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I have seven or eight IDE hard drives (and one SCSI) that used to be in computers I used to have. I got rid of the computers, but kept the drives, thinking I would copy the data from them someday. The oldest drives were last used around 1996, and the newest drives were used around 2006.

I bought a universal hard drive adapter kit and tried to read the hard drives with my Mac Pro.

Two of the drives -- the most recently used, I think -- I was able to see with Mac's Disk Utility and create disk images from. One of the drives is SCSI, and I don't have a SCSI adapter, and am wondering if it's worth buying one just to see if I can get the data off the drive.

The rest of the drives don't show up at all in Disk Utility. I attached the universal drive adapter to an Ubuntu VM running on VMware Fusion. KDE's graphical disk utility on Ubuntu could see the drive, but the drive appeared blank -- no partition table, no filesystem, no data. (Now, I can't remember if it correctly reported the size of the hard drive.) I tried formatting one of them, but that failed; I was trying to see if the drive was functional, if blank, but couldn't conclusively prove either.

Actually, one of the drives wouldn't power on. Unsure if that is due to the drive being broken, or maybe the voltage is wrong?

So, there you have it. Many drives, apparently without data. I'm trying to figure out what reasonable steps I can take myself to determine whether or not there is any data I can recover (myself). I don't want to waste much more time on this, as I'd rather move on with my life, and the data, while precious to me at the time, is not something to hang my current happiness on.

Was reading stuff about the life expectancy of hard drives. Is it likely that the drives just got too old and lost the data? Getting ahead of myself, as I'd like to be sure the data is actually gone before I start doing a post-mortem. :-)

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Mechanical drives do not get "old" and lose data. As you have found the worst thing you have to worry about is, trying to figure out how to connect them, to a modern computer. Are you sure the universla hdd adapter kit supported the hdds? –  Ramhound Sep 6 '12 at 11:53
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Mechanical drives DO "get old", but the aging is mostly mechanical. The most common problem, especially in a drive that's been sitting unused, is that the spindle will not start up, due to sticky bearings or "stiction". Sometimes you can get the drive spinning by applying power as you twist the drive or tap it tangentially (and once "exercised" the drive may continue to start semi-reliably). The platters also lose magnetism over time, but the rate of loss is exceedingly slow. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 6 '12 at 12:11
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But if you want to know for certain that the drive is unrecoverable, drill a hole through it and pour in acid. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 6 '12 at 12:12
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(And, of course, there is the issue of address select jumpers on some drives. They may not be set the "standard" way.) –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 6 '12 at 12:14
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Safety goggles and a 5 pound hammer should do it. –  Moab Sep 6 '12 at 14:49

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