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How To Diagnose And Fix A Dead Hard Drive To Recover Data

Several years ago, I experienced a hard drive failure. I was at work when my laptop suddenly started to act
particularly strange. First, I thought it was because I had too many windows open and the RAM was full, but when the
problems persisted after a reboot, I knew it was more than that. I immediately started to back up recent files. About
half an hour later, the hard drive failed audibly and the laptop wouldn’t boot anymore.
Thank God I had backups! Except that I didn’t have backups of everything. Just weeks earlier my backup drive had
reached capacity. To back up important work files, I had decided to delete my personal photos. The irony was that I
had already purchased a new external drive, but had not taken the time to back up my photos. Now they were lost and
I was devastated.
Over the next couple of weeks I researched ways to recover the data and considered doing everything under the sun
— and did most of it — to revive the old hard drive. I eventually did recover my data, but not in the way you would
expect. If your hard drive has failed physically, maybe this little guide can help you or at least give you some hope.
So roll up your sleeves and get to work.
External Hard Drive? Check Whether The IDE / SATA to USB Enclosure Is OK!
When your external hard drive fails, it can do so for all the same reasons an internal drive can fail. Sometimes,
however, it’s not the drive that stops working, but a connection within the enclosure! And in that case, the drive is
easy to revive.
Before you open up any hardware, be sure to discharge your body’s static electricity, i.e. ground yourself. Remove the
hard drive from its casing and use a IDE / SATA data cable and power connector to install the drive internally on your
desktop computer. Alternatively, you can get an IDE / SATA to USB adapter or a new USB enclosure, so you can
hook the drive up externally via USB.

The image above shows a SATA connector (left) and an IDE connector (right).
Once you re-connected the external drive to your computer, given the enclosure was the culprit, Windows should
recognize it and assign a drive letter. If this doesn’t happen, you can try to manually find your drive to further narrow
down the issue; the process is described further down.
Internal Hard Drive? Make Sure The Hard Drive Connections Are OK!
Sometimes, it’s not the drive that failed, but the physical connection of cables that connect the drive with the
computer’s motherboard. You can only wish that this is your problem! So before you hire an expensive technician,
make sure the data and power cables are firmly connected on both ends.
To prevent hazards to your health, it’s essential to turn off the computer and unplug the power cord. As mentioned
above, you also need to discharge your body’s static electricity, i.e. ground yourself before you get working on your
computer’s internals. Then open up the case and make sure all connections are OK. Our guide on how to physically
install an internal hard drive shows which connections to watch out for.
Once you have made sure the connections are OK, boot the computer again. If you have a desktop computer, you can
leave the case open, but stay clear of its interior.
What’s That Sound?
As you are trying to get the hard drive to run, listen to the sound it is making. Is it completely dead? Or is it still
spinning? What exactly does it sound like? Compare your sound to the list of hard drive sounds provided by Data
Cent. This will help you diagnose the type of damage.
The damage can be either internal or external. A clicking sound, for example, is suggestive of a malfunctioning head,
i.e. internal damage. A completely dead drive, on the other hand, could be due to a faulty printed circuit board (PCB),
which would be external damage.
Is The Hard Drive Recognized?
Sometimes, you can hear your drive spinning, but it never pops up. Or maybe it’s completely dead. To pinpoint the
type of damage, try to manually check whether or not the drive is recognized by your computer.
You can do this via the BIOS in case it’s the primary hard drive and your computer no longer boots. After you turn on
the computer, enter the BIOS by pressing a trigger key, which could be [DEL], [ESC], [F2], or [F10], depending on
the manufacturer. Within the BIOS, navigate through the available menus to find where it lists which types of drives
are connected to the computer. Usually, this information is found under the Advanced menu, but you might also find
it indirectly under Boot settings.

If you have hooked up the drive to another computer, you don’t need to access the BIOS at all. In Windows, click the
key combination [Windows] + [R], which will launch the Run input window. Type cmd into the field and hit [Enter].
This will open the Command Prompt. Here type diskpart and hit [Enter], to open the respective tool. In the diskpart
window, type list volume and hit [Enter] to show all drives connected to your computer.

If the drive is recognized and thus appears in the list above, but doesn’t show up as an accessible drive, chances are
Windows only recognizes the PCB, but the drive itself is damaged (internal damage). In other words, if the drive is
recognized in any shape or form, the PCB is most likely working and replacing it will not fix the hard drive!
Is The Printed Circuit Board Broken?
As mentioned previously, your drive can be damaged internally or externally. The external PCB, if damaged, is
relatively easy to replace. However, data recovery specialists warn that swapping the PCB can ruin the drive and
cause you to lose all data on it. So if you do care about your data, better err on the side of caution.
Even if you can see that your PCB is damaged, there might still be internal damage. Moreover, as mentioned above,
replacing the circuit board yourself can damage your drive further, which reduces your chances of recovering your
data. Now that you have been warned extensively, here is a video that explains how to swap the PCB.
Note that many websites now sell PCBs and provide guides to find exactly the right circuit board for your drive. You
can easily find them on Google. So if you really can’t or don’t want to afford professional help and are certain that
(only) the PCB is damaged, those resources might save you a lot of money and your data if you’re lucky. Or not.
Witchcraft & Wizardry
When my hard drive failed, the PCB was fine; the drive was still recognized and spinning, but it didn’t show up in
Windows, meaning I could not access it, and no software recovery tool could help me, either. So I put my last hope
into some of those obscure tricks that you’ll find floating around the Internet, like shaking the drive, hitting it onto a
hard surface, exposing it to dry heat in the oven, or sticking it in the freezer overnight. If you have any idea how a
hard drive works, then any of these methods should give you the shivers!

Well, I didn’t dare to melt my drive, but my suspicion was that the head was stuck. So I did shake it, but to no avail.
Since I could follow the reasoning, I also wrapped my drive in an airtight Ziploc back and stuck it in the freezer
overnight. The idea is that the low temperatures cause metals to shrink and contract. So if the head was stuck, the cold
might get it unstuck. In practice, that didn’t work either. And I probably caused condensation to settle on the hard
drive platter, which could have caused a lot more damage. I eventually gave up and stored the drive for a future in
which I was hoping to be able to afford professional data recovery.
Backup Strategy Advice
One last thought about the weird methods above: If they do work, they will only work temporarily! So be prepared.
Know exactly what you want to back up and how. Have the right software to quickly back up your data and have
enough storage space available. If you want to copy files manually, only copy one set of files at a time! If you make
the head jump back and forth between too many files by kicking off multiple copy and paste processes, you will slow
down the overall backup process and increase the likelihood of a fatal head crash.
Hard drive sounds
These are some typical sounds we hear in our data recovery lab. If your hard drive makes noises like
these and you are still able to access your files - backup immediately. Click on the drive manufacturer to
learn more about common problems these drives experience. - Good Website for HD Problems Info

Western Digital - WD error Sound.rar
Western Digital desktop drive with bad heads clunking.
Western Digital 500GB desktop drive with bad heads slowly clicks a few times and spins down.
Western Digital 250GB desktop drive with head crash clicks a few times, then spins down.
Western Digital 250GB desktop drive with stuck spindle can't spin up, chatters.
Western Digital laptop drive with bad heads making clicking sound.
Western Digital 200GB desktop drive with bad preamplifier chip (located on the headstack)
clicks a few times, spins down.
Western Digital desktop drive with unstable heads clicks a few times and stops spinning.
Western Digital laptop hard drive with stuck spindle trying to spin up with siren.
Western Digital 500GB desktop hard drive with bad bearings can't gain full rotational speed.

Seagate desktop drive with failing heads making thrashing, then clicking sound.
Seagate desktop drive with bad heads slowly clicks and beeps on spin up.
Seagate laptop drive with bad heads making clicking/knocking sound.
Seagate desktop drive with seized spindle trying to spin up.
Seagate Momentus laptop drive with bad heads making nasty drilling noise.

Maxtor desktop drive with bad heads making clicking/knocking/beeping noise.
Maxtor drive with bad heads making steady clicking/knocking sound.
Maxtor desktop drive with stuck spindle playing futuristic cell phone melody.
Maxtor drive with stuck spindle and musical siren again.
Samsung 80GB desktop hard drive with bad heads making fast clicking sound.
Samsung desktop hard drive with bad heads clicks, then spins down.
Samsung 40GB desktop hard drive with bad head knocks a few times.
Samsung desktop drive with degraded media making scratching sound when hitting bad sectors.

Hitachi laptop drive with bad heads clicks once on spin up, then beeps.
IBM desktop drive with degraded media making scratching sound when hitting area with bad sectors.
Hitachi/IBM laptop drive with bad heads making clicking sound.
IBM 40GB desktop hard drive with degraded media/heads rattles and squeals on spin up.
Hitachi 60GB laptop drive with stuck spindle can't spin up, makes humming/buzzing noise.
Toshiba laptop hard drive with stuck spindle trying to spin up(heard if taken close to your ear).
Toshiba laptop drive with failing bearings making grinding sound.
Toshiba laptop drive with bad bearings making loud grinding sound.
Toshiba laptop drive with bad bearings making nasty drilling/screaming sound.
Toshiba laptop drive with bad heads making clicking/sweeping sound on boot up.

Fujitsu laptop drive with bad heads making clicking/knocking noise.
Fujitsu laptop hard drive with bad heads making sweeping sound.
Fujitsu 40gb desktop drive with bad media making scratching noise.

Quantum desktop drive with bad heads making clunking sound.
Data Recovery for Dummies: simple way to rescue your files
In this article we will describe logical data recovery from a hard disk drive or other storage device in perfect
physical conditions. If you suspect your storage device has any kind of physical damage – do not try to use any
recovery or test software on it. Provided methods can be used right away and without any special knowledge.
The bolt from the blue
So, you boot the PC and see that one of your logical drives has disappeared or even the whole partition marked
as “unformatted”? Or the drive seems OK, but you missing some files and folders or getting “File cannot be
opened” / “Wrong file format” errors?
Or maybe you have accidentally deleted important files or installed Windows onto a partition where you stored
family photos? Selecting wrong drive during the partition table creation is another common reason of data loss.
Who's to blame?
The most common reason for the faults of first type is errors in the partition table or in the file system
structures. They can appear after incorrect or unplanned system shutdown, software or hardware failures or
as a result of virus activity. Another possible reason is a partial damage to the disk surface (also known as bad
sectors). Unfortunately, on modern drives bad sectors can be found after a few weeks or even after a few days
of use.
If your data was lost due to the user mistake, then I think we need no further explanation for this reason :)
What to do?
If you haven't copied or moved any new files over, then the old data is still physically exists, but all references
to original files and folders in the file system now removed or corrupted. So you need to locate that data on the
storage device and read it properly.
When data has been physically overwritten on a hard disk (e.g. you have formatted your drive and installed a
new OS) it is generally assumed that complete recovery of the previous data is impossible. In this case your
chances to rescue the information depend on your luck and proportion between the lost and written data. For
example if you have accidentally deleted 1GB of business data and then copied 50GB of family video onto the
same logical drive, your chances to get original data back are very slim. It should be noted that programs like
Windows ScanDisk tend to make everything even worse, since they delete file system structures (like MFT in
NTFS), which they unable to interpret.
To recover your data you may want to use special data rescue software. Such programs usually scan the whole
storage device and collect file system information. These scan results can be used to build a map of file
fragments and directory tree. This map describes relations between files and clusters, file names, sizes and
other file system attributes — everything that was found during the scan process. If this isn't enough for
recovery, then special extrapolation methods may be used to complement scan results. After that recovery
program can read selected files and folders in accordance with the file map and copy them to another media.
According to my experience, if your storage device is in good order, then all the recoverable information can be
rescued using the tools described below. Only in certain cases low-level recovery can increase amount of
salvaged information.
There is a certain probability that data loss has been caused by a physical failure of a drive. And possibly you
will not be able to determine nature of such a failure without special tools and skills. Although software that we
are going to use does not perform any destructive actions (it will not write anything on the drive we recover
the files from), attempts to perform any rescue operations on a drive with physical damage will worsen the
situation, up to complete impossibility of recovering anything at all. So if you have lost critically important
information, you should contact a professional data recovery company.
What tool to use?
There is plenty of data recovery software on the market offering different algorithms and each of them can be a
better solution depending on exact situation.
To make this article suitable for a wide readership I will describe the UFS Explorer Standard Recovery
software. The reason for this choice is that program supports recovery from wide variety of file systems and
can be run under different operating systems. Needless to say that most modern storage devices are supported.
Besides, authors of this program offer even more affordable software editions, limited to the single file system
support. These editions are functional and cost-effective data recovery solution for accidental data losses and a
great way to save for experienced users.
If your PC has only one hard drive then it's highly recommended to connect that HDD to another computer,
especially if you need to recover data from the logical drive with OS installed. If such option is unavailable then
at least do not install the software onto the drive you need to restore information from! As we said above,
every writing operation can be tragic for the lost files since the space they occupy is marked as available for
An additional way to perform the same manipulations safely is to run the software from the UFS Explorer
Recovery CD: this will help to avoid writing to your storage device and allow saving rescued files to any
external drive, flash stick or network folder.
How to do?
Download UFS Explorer and install it onto your machine (in this article I'm using ver. 4.6). Please note: you
should never download or install any software onto the logical drive, containing lost files — this may
overwrite your valuable data and cause its permanent loss.
Before purchasing the software you can download the fully functional demo to test if your files can be
recovered. The only limitation of the trial version is that you'll be able to save only small files.
1. After running the “UFS Explorer Standard Recovery” shortcut, you will see the main program window.
Its left part contains list of all storage devices (with corresponding partitions) connected to your
system. When you click any of these drives or partitions you will see a brief summary about the
selected device or partition in the right panel.
Found storage devices are marked by the hard drive icon; found partitions are marked by round icons,
which change their color depending on supposed state of the partition. Green icon means that initial
analysis has shown satisfactory condition of the partition; yellow - potential problems or slight
damage; red - partition errors; grey - the file system type cannot be detected.
You can view the content of the nonfaulty partitions by double-clicking the corresponding partition in
the left panel or by selecting it and clicking “Explore” button at the top of right panel.
In certain cases lost information can be accessible in UFS Explorer without any scan, so you may skip
further steps and recover your files right away.

2. To start the recovery process first of all you have to select the partition, which was used to store the
files you wish to recover — if partition is visible just click on it with the left mouse button and
proceed to the p.3.
If file system is damaged and drive has no visible partitions (or the required one didn't show up in the
program), select the proper drive and click “Find partition” button at the top of the right panel. Click
“Find now” in the opened window and select appropriate file system(-s) and scanning range in the
“Define scan parameters” dialog. After the partition search completes select one or more found
partition(-s) to be used as the source of data to rescue. After you click “Use selected” button,
corresponding partitions will appear in the left panel of the main window, so you will be able to select
them to perform the data scan.

3. When source partition is selected, click “Recover” button at the top of right panel, “Data Recovery:
general scan parameters” dialog will appear. Here you can select the file system which was used on the
partition and set a scanning range.
Most probably you don't need to change anything here, because the program will detect and set
proper parameters automatically.
“Recover” button also available during browsing of a partition at the top of the main window.

4. After clicking “Next” you will see “Data Recovery: ... file system” dialog, which contains additional
recovery options. By default “Search for deleted files” option is set, so this is what the program will do.
“Reconstruct the file system” option should be used if drive missing a partition or if you are going to
rescue data after file system failure - program will attempt to reconstruct the file system using found
fragments of information.
IntelliRAW is a search method that ignores found fragments of file systems and performs raw file
search using known file signatures. Enable this if the reconstruction didn't help or you haven't found
required data. IntelliRAW uses sophisticated algorithm that makes it much more powerful than a
plain raw file search.
Click “Start” button to start scanning process. Scanning a 300 GB HDD could take up to a few hours,
while scanning of a 2GB flash drive requires just a few minutes. Overall speed depends greatly on a
particular model and technical condition of the device.

5. When scan is complete you will be returned to the file system explorer window, where you will see the
results. The interface used for browsing is very similar to the Windows Explorer — with tree-styled list
of virtual folders on the left and their contents on the right.
In the left part of the window you will see virtual folders with scan results:
- “... file system” (marked with a little green ball) is just an overview of files available directly, without
any recovery operations.
- “Deleted files” - list of the deleted files and folders.
- “Reconstructed file system” is a virtual folder that contains results of the file system reconstruction.
- “Detected by type” contains files found with the IntelliRAW recovery method.
Note that number of virtual folders depends on the options you have set on step 4, so if you haven't
enabled all four scanning methods you won't see some of these folders.

6. Browse through the folders to find the data you need to recover. When you found required file(-s) or
folder(-s), right-click on it and select “Copy to...” in the drop-down menu. Then select the destination
folder and click “Save”. Note: the destination folder MUST be on other logical drive! Even better
if it's on other physical drive or storage device.
Instead of copying you can preview any file - just right-click on it and select “Open”. This operation
requires a temporary folder, program will offer to set its location if you haven't done that before
(choose other logical drive!).
Now check the files you just salvaged — if everything is OK then you can sigh with relief :)

Before closing the program make sure that you restored everything you wanted or save the scanning results
(right-click on any of virtual folders in the left panel and select “Save this recovery result”). Otherwise you'll
need to scan your drive once again even if you need to recover just one more file