I needs my data.
October 14, 2008 9:15 AM   Subscribe

My external hard drive seems to have stopped working. Is there any way to get my data off of it and onto another drive?

This past weekend, I fired up my external drive and heard a loud clicking noise. It was as if the drive was trying to spin up, but getting stuck. The setup I have is a 250 GB WD hard drive inside an Adaptec enclosure. I'm running Windows XP SP3.

Now, the clicking noise is gone, and the drive barely spins.

I have a lot of data on this drive, such as MP3's, documents and other ephemera of my life. I'd like not to lose it.

Short of spending thousands on a data recovery service, is there anything I can do to fire up the drive long enough to get all my files off of it?
posted by reenum to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Popping it into a freezer for a few hours (in a ziploc bag, to limit moisture) may make it work again long enough to get your files off. It may also damage the drive to the point that a data recovery service couldn't do anything else with it.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:27 AM on October 14, 2008

No one's going to want to tell you no, but that's still going to be the answer.

Drive Saver's is the best, but like you pointed out, thousands of dollars (the reason they only have stories about celebrities and the truly desperate on their site).

It's an expensive process.

There are other places that do the same thing for cheaper. Just google, but you do get what you pay for.

A co-worker used one of these places. She got like half her data back for $500.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:30 AM on October 14, 2008

Here are your options, and if you're not comfortable working inside a system then pay someone to do these for you. Also if any of these work IMMEDIATELY get your data off, don't trust that you've "fixed it".

1) It's a long shot but perhaps the enclosure is bad. Try putting the drive directly in a system and see if you can read it that way. Unlikely given the clicking sound you mentioned but let's rule out the easy item first.
2) Allow the drive to rest for a while, then try again after it's cooled for a few hours to full room temperature. Drives often work better cool.
3) You can pay a drive recovery company to disassemble your drive in a clean room and put the platters on new heads and try to reassemble the data. Cost will likely come in the high 3 figures or low 4 figures. But if your data is valuable (financial records, photographs, etc)...
4) The freezer trick spaceman_spiff recommends DOES work, though it sounds like voodoo I've had it work on many a drive. But get the most vital data off first, and if it stops working again you can TRY and freeze it again...but there will be diminishing returns and then, yes, you likely can never get any further recovery even from a drive recovery company.
5) Equally voodoo--sometimes drive heads get stuck. If all other avenues are closed, thwap the drive hard with the handle of a screwdriver (not hard enough to dent but hard enough to jar it). Then try again. This will 100% cause loss of some data as wherever the head is, it will impact and that sector/those sectors are gone forever, but maybe you can get some of the rest back.

Good luck, and next time buy a drobo! (I've lost so much data in crashes that a Drobo is soooo worth it)
posted by arniec at 9:32 AM on October 14, 2008

If the drive is clicking and making other noises, the prognosis is dire. Clicking and other horrible sounds mean that the problem is with the drive, not the enclosure.

You can try freezing it, as suggested above, but it's still a long shot that you'll be able to recover your data. A for-pay data recover service is about your only option in cases like this.

Sorry about your data.
posted by wfrgms at 10:03 AM on October 14, 2008

Another option is SpinRite ($90).
posted by davcoo at 12:17 PM on October 14, 2008

2nding spinrite. It saved the majority of data on a drive that made audible crunching sounds when moving between tracks.
posted by nomisxid at 1:05 PM on October 14, 2008

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