How to Recover Data from a Dead Hard Drive

Chances are good if you are reading this post you are not a happy camper. You are faced with a blinking cursor, a black screen, or funny noises coming from your computer. Take a deep breath and relax. It is fairly rare that a hard drive loses all its data, and with a little luck the only thing this will cost you is a bit of time.

There are two likely scenarios here. The most common reason for a hard drive to suddenly stop functioning is a corrupt system file, also called a logical failure. This occurs when data is accidentally overwritten, or some other error in a data sector has occurred. The other reason is that the hard drive has been mechanically damaged. You may be able to recover the data yourself from a problem with a corrupt file, so let’s visit that one first.

Let’s Go To Work

Unless you accidentally overwrote your files, most or all of them should still be available. First, locate and remove your hard drive. It is likely a marked three or four inch square at the bottom rear or side of your computer. Unscrew the plate and disconnect it.
Using a USB adapter attach the hard drive to another computer, preferably one with plenty of disc space. It will show up on your desktop as an additional drive on that computer. Download a free diagnostic tool and a free data recovery program from the internet.

Let The Computer Go To Work

Run the diagnostic tool, which will tell you whether and how much data is recoverable. When this is complete, run the recovery program. Upon prompting, select the failed drive as your source and create a folder on the desktop to use as your target.
Make sure that you do not write files to the original failed drive, as this will overwrite the data there, and may cause other problems. Once this step has been completed, check your files in the new folder. Barring complications, they should all be there for use or transfer onto a new computer.

Let Someone Else Go To Work

If you hear a clicking sound, or any repeating noise from your drive, there is a pretty good chance the problem is mechanical. Fixing this issue is not a job for most computer users, and you will need to seek the aid of a professional. If you cannot find a business locally, and you have access to another computer, there are several companies online that offer crash recovery services, including Iomega and Seagate i365.


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