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A co-worker handed me a failed Barracuda 7200 RPM 160 GB drive and asked if there was anything I could do with the drive to recover some files. There seems to be a mechanical failure as the drive attempts to spin up on boot and only occasionally does so. Even if it does start to spin, however, my system hangs at the bios splash screen if the drive is connected. The motherboard in my system is a msi 870A-g54.

I'm not at all optimistic about data recovery, but I want to give it my best effort. I'm wondering if my system's refusal to move past the BIOS splash screen is (a) expected behavior or particular to my setup and (b) can be circumvented. In the case of (b), I'm not willing to sacrifice my system for this hard drive, so if the halt-on-bios behavior is meant as a safeguard, I'd be interested in knowing that.

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2 Answers

Use an USB to SATA/PATA converter, that should help being able to boot up to your OS, and then plugging it in. Zou also have multiple tries in one boot, amking the whole thing quicker.

This would have been a wise thing to consider before you attempted to plug a potentially dangerous, already half-dead device to your computer - you always risk everything you have connected to the power supply by just plugging in something unknown.

I'd also recommend using Knoppix, or any other Live CD to do the job, in similar cases I usually do a dd copy of the disk to be archived...

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I agree, I hadn't given much thought to how half-dead hardware affects my system until after the fact. Fortunately in this case I didn't have to learn the hard way. –  bobthechemist Sep 15 '13 at 18:43
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Your question doesn't make it clear how commited you are/how desperate your co-worker is, so I'm not sure if you're just willing to give it a quick shot or if you're determined to get the data off the drive. If it's the former then ppeterka's solution will probably be best.

If you're hardware savvy and your co-worker wants to waste some money then possibilities increase:

  • It sounds like the circuit board of the drive could be damaged. Getting one of the exact same model could allow you to successfully boot it. The riskier way is just to replace the board and try to boot. Hard drives have calibration sectors that tell the head where it has to start reading. If those are inaccessible the head can't read any data any more. Use above mentioned USB-adaptor to hook up the replacement drive, send it to sleep, detach the drive from the circuit board while keeping the board connected to the adaptor. Hook up the dead drive to the board and wake it up. Windows/the BIOS doesn't have to recognize the drive any more since it read that data already off the functioning drive.

  • Open up the drive and check what's creating the problem. There are tools and guides available explaining how to replace the head and even platters. It's a misconception that you need a clean room for such a procedure. You can easily keep the drive running for a short amount of time to get the data off of it. It will be unsafe to keep using it afterwards.

  • Place the drive in a fridge after sealing it off in a plastic bag to shield it from condensation. This is an old hint that has been going around online for a long time. The temperature drop will cause components inside the drive to contract and thus could change its situation enough to become operational for a short amount of time. This only works for certain damages.

Whatever you do, if you get the drive to run then backup the most important files first! That means personal documents have the highest priority. Don't go directly for the porn folder :)

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