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I've got a laptop hard drive that can not be accessed(won't boot up). I've not tried to access using a USB connector. The question is do I attempt to try and salvage from a USB and access the files or do I just send it off to a recovery place? Yes, the data is pretty important.

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closed as not constructive by studiohack Oct 10 '12 at 22:59

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You can try the freezer trick:… It is non-destructive, e.g. if it doesn't work for you, you can still consider data recovery services. Bear in mind, that once you brake the warranty seal on the drive, many data recovery services won't even talk to you (because most DIY recovery attempts destroy whatever was still salvageable there). – haimg Oct 10 '12 at 22:45
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Yes, it is worth trying to access yourself as data recovery services are generally very expensive. You could easily hook the laptop drive up to a PC that has additional SATA ports available to prevent buying a USB enclosure/dock.

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It depends on how important the data is. Recovery is expensive. Think US $1000 and upward for an attempt with no guarantee of success. If the data is that important then leave the drive off. Do not try to recover the data yourself as you might just worsen the situation.

If it is not worth that amount, try this:

  1. Get three or more identical drives. (Same model, preferably same firmware)
  2. Search for data recovery on youtube. There is a lot of cruft, but some clips are quite educative
  3. Put some data on one of the new drives. Swap the head assembly of new drive 1 (with data) and new drive 2. Just to get some experience.
  4. Try recovery by either swapping the elctronics from a working drive to the new one (for broken electronics on the drive. I guess this is about a 1:20 chance) or replace the head assembly. (almost always the reason for a failed drive).
  5. If you replaced the head assembly make sure you (try to) copy the data. Your new rescued drive will fail soon. (Disclaimer: Not if you opened it in a clean room in a lab. If you did the rescue in your home room it will fail. Copy the data to yet another drive).

No guarantee that it will work. In fact, with modern drivers I give you only a small chance of success, unless you practive a lot in a clean room. In which case you might all well spent the money for that on the professional job rather than attempting it yourself.

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This is a very misleading advice. Successful head assembly replacement is not possible outside of a clean room and without proper tools, and electronics replacement is useless unless you copy the eeprom from one unit to the other. What you advised is a waste of time and money. – haimg Oct 10 '12 at 22:40
I partially disagree. I think it is possible. It has a chance of working. Not a good chance, but better than no chance as all. I however do agree that it will kill the drives and it will cost money. The best answer would have been up to date backups. – Hennes Oct 10 '12 at 23:09

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