The short version

I had a disk die on me a year ago. It had been a full-on click of death; the system couldn't see anything let alone mount it. A year later, I stumbled across the same disk, mountable and readable. How can this happen?

The Background

About a year ago, I had a horrible "Click of Death" from the boot disk in my Linux box (the disk also had nearly everything else on it apart from my VMs). I asked Hard Disk makes "Click, click, click ..." noise on system start. Won't boot at the time, seeking help to diagnose the issue, and checking if there was any way to get my data back. In fact, the answers were what taught me the term "Click of Death."

The outcome was I swapped in another disk from an unused workstation and rebuilt the system then restored what files I could from a recent backup. I also greatly strengthened my backup regieme and proceeded to go about my life / work.

As an afterthought I left the dead disk in the unused system I had grabbed its' replacement from. Not sure why, I just did.

Then history repeats itself

Nearly a year later, the same thing happened. This time, my better backup regieme means no important stuff has been lost.

Anyway I commence rebuilding the system, firstly grabbing a snapshot of my VMs from the other disk that's in there. During this time I had cause to fire up the other workstation I'd grabbed the now-dead disk from in the first place and booted from a live cd.

Here begins the mystery

Whilst checking the health of the unused system's second disk, I noticed that not only was the original dead disk powered up, but that Ubuntu had managed to mount it, and I could see all the files. This had not happened last year when I tried the exact same thing just after the disk failed. Naturally, I copied everything remotely important off it, and dropped it to a USB disk. The backups I restored from at the last rebuild meant my total lossage last year was minimal, but still I now have the luxury of looking for a few things I couldn't restore.

The upshot

In short I have a disk that died a year ago. It was dead, gone, kaput. No box I plugged it into could see that the disk was even there, let alone mount anything. Now, a year later it's back to life.

How is this even possible? And is this disk in any way trustworthy?

  • I think common sense dictates not to trust a disk that was known to fail before. I don't know why your disk came back from the dead, but I'd RMA that thing and get a disk back you KNOW you can use. I think I'm saying something pretty obvious, but it has to be said. :) – White Phoenix Jan 8 '12 at 0:30
  • @WhitePhoenix, I agree about the common sense. Nevertheless I am left wondering. Also the thing is way out of warranty so RMA ain't happening. I have bought new disks though. – LRE Jan 8 '12 at 0:38
  • That's interesting. I'd like to know also. – ctzdev Jan 8 '12 at 0:39
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    +1 "The mystery of the Undead HDD" awesome title, should be a geek book title. – Moab Jan 8 '12 at 2:45

In short no the "dead disk" is not trustworthy. You may find that after some period of time and usage that the disk will die again, once the drive heats up.

It has been known for drives with the "click of death" to become recoverable after a period of time, or by using tricks like the freezer method. But in any case I would not use this drive as a system drive or save any important information on to it.

  • well the freezer wasn't directly involved but winter 2011 was rather cold (southern hemisphere - both failures happened during summer) – LRE Jan 8 '12 at 0:42
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    It really does depend on what caused the hard drive to fail in the first place, the freezer method generally works when the motor that spins the disk platter shorts (for lack of a better word). The cold temperature lets the parts contract and move slightly allowing the motor to freely run again for a short period of time. But of course that is just one method, there are many possible reasons as to what caused the drive to fail and why it now appears to be usable now a year later. – Sean Ferguson Jan 8 '12 at 0:48

I would say you can trust it. I had a similar problem with a S.M.A.R.T error in some sectors. The disk won't boot and didn't mount but I could fix the error with a software. The software did really repair some of the corrupt sectors and some where left to mark as corrupt. The disk is now 3 years old and I'm a fanatic user. I recommend to grab this software and format and test your disk again. I did order a replacement but I never used it. It's a Western Digital.

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