Losing your data to a broken hard drive is one of the most devastating experiences one could have using a computer of any kind. But at what point can you actually conclude that you have irreclaimably lost your data to such a broken disk? Or better still, how do you verify with absolute certainty that your disk is in fact broken and your data lost? It is hard to provide a one-line answer to these questions, different sources will provide you different answers that could even be conflicting at times.
One thing though remains certain, there are different levels of breakdown that a traditional mechanical hard disk would experience over its lifetime. From producing some unusually loud spinning sounds when it still works fine to low pitch clicks while spinning. These low pitch clicks normally graduate to higher pitches and an eventual breakdown.
In other cases, you may observe a recurring sequence of beeps that sound like the disk is attempting to get on full speed but keeps getting clogged by obstacles. Under such conditions, you might not be able to access any data from the disk and there are high chances that your disk head has gotten stuck on the platter, we will get back to that later in this article.
There is, of course, a total breakdown where nothing happens entirely when you attach your hard disk to a computer or some other kind of hard disk reader. In all of these scenarios, one can always attempt to recover the data stored on the disk.
For situations where the disk or some other data storage device is still detected by the computer, we recommend first scanning the disk with a data recovery software to see if your files are still recoverable. We highly recommend Disk Drill for this purpose. With the free version, you’re able to check what files can still be recovered from your disk before deciding if you need a premium edition for complete data recovery.
The odds of recovering your data would depend on the level of breakdown of the disk and the tools you have available. From reattaching your disk more firmly to seeking the help of data recovery experts who use specialized equipment to try to recover your data.
Attempting to repair a broken hard disk by any means is generally risky. As such following any of the procedures described in this article is at your own risk. The approach in this article is a last resort situation, mainly for situations where the data contained in the disk is not worth investing in a professional repair or situations where you could as well dispose of the broken disk. If you choose to proceed with these suggestions, take care that you perform these operations in a dust-free environment, especially if you try the fix that involves opening the hard disk to revel the components. The hard disk is mainly a magnetic medium in the form of a platter. It consists of very sensitive electronics for reading and writing to the medium. Damage is commonly caused by shock due to fall or extreme vibrations. In the event of opening the hard drive, any kind of dent or fracture to the magnetic medium could effectively render your disk useless and your data irreclaimable. The next precaution is to decide what level of importance is the data contained in the disk. If you have some really important information stored on your disk and you think is worth seeking the help of a professional, then go for it. If you have high-level professional data, then you might consider waiting for the official declaration of data loss by the appropriate legal entity before proceeding with such a DIY solution. If none of this applies to you and you just want to see if you can recover your stored music and video files, then you can take a chance to perform a surgical operation on your disk and see if you can get it back to life.
CHECK 1: Check for Loose Connections
This solution is still in the way of caution. It is usually safer to start up with simple solutions like this. Here all you will be doing is to detach and clean the disk connector and then re-seat it firmly back to the connector and see if your disk gets back to life. As earlier described, most breakdowns suffered by hard drives are caused by shock, fall, or extreme vibrations. These are conditions that could also lead to your drive getting displaced from the connector or getting loose.
A slight displacement can lead to a lack of contact and invariable your drive won’t be recognized by the computer. If you are working on a desktop and notice a heavy buildup of dust around your hard drive, then detaching and cleaning up the connectors could be all you need to get your drive working again. But if you think that is not the cause of the problem in your case, then keep reading.
CHECK 2: Check if Your Drive is in Any Way Recognized by Windows
This is another check that can help you understand the situation of your hard drive better. One way to do this will be to check from your BIOS settings. Given that the BIOS is independent of your hard drive, and yet it registers all detected hard drives. As such you can go into your BIOS and check to see if the faulty disk is recognized.
If you already have the drive detached from your computer, then you can check from another functional Windows PC to see if is recognized. In this case, there are different ways to check. First would be to observe the device connection sound that is normally heard when USB devices are attached.
If you get this sound, wait a bit and check your Computer folder to see if the disk is mounted. If not, then go to your Windows search and type “Create and format hard disk partitions”, click on the corresponding result from the search. On the Disk Management window that pops up, check for any disk other than your C drive and compare the size to see if it corresponds with the external disk you attached.
If you find it here, then check to see if there is any error sign or note around it, also check and see that the disk is initialized. If not initialized, you can follow the instructions here to initialize the disk and have your disk fully mounted on the computer. If your external disk doesn’t show up in the disk management window, go back to Start search and type “cmd”, click on cmd from the search results. On the command line terminal, run the following command.
- list disk
Here again, check to see if any disk other than your drive C is included in the list. If any, check to see if the capacity corresponds to the capacity of your attached disk. If not, then proceed with the following suggestion.
SOLUTION 1: Test with a Working Hard Drive
Again, this is in the way of caution. Is already bad enough that you are having these issues with your disk, what could be worse is opening up a disk that actually has no real issues and attempting a physical fix on it and finally breaking it down, when in fact is just the case of the bad connector.
So before proceeding with any hardware related fixes, first test with another working hard drive or a SATA to USB adapter to double-check if the issue is from your hard drive or from the laptop. A working hard drive, in this case, could be an external hard drive from any manufacturer. An external hard drive is just a regular internal hard drive in an external case.
So, if you have one at your disposal, you can try to attach your disk to the connector in the case and see if it works. You can also double-check by connecting the external disk to the hard disk bay on your computer to see if it gets recognized.
SOLUTION 2: Check for Broken PCB
This begins to get on the hardware side of things. The PCB is the chip at the back of the hard drive, usually green or blue. This is not an economical route to go. Getting another PCB chip for your hard drive could be a difficult search, especially at this time when mechanical hard drives are getting phased out.
More so the chip specs need to match exactly with the one on your disk. This is not just about having them physically the same, you need to check that that is both physically and technically compatible otherwise you might burn up your circuits. Making such a match can be daunting especially when you’re not certain if that is actually the missing piece to get your drive working again.
With a perfectly matching PCB, the actual replacement process is quite easy, first ensure none of the drives is powered up, then simply remove the Torx screws and lift up the old PCB and replace with a new one.
SOLUTION 3: Do you Get Sequential Beeps from Your Drive?
This solution gets even deeper into the hardware side of things. It is an absolute last resort. Please refer back to the precautions above before performing this operation. This is more likely to be the solution if you keep getting the kind of beep in the audio below when you try to access your disk.
The most likely issue, in this case, is when your disk head has gotten stuck on the platter, as such is not able to read from the disk as supposed. To resolve this issue, you need to manually relieve the disk head to get it working again.
Here you will be opening up the delicate element of the disk drive, which is the magnetic platter. This platter is located just beneath the cover of the hard drive, as such extreme care needs to be taken while unscrewing the cover to avoid scratching or pocking the platter.
Usually, the disk cover is held in place using several T6 Torx screws, so you will need a T6 Torx screwdriver. Please note that some screws are maxed with some thin aluminum sheets, so the screws are underneath the sheets.
You can do a bit of research to find where the screws are located. Then carefully unscrew and lift the metal cover.
NB: Having the disk head stuck on the platter is usually caused by a phenomenon called stiction, which is short for static friction. This leads to some kind of rapid heating and cooling effect that causes the disk head to get stuck on the platter.
With your disk open, carefully use the same Torx screwdriver to turn the screw in the middle of the disk in a clockwise direction until the disk head gets ducked on the landing zone.
Afterward, carefully cover the disk and put the screws back in place. Test the drive again and see if it works.
SOLUTION 4: If by Chance You Get Your Drive Working Again…
If by any chance your hard drive begins to work again, you should immediately back up your files and begin to plan for a replacement disk or SSD. This is a clear sign that your disk is failing and will soon break down completely.
You can use some disk management tools like Disk Drill to check for bad sectors. But it won’t matter much even if all sectors are tested to still be functional. The fact is that the mechanisms in your disk are gradually deteriorating and changing the disk entirely might be the most cost-effective option.
SOLUTION 5: Get Professional Help
This could well be the solution 1 if you are dealing with highly important data or files. Seeking professional help is one way to verify more certainly if your disk still has any chances of survival. Of course, this depends on the know-how of the specialist and the equipment available for the process.
This is not the cheapest route to go, but again it depends on how important your data is. And just in case you are wondering if the previous solutions would affect the effectiveness of professional help. The quick answer is no. However, absolute care must be taken to avoid any kind of dent on the platter, if the platter gets dented or damaged by any means, then it is highly unlikely that any technician can help recover your data.
Hope one of these was able to help you out. If you have any questions regarding the procedures, please post in the comment section to get more help. The video below demonstrates some of the suggestions discussed above.
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