Tips on How to Retrieve Lost Data From a Physically Broken Hard Drive

It is amazing how our computer’s hard drive has become such an essential part of our lives, and how vital data recovery becomes when this key component inevitably fails.

The hard drive has become a safe for all our important data. This is where we save all our photos, financial documents, music playlists, movies, assignments, and work reports. Of course, storing all these critical files in just one place means that the loss is greater when the hard drive fails. And it’s an unfortunate fact of life that a computer’s hard drive has a limited time span.

Luckily, a broken hard drive doesn’t automatically mean that all your relevant documents are lost. There’s still a way to retrieve those all-important data.

Signs of Impending Hard Drive Failure

You should make it a point to backup your hard drive regularly. But computer users should also be aware of the warning signs that imply that your storage might be breaking down.

  • Computer Crashing: There is no greater honor than to witness the blue screen of death, as a computer crash is sometimes known. Repeatedly seeing this screen or your PC crashing while booting is a sign of a problem in your hard drive.
  • Disappearing Documents: Difficulties with saving documents or data that loses is an indication that your computer has a virus or the drive is failing.
  • Sluggish Access Time: Computers today are integrated with fast processors so opening folders shouldn’t take long. But slow or sluggish access times means you have to start saving your files.
  • Weird Noises: It is never a good sign when you hear strange sounds coming from your computer. While there might be other reasons for it, it might also be time to consider that your drive is already beyond help.

What Causes the Drives to Crash

Hard drives often last up to six years, but in most cases, it does not. If the hard drives fail to work below its lifespan, the problem must be you. Hard drives also need proper care, just like any possession that we have. Never neglect the fact that these drives are also man-made. Technology also has its limitations.

  • Logical failure: This is due to a corrupted file system or accidental formatting. Physically, the drive is fine. It is technically the inside that is causing the drive not to work or navigate and read its own data. If not overwritten, the files are still there.
  • Mechanical failure: Broken parts are what preventing your damaged drive to load. Most often, this is the failure that needs assistance from the experts. This type of failure may cost you a little over budget.

However, there are other ways in trying to salvage the files from your broken hard drive.

Tips for Retrieving Data From a Broken Hard Drive

  • Invest in a USB universal drive dock. You can try mounting your damaged hard drive to a universal drive dock or adapter and connect it to another computer. Check whether your files will appear in the alternative network and either start saving it to the device or the cloud. You can also try installing the hard drive internally. However, an external connection is faster and more convenient.
  • Get a FireWire cable if you’re a MAC user. Use the cable to connect the computer to the damaged hard drive to a working MAC. Press the T button down as the alternative MAC is powering up. The FireWire icon should appear and start the PC in Target Mode. This will give you access to the damaged computer’s drive. You can also enable Target Mode by clicking on System Preferences in the lower right-hand corner. Look for Startup Disk Mode and click.
  • Replace the PCB. A hard drive that isn’t making any sound when accessed or connected indicates that it’s not spinning at all. This could mean that there’s an issue with the PCB, which is the circuit board connected to the drive. You can replace the PCB with a similar one from a matching drive. But for drives that have a special microcode, you have to check whether the TVS diodes had a short.
  • Look for and download an excellent data recovery software. Several excellent tools can scan your drive and search for files that can be recovered. More importantly, couples of this software are being offered for free and can do the job nicely. You also have the option to choose the premium package which provides more utilities and features. Recuva, FileSalvage, and TestDisk are some of the more recommended tools.
  • Check for bad sectors. A drive that can be detected but hangs or stops when accessed could mean bad sectors plague it. This typically occurs to hard drives that have been in use for years. You can either utilize the free BIOS utilities that skip the poor sectors or bring your device to a data recovery expert.
  • Consult a specialist on hard drive recovery. Data recovery services are undoubtedly the best way to retrieve your data. These companies can save documents from dead and physically damaged hard drives. However, the service is quite expensive, which is why it is often the last choice for a resort.

Now, there are things to do to prevent all these troubles from happening by giving extra care to your drive. Handle with caution and do not drop or bump it. It is fragile contrary to what it looks like. Lay it on a flat surface and make sure to keep it cool. If you are not using it, let it sleep and give it a rest.

Hard drives also need good quality cables that attach well. Often, plug in connects and disconnects on its own. It might be a loose cable, and no one wants that from corrupting files in the process. Have at least another drive where you can store the same thing. Backing up data can be a tedious task, but it is better than to be sorry later.

It’s still possible to conduct a data recovery job on your hard drive and save your precious files. But speed is of the essence here. If you have done all you can on your end and are still unsuccessful, it might be time to look into data recovery services. However, bear in mind that these companies can’t always guarantee success. Your best is still to backup your files regularly.


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