I am helping a family member with a dead hard disk. It is a seagate 200Gb 3.5" HDD in one of those old-school external enclosures. The problem was that windows failed to detect the hard disk when plugged in through USB.

I removed the hard disk from its enclosure, and plugged it into my desktop PC. The BIOS does detect it upon POST, but unfortunately windows 7 would refuse to boot. It will get stuck on the loading screen with the glowing windows logo. Safe mode doesn't help either.

What options do I have before going for some professional data recovery?

edit: Someone modified the Title to something completely different from what I was asking, i just changed it back.

1) 2 HDD drives, DiskA(Dead), DiskB(my OS disk)

2) when B is connected to my system, everything works fine

3) when A AND B is connected, failure to boot. POSTs fine, but windows wont load

4) A has NO OS, its PURE data. It came from an EXTERNAL HDD enclosure which doesnt belong to me, and im trying to do data recovery.

  • It's possible that the USB enclosure is defective. Do you have another enclosure to use or a dock you can hot-swap it into? The fact that the BIOS recognizes it, try booting from your own OS on your own HDD on the desktop PC. Have the HDD you're trying to backup as a slave or a secondary HDD and see if you can recover the content that way. – ngen Feb 3 '11 at 17:10
  • @ngen The HDD in question is a pure data HDD. I was booting from my own OS on my own HDD, but windows wont load up. – aCuria Feb 3 '11 at 17:37
  • I agree with the USB likely being the problem. USB devices have trouble being detected correctly far more often than hard drives (ie IDE/SATA) do. Try connecting the drive directly to the computer via the IDE/SATA controller. – Synetech Feb 3 '11 at 21:22
  • Is it a paralel (40 pins) ATA drive? If that is the case try setting both to single and putting them on different ATA controllers (that is, two ATA rows on the motherboard, not both on the same cable). Alternatively set one drive to MASTER and one to SLAVE and do connect them, on the same cable. Do not put both one slave. DO not put both on master. Do check if the drive in the USB was set to single or master. Adjust the jumpers when you move it from the USB case to the desktop. – Hennes Nov 6 '14 at 8:23

You can plug the drive in as a slave and run TestDisk on it. TestDisk is a free and open source data recovery solution, I've had good luck with it in the past.

By the sounds of it this is purely hardware related but it's always worth a try.

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  • TestDisk requires an OS to run. Right now, I have no luck getting into any OS with that disk in my system. The com does POST fine, but windows refuses to load - rather weird since its not my system drive imo – aCuria Feb 3 '11 at 17:41
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    What about the OS you're on right now?..... Attach the drive as a slave and run testdisk from a working machine. – John T Feb 3 '11 at 18:02

I know that this may sound odd but... Place it in a ziplock or similar bag with as much air removed as you can and put it in the freezer for a few hours or overnight. Remove and connect as quickly as possible and see what happens. Sometimes a longer stay in the freezer helps. If a mechanical problem, it may help. It has worked for me a number of times.

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    +1. If it's a mechanical problem, this can revive it but you have to work VERY fast. A couple of days in the freezer will give you 30 minutes if you're lucky. (You can, in theory, run data and power cables INTO the freezer if you really want to live on the edge to extend the time this will work...haha) – Shinrai Feb 3 '11 at 17:19
  • Thanks. I am trying this now, will report back. I dont have cables THAT long though haha – aCuria Feb 3 '11 at 17:37
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    @aCuria - Good luck, just don't get it wet. :) Works best if you have a machine ready and booted up with the enclosure ready to pop it in and IMMEDIATELY start pulling data off. You're in triage mode at this point - get what you can. The drive itself is probably irrecoverable if you're having issues detecting it (and you'll be lucky if this works more than once or twice). Of course, there's always the SLIGHT possibility that it's the enclosure and the drive itself is fine but uh, I doubt it...;) – Shinrai Feb 3 '11 at 18:16
  • No go, I left the HDD in the fridge for 8hrs, cant get the thing detected. Im sure its not the enclosure at this point, was using a direct ATA connection – aCuria Feb 4 '11 at 6:20
  • You said fridge. Did you mean freezer? I had one drive that was undetected after 8 or more hours. Left it for two weeks and recoverd all data. Over 500GB – Dave M Feb 4 '11 at 13:32

You might be able to access the drive via a linux bootable CD or flash drive. Ubuntu works nice. There are also some recovery tools like clonezilla (a disk cloning program) and also ultimate boot cd which has disk diagnostic testing.

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  • I tend to go with GParted for these types of problems. – boehj Apr 25 '11 at 3:40

MY name is Chris and I work for Armor-IT Data Recovery.

First and foremost, the above advice may have lowered your chances of success, I have heard this myth about freezing far too many times. So many so that we actually posted a debunking FAQ on our company website. This usually doesn't harm anything but depending how old the drive and the state of the breather hole filter it can destroy drives that have taken on even minimal amounts of humidity over time.

Your first step should have been, and should now be, purchase a new enclosure with the same IDE/SATA connections as the original, boot the computer to windows and head to www.seagate.com, download the Seatools utility and install it. Once the install is complete, connect the new enclosure and wait for windows to identify the enclosure and hopefully drive.

Once this is done, usually under 2 minutes, start the Seatools program and let it scan for drives, this can take upwards of an hour in cases with failing drives. Find your external drive under the USB section(if it's not here, you need a pro), check the box next to it and the click on the basic tests button. Click short generic, then let the test run. If this fails you're dealing with notable hardware issues and should send the drive to a company like ours in your area.

If it passes, it's likely a candidate for a DIY recovery, check the same box then click basic tests then select long generic. If it passes proceed with DIY methods, if it fails, know that the drive is on it's last legs, if your data is worth money, accounting data, business records, etc. Send it to a pro, if it's personal stuff you can afford to lose you can gamble on a DIY method.

If you decide to try a DIY method our company offers advice on the best do it yourself methods as well to help out customers who either can't afford or can't justify professional rates.

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  • Hi, It wont work when directly connected, so I dont think another enclosure is going to do anything for it. Enclosure is working fine actually, its the disk that is dead. – aCuria Mar 2 '11 at 20:26
  • Sorry I've been away and haven't logged in in a while. If it is the drive there are still options for recovery but it looks like an in lab recovery would be necessary. If you reply back with your location I ca recommend a facility near you. – Chris - Armor-IT Apr 27 '11 at 2:04

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