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We have an older HDD (WD Black 500 GB) that was still in use for the data it had but then at some point, Windows wouldn't boot with the drive installed. I checked with a Linux installation and the main data partition had an unknown filesystem. I decided that the safest would be to use dd to create an image of this partition and then figure out a way to recover the filesystem. When I got to that, I started getting read errors occasionally. Then I found ddrescue and generated a mapfile from the ~11 GB of data I already copied over and proceeded from there.

I got some errors every few seconds but it was progressing fairly quickly (~50 MB/s when not erroring). But I noticed some strange sounds that I didn't think too much about.

I let it run for ~8 hours and then ~8 more the following day, then it started making worse sounds. I have 205 406 MB rescued according to ddrescue, while it was positioned around 300 000 MB so around 100 GB wasn't read properly.

At this point, the HDD stopped responding to basically anything. ddrescue went through all the remaining data right away, checking any SMART data or accessing the device in any way resulted in errors like this (this one is trying to put it on standby):

Error sending ATA command STANDBY IMMEDIATE: Unexpected sense data returned:
0000: 00 00 00 00 ...
0010: 00 00 00 00 ...

With only zeroes. Meanwhile, the HDD stopped making noise and was still spinning. I couldn't do anything besides shutting my computer down. After a while, I decided to try again, since I couldn't find much about this online. My system (Ubuntu) had a hard time booting, it displayed these errors but then eventually booted:

errors

The GUI didn't show the device at first, but I was able to check the SMART status and it still reported that the disk is good (but there are too many read errors and similar). I tried ddrescue again, asking it to retry the areas it failed to read but basically, it wasn't able to read anything (maybe a few KBs) before the HDD locked up again after 20 minutes.

The HDD was making these sounds: before the lock-up, after the lock-up.


Is it still possible to recover data from this HDD? I know that doing this at home is risky but I don't have the money for professional data recovery. Should I be concerned about the noises? The reason I wasn't really concerned before is that it only made weird sounds occasionally. The hard drive wasn't dropped or anything to my knowledge so I didn't think the drive would have a failure that would cause further damage while reading it.

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  • 500GB dying/dead HDD is not worth saving, if the drive is good you can try the plethora of free data recovery software and with luck you may recover the data, but now the HDD is dead trying to recover the data will cost much more money than buying a new HDD, Hard Disk Devices are much cheaper these days than before, a Seagate Barracuda 4TB will only cost you $90. Mar 17, 2021 at 4:34

2 Answers 2

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Your hard drive motor and/or other mechanical components are dead/dying.

The only option for recovery will require physically repairing the components that are failing, which requires very specialized equipment and is costly.

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  • What are the chances that the data is still safe? In case we do end up using a service at some point. I really hope my trials didn't destroy the data...
    – NorbiPeti
    Mar 17, 2021 at 17:09
  • If the data is valuable, you can pay professional data recovery services, but these will be several hundred dollars for that level of data recovery. Mar 19, 2021 at 3:21
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I know I'm a year late to this thread but my info might help the next person so here goes... I have sometimes had luck recovering a drive with a bad motor by putting the drive in a static bag and putting it in the freezer for 30-45 minutes and then immediately reconnecting and restarting ddrescue from its last successful rescue point (obviously you have to create a logfile for this to work). You might have to repeat this procedure several times to complete the rescue depending on the size of the drive, but it's still a lot better than sending it to a recovery lab. Hope this helps someone.

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    "it's still a lot better than sending it to a recovery lab" - if you're willing to take the risk of making the situation worse, and data recovery more costly with a smaller chance of full success.
    – gronostaj
    Apr 18 at 20:50
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