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I accidentally dropped my 500GB Buffalo MiniStation portable hard drive on the ground. It was still sorta working afterward, but just extremely slow.

I then ran the Mac Disk Utility hard drive repair. It ran for about 5 minutes and then said it cannot repair it. Now, the hard drive won't even mount and I can't use it at all.

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Is the drive making any noises when you plug it in? Any ticks, clicks, etc.? –  Llamanerds Jan 8 '13 at 19:32
Also, have you removed the drive from the case to ensure that the damaged components aren't part of the enclosure instead of the drive? Harddrives are fairly robust, and if the drive is not in use/spinning at the time of drop can often survive just fine. I would pull the drive first and try mounting with a different adapter/cable –  Llamanerds Jan 8 '13 at 19:34

5 Answers 5

The answer depends on the value of the data.

If the data is irreplaceable, don't try anything more. Take the drive to a recovery specialist and they can use their (expensive) tools and techniques to do the recovery. Expect to pay hundreds to a couple grand and there's no guarantee that they'll be successful.

Otherwise you might want to remove the drive from the enclosure and try a different one. If you're lucky, the drop is a coincidence and it's really an electrical problem.

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Not sure why no one here has answered this "appropriately", but the best way forward (assuming you don't have huge funds to send it to an expert recovey center), would be to get another drive, then run (GNU) DD Rescue to recover as much as you can off the drive - this may take days or hours. Once you have copied as many bits off it as you can, try running testdisk [ to see if you can fix the partitions ] and if that fails - which it most likely will - photorec to try recover as many files as you can.

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With the little information given and the asker's obvious lack of understanding about hard drive technology, the obvious answer would be to contact a data retrieval service and let professionals deal with the problem before the drive fails entirely and data retrieval becomes even more expensive to the point where it isn't an option any more.

Hindsight: You should have copied off all the data when the drive was still recognized by the system. Any damage that the fall may have introduced could be increased by using the drive, so you should have used this opportunity to save your data. It would have been a good idea to ask first before exposing the drive to the excess stress of using a repair software. This doesn't help you at this point, but it might help other people who come across this question.

There are a few ways that could allow you to access the data depending on the physical damage that has been done. Needless to say, this drive is done for and any method that might revive it will not be enough to repair it, but is solely mentioned as a way to get data off of it.

Damaged logic board

If the hard drive's logic board has been damaged then this could lead to the drive not being recognized or function at all. Depending on the make and model this might be more or less likely after a fall. You'd need to have to track down the exact same model and build and replace the board with that of the replacement drive. Granted that all the mechanics are okay, this would allow you to get this drive to be recognized again, allowing you to backup your data.

Damaged init sectors

A hard drive contains sectors that carry information about its technical specs. If those are damaged, it cannot be properly initialized. To get around this problem, you'd need a secondary hard drive of the same model. You can use it to initialize itself and then switch the damaged drive in.

Remove the logic board from the damaged drive. Boot your system with the replacement drive. Once your operating system is running, you have to send the drive into standby mode, remove the circuit board from the drive while it is still attached to the computer. Now attach that logic board to the failed drive. Since the replacement drive has already been initialized, you'll then should get access to the rest of the drive once you wake it up again. This may or may not work with every drive and an external SATA adaptor is recommended so that you can perform the switch on your desk.

Failed Mechanics

This is most likely the case after a fall. The reading head might have been bent out of shape. Heads may have scratched the surface, or the motor may have failed. There are ways to replace all of them, but they not just require an identical hard drive, but also special tools, for example to make sure that the platter alignment isn't destroyed if the platters need to be transferred to the replacement drive and such. If the platters have been damaged then a repair might not be feasible unless even data fragments are of value to you. Needless to say, this should be done by experts.

Why NOT to freeze the hard drive

I'm appalled to see this suggestion a couple of times on here. It seems so simple yet effective, so why not try it, right? Let me explain where this myth is coming from. Decades ago hard drives used certain forms of lubricant on the platters. As the lubricant aged, it developed glue-like qualities preventing the drive to boot up. This was a well known shortcoming in the design of these old hard drives. Some people put those drives in the freezer so that the temperature difference and the resulting contraction of the lubricants would set it free again.

The method was used in the 80s and early 90s and had proponents and while it may have worked back then, the situation today has vastly changed. So no freezing of the hard drive will help with any of those problems described. Yet, this outdated "solution" is still being perpetuated today by those who have no idea how hard drives work or how an effect of cooling it down would be able to temporarily getting it to run again.

The above list is by no means complete and the methods were described to showcase the complexity of getting failed hard drives back to work. Don't waste your time and mess around with the hardware if you have no experience with it! Finding a replacement drive to perform these tasks can be a tough act alone, especially as drives get older. It would not be enough to get a second Buffalo Mini Station as those will house different drives depending on manufacturing dates and locations.

Should your system recognize your hard drive again then

  • copy off your data, starting with the most important one!
  • Do NOT use repair software on it! It intruduces extra wear and tear which may send your drive over the edge! This software is only useful for software errors, not physically damaged drives!
  • If no data is readable then use imaging software and work on the image rather than directly with a drive that could fail any second.

I suggest you evaluate how important that data is to you. If it's replaceable then get a new hard drive and forget about the hassle of getting it back. If it's irreplaceable then contact a proper service to help you with data retrieval. Many services have a policy where you only pay if they manage to retrieve data. Keep in mind that any extra work you perform with or on this drive might decrease your chances for professional data retrieval and might increase the cost of success.

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Using recovery software in case of physical damage may increase the damage. If you consider to freeze drive you should read this before do anything:

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Don't do this unless everything else has failed. It can make things worse. If you have slow access to the drive, rather use something like Gnu DDRescue to make a bit copy of as much as you can first. Then freeze it, resume/rerun DD Rescue and see if you can get any more off. –  davidgo Mar 15 at 2:39
Why are you mentioning that archaic, nonsense “freeze the drive” method? That nonsense worked with truly old school drives in the late-1980s/early-1990s but will only cause modern drives to fail even more. –  JakeGould Apr 24 at 2:06
I did not suggest to freeze drive, but I warned about viability of this method giving a link to skeptics. –  mmdemirbas Apr 24 at 13:03

Place it in a zip-lock type bag and remove as much air as you can. Place it in the freezzer for several hours or longer. Remove the drive and wrap in a towel or something to insulate it for a bit. Connect and try.

You may need to do this for longer periods.

This does not always work but it has worked for me a number of times. One recovery had the drive on the freezer for several days.

If the electonics on the Buffalo case are damaged, you may need to open the case and freeze just the drive. Then connect with some sort of adapter(USB-SATA, etc)

While some may say freezing causes more issues, many are recovery companies/employees. All I can say is that it has worked many times and that there was no intention of using professional recovery. Risk was low for me.

After that, it may be necessary to have a professional recovery done. That can cost to the thousands of US dollars. Note that some will not charge if no recovery

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Ditto here. Why are you mentioning that archaic, nonsense “freeze the drive” method? That nonsense worked with truly old school drives in the late-1980s/early-1990s but will only cause modern drives to fail even more. It’s just a dramatic “old wives tale” at this point. –  JakeGould Apr 24 at 2:07
@JakeGould I have used this method with current drives and been successful. That is why I mention it. If the drive has not responded to other methods, it is worth a shot. It has not always worked but enough to try again. One can always send to a recovery shop. Can you please give some support for your assertion it will cause further damage? I know some recovery shops warn against this but they are in the business of making money –  Dave M Apr 27 at 20:53
“Can you please give some support for your assertion it will cause further damage?” Sure. Right here on Stack Exchange the issue of why this practice is dangerous is explained in exacting detail. In my humble opinion, you might claim you have used freezing to recover data, but my assertion would be that if you simply had left the drive alone for the same period of time and didn’t freeze it you would have reached the same success rate. Meaning, false correlation; just because you did one thing does not mean that one thing solved a problem. –  JakeGould Apr 27 at 21:45
@JakeGould I appreciate your feedback. However, my experience was different and repeated trips of the same drive to the freezer gave repeated access to data while cold. This happened in several cases. Left alone-No data. Freezer- Data recovered. Data Recovery people say do not do it as noted in the linked info but they do have a vested interest in sending to them. I do not claim it works all the time or often, Simply that it ahs worked. Data Recovery firms do work more often but at a significant cost which is often worth that cost. As mentioned in my answer-Risk was low for me –  Dave M Apr 27 at 23:45

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