How To Recover Lost Data from Your Hard Drive

Extreme Hard Drive Repair

There are some rather odd hard drive repair suggestions floating around the Internet. Enough people claim that they work that they're worth a look in dire circumstances. If your drive seems to have a mechanical problem or simply a problem you haven't been able to solve, and you're unwilling or unable to get professional data recovery, you might have one last ditch shot at retrieving your data.

Before you try any of these techniques, make sure you're ready to immediately recover your data. The easiest way is to have the connections ready to reconnect the dead drive to a computer with either a DVD burner or a large flash drive to move your critical files to. Also, please remember that these methods may not work and may even cause additional damage to your hard drive. If you have any questions about what you're doing, it's probably best to have a professional look at your hard drive for you.


Sometimes the mechanical parts within a hard drive can get bound up or jammed. A sharp physical shock might free things up long enough to get your data. Keep in mind this is the exact opposite of how you should normally treat a hard drive, so this is really a last resort. First, try whacking the side of the drive with the handle of a screwdriver or a small mallet. If that doesn't help, try the drop method: Hold the drive about 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) above a hard surface and let it fall (make sure the metal chassis is the part it lands on). You might have luck with successive drops from slightly higher up.

The most unusual method of hard drive repair requires you to freeze the drive. The cold temperature shrinks certain metal parts and can free up jams or binds. Put the drive in a sealed plastic bag and then put it in the freezer. Reports vary from a minimum of two hours to 24. If you have nothing else to lose, it's worth a try.

There are some even more extreme forms of hard drive repair, but they can only be accomplished by professionals. Some of these techniques can recover data from drives that have been burned and melted in fires or damaged by water. Even drives that were submerged in floods can have recoverable data on them. The methods involve recovering the platters and using new mechanical parts to read whatever magnetic data is still on them. This absolutely has to be done in a clean room, so there's really no way to do it in your own home. It's expensive, but if you absolutely need that information, it may be worth it to you.

For more information on hard drives and related technologies, spin over to the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Data Recovery Pros. "Data Recovery From a Failed Hard Drive - Dropping Method." (May 14, 2009)
  • Data Recovery Pros. "Data Recovery From a Failed Hard Drive - Freezing Method." (May 14, 2009)
  • PCGuide. "There is an apparent failure of the hard disk; the hard disk is not bootable nor accessible at all." (May 12, 2009)
  • PCGuide. "My hard disk has been diagnosed as legitimately being dead (it cannot be accessed at all). Is there anything I can do to recover the data on it?" (May 12, 2009)
  • Risley, David. "Hard drive failure: warnings and solutions." PCMech. Sept. 27, 2007. (May 11, 2009)
  • SalvageData. "Salvaging Lost Data & Data Recovery Information." (May 13, 2009)