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I have a hard drive which seems to be damaged. I took it out of the notebook and plugged it into another one with no result. Now I am trying to get the data off of it with a SATA-to-USB adapter.

The HDD is found in Windows Explorer and shown as local disk, but when I click on it, it simply loads and loads and nothing happens. Also, when I tried to "access" it from the Command Prompt (with cd E:\), nothing happens.

What can I do to get my data back?

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From what you've described, it doesn't sound likely you will recover any data from the drive. Will it let you run CHKDSK on it? – CharlieRB Apr 12 '13 at 15:42
Never ever run chkdsk on a drive that has symptoms of HDD crash. chkdsk cannot repair physical repair. Most modern file system cope very well with bad sectors and chkdsk mostly tries to fix errors relating to OS rather than HDD. SO its useless here. – ppumkin Apr 12 '13 at 16:01
I am with @ppumkin,DON'T RUN CHKDSK! – jmreicha Apr 12 '13 at 16:05
Do you mean that the hard drive got damaged when you took it out of the notebook, or that you took it out of the notebook because it seemed to be damaged? If the latter, how did the drive get damaged? How did the drive behave in the laptop it was originally in? – Indrek Apr 13 '13 at 0:05
What can I do to get my data back? Restore from your regular backups. – Apr 15 '13 at 9:32

The first thing you MUST do if you want your data back is stop abusing it!

Most common problems with hard drives ...

  • Clicking (head crash - caused by wear and tear)
  • Scratching (serious head crash cause by enormousness gravitational shock)
  • Buzzing noise (does not spin up either because of seized spindle or head stick)
  • Unresponsive (lots of bad sectors developed in data area)
  • Does not detect (failure of data in service area or firmware corruption)
  • Detects but cannot read (bad sectors on MFT - Some software can reconstruct but results vary)

That is a very simple list and unfortunately they expand into a more complicated subset of problems. The only problem you can deal with your self if MFT corruption. But you first know 100% that is the problem. If you start a long reconstruction process and it turns out to be something else you will destroy the HDD completely.

The best software that is available to end users is WinHex - It is not easy to use but it is a good forensics programme.

I would not recommend using tools like Spinrite.

If your data is very important then just fork out and get a pro to do it. A reasonable price is about £450 - Depending on your area you can use the hddguru forum to research professionals in your area. Be careful of cowboys who will charge thousands and return a door stopper.

Good Luck - And be sensible...


You might search the internet for tips and advice. These do not work.

  • Put the hard drive in a freezer for 24 hours (this will cause damp damage after it thaws out)
  • replace the PCB (it could work but if it does not the data will be lost forever because PCB's have unique firmware that write data to service areas. Replacing one PCB will overwrite the old PCB;s service areas - overwrite = deleted forever)
  • Open the drive (Drives should only be opened in clean rooms - because even a small spec of dust can get stuck under the head and scratch the perfect surface of the platter - and cause serious head crash. Turning your HDD into a door stop)
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+1 for comprehensiveness. I'll add two tips that in the right circumstances work: if the spindle is stuck, cooling (not freezing) the drive often can get it unstuck for the short time required to extract essential data. Other times, imparting a quick "twist" will also un-stick the spindle. But if the problem is not with the spindle being stuck, then either trick will accomplish exactly NOTHING. – lserni Apr 15 '13 at 10:04

The first thing I can think of to try would be making a bootable Linux Live CD and see if you are able to read the files off the dying drive. Something like Knoppix would work well.

If you are not sure if the drive is being seen by the OS, you can check by running a fdisk -l to see the drives that are mounted.

From there, if you are able to see the drive, see what can bee copied off onto a known good device.

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I have had success in the past by getting an identical disk and swapping the circuit board between them. Of course this works if the circuit board is where the problem lies. Worth a shot if you already have a spare.

As a last resort, you could try opening the "can" and swapping the platters to a new unit, but that should theoretically be done in a clean-room and is fraught with peril. You are more likely to destroy your data and your spare. This is what the professionals do - better to pay them to do it right.

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Just trying to replace the PCB without actually knowing if it is the PCB is very very very bad! Sometimes putting an identical PCB will wipe the Service Area data and all the data will be lost . forever and ever. You should play the lottery cause you are one lucky sun of a gun that you had luck with that. Anyway. Bad advice! -1 – ppumkin Apr 15 '13 at 9:11
PS -1 million for adviaizng to open the hard drive! And - 1 million for suggestion to move the platters. No human in the world can realign the platters if moved separately. Not even a machine can do it. Moving platters - professionals can do it but it costs about 50,000USD because its more complicated than brain surgery. – ppumkin Apr 15 '13 at 9:14
PCB swapping will work - almost always - if the two disks are absolutely identical, i.e., if possible, same manufacture lot. It will not work otherwise, and as @ppumkin says, there's a very real possibility of losing data. Swapping platters... just smash the unopened disk with a sledgehammer, hard, several times. You get the exact same results, recovery-wise, but it is a lot quicker and sometimes satisfying. – lserni Apr 15 '13 at 10:00
@Iserni - You are wrong. Two disks cannot be absolutely identical- How can 2 things be the same 1 thing! Each PCB builds its own "area mapping" on the pcb eprom - even the same PCB if it factory reset will rebuild the "area mapping" - completely different than first time. It is dynamic and nothing to do with PCB- It is the firmware. Then these dynamic areas are stored in the service area (a hidden part of the hard drive to store data for the PCB) - PCB Swap used to work 100% on drives smaller than 80GB. To swap PCB today you need to swap eprom too!(not easy) – ppumkin Apr 15 '13 at 10:07
Admittedly I had success with the PCB swap on an older drive some time ago. Didn't I say "last resort" loud enough? – Julian Apr 15 '13 at 18:36

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