It is a problem you hope you will never have. Yet, it is a problem that is all too common. A hard drive crashes — it fails to start up, your computer fails to boot, you hear a fast “click, click, click, click….” of the hard drive’s read head
Perhaps you sandwiched too many drives too closely together in your case, so they couldn’t get any air circulating around them. Perhaps it was nothing you did – the hard drive just decided to give up. Maybe it was the bargain-basement-priced hard drive with the one year warranty.
No matter what the cause, you realize now that you do not have a backup.
Hard Drive Data Recovery
If you have a matching hard drive to the one that failed, you might try swapping the integrated drive electronics (IDE) hard drive’s controller card — this is the component most likely to fail from heat. This is the circuit board you see on the bottom of an IDE drive. Some brands make it easy to remove a couple screws and then disconnect the controller. Other brands are more of a challenge.
If the data is critical to you or your business, you need to decide just how critical it is before you start hardware or software fixes to the drive. I would not try hardware or software repairs on my only copy of critical data — if it is critical, leave it to the experts.
Data Recovery Service
If you data is critical, there is no substitute for a data recovery service. Depending upon the nature of the failure, the data recovery service might swap out an integrated drive electronics (IDE) hard drive’s conroller card — this is the component most likely to fail from heat.
The data recovery service’s claim to fame is not its cheap pricing. A data recovery service’s showpiece is usually its cleanroom, which enables it to dismantle the most damaged hard drives. Sometimes, the only effective method for recovering data from a failed hard drive is to open it, to remove the drive platters from the hard drive, and to insert them into a working drive chassis.
This is not a job for the home tinkerer or the office’s computer help desk guy. The alignment tolerances in the drive are tiny. An accidental bending of a read head, especially if unnoticed, can permanently damage a drive platter’s surface before you could retrieve the data from it. A little dust, or a sneeze, is enough to ruin a drive quickly.
Did you notice that little kicker at the end? You need to recover the data from the failed hard drive. Getting the drive to run, and continuing to use it, is not a wise choice — you will have to play that game again soon!
RAID data Recovery
If your hard drive is in a RAID system, you need a service that specializes in RAID data recovery. You will not be able to do it on your own. Your choices are basically to live with the data loss or to pay a specialized RAID data recovery service to restore your data. Expect to pay. Expect to pay well.
Data Recovery Software
If your drive will spin but you can not read the data, and if you would like to have the data but the data was not critical, you might be able to get by with a software product like Gibson Reaearch’s Spinrite 6. Spinrite 6 will analyze the low-level structure of the hard drive.
When a hard drive is prepared for its initial use, the drive is magnetized with a number of self-synchronizing magnetic bits. The purpose of this self-synchronizing structure is that, no matter where the hard disk is in its rotation cycle, the hard drive controller is able to quickly determine which bits represent no-man’s land, which represent the drive’s formatting, and which represent data.
When a normal operating system reads a formatted drive, it looks for the formatting marks. Spinrite, on the other hand, tries that as its first step. If the formatting is not obvious, Spinrite then analyzes the raw magnetized sections of the hard drive to figure out which represent data, formatting and nothing. As you can imagine, this process takes quite a few hours on a perfect hard drive. With a marginal or failed hard drive, Spinrite may take days to try to resolve the data.