answers

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There are many different beeps and noises that a hard drive can make.

Some are downright weird.

Some of them are created by the motor trying (and failing) to get the drive spinning. Some are created by the actual drive head scratching across the surface of the drive, scraping your data away as it goes. Some are even related to both, with the head grinding away and preventing the motor from spinning. There are other situations where hard drives can make these noises but none of them are good noises for the drive to be making.

Given that your beeping started as your drive fell I have a feeling that the gyroscopic properties of the spinning platter combined the abnormal motion of the fall have caused your drive head to come in contact with the patter and that initial "beep" was actually the sound of the head grinding away part of the platter.

To give an idea of how easily this can happen there is an comparison I once heard between hard drives and airplanes (see page 15):

To give a sense of scale, the head would be like a Boeing 747 flying just 45 feet above the ground at over 300,000 mph and counting every single blade of grass.

If the "ground" moves ever so slightly, as it would when gyroscopic motion tries to counteract the motor being twisted around quickly, then that plane is going to crash hard.

The continuing beep could either be the head continuing to grind at the drive (possibly stuck in a grove) or the motor being unable to spin the drive up due to friction.

You can try putting the drive in the freezer, but that's only really a (temporary) cure for a drive that works for a short while after powering up, then dies due to heat. It helps give you a little extra time to get data off but it's by no means a cure.

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Yeah, I'm aware the freezer thing is only temporary. The thing I really want off it is a folder of about 75 GB. I'm hoping it'll last long enough for me to at least transfer that folder or some of it (along with a few individual txt files). The sound I'm experiencing is a really low, second long beep that repeats over and over. I don't hear any scratching sounds along with it, so I'm not sure. Thanks though for all those beeping hard drive videos. Pretty entertaining stuff, lol. –  Woo Oct 16 '11 at 11:09
    
The freezer thing isn't just "only temporary", it's only worth trying on hardware that has an intermittent fault related to the device overheating. Your hard drive is not overheating but has, by the sound of it, suffered a rather fatal head crash and I seriously doubt whether freezing will help it work any better. The beep you are hearing is most likely the sound of either the positioning actuators trying to move the head, the motor trying to move the platter or the head grinding at the disk as I mentioned in my answer. I doubt you will be able to recover anything without professional help. –  Mokubai Oct 16 '11 at 15:41
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Beeping or screeching usually means a mechanical failure. You may have broken one or more platters, damaged the arm, or screwed up the actuator. No amount of freezer time would fix this.

You have two options:

  1. Dump it and get another - you do have backups, right?
  2. If you've answered 'no' to 1, and you have the single copy to your master's thesis on the damaged drive, you may need to pay for one of those expensive data restoring services. They have the capability of taking your disk apart and restoring whatever can be recovered directly from the platters.

Either way, this disk is hosed. Sorry mate.

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Unfortunately most of the data on it wasn't backed up anywhere else. Thankfully though, none of it was absolutely irreplaceable. I've already bought a new drive, I'd just like to get some of the data off my old one before I toss it or hoard it for years. Since it's not THAT important, I would never pay for data recovery. Thanks for the answer. –  Woo Oct 16 '11 at 11:11
    
Sorry I couldn't have been more helpful. May I recommend backing up everything from now on. Get yourself a NAS AND (nor or) an online backup plan. Believe me , I learned it the hard way - and more than once :) –  Traveling Tech Guy Oct 16 '11 at 18:24
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