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July 21, 2009 5:22 PM   Subscribe

My 500gb external hard drive fell onto my hardwood floor. Hard.

When I turn it on it makes a slow whirring noise as if it is dying of internal injuries. Then I hear a single "beep" which stops the whirring for the duration of the beep, and then the whirring continues. This whirring / beep loop seems to continue indefinitely. My MacBook doesn't recognize the HD when I plug it in. Is there anything I can do at this point to salvage my data?
posted by ageispolis to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Stop trying to turn it on, for starters.

Was it on when it was dropped? Worse, was it actively reading or writing files?

It can probably be salvaged by taking the platters out and putting them on a good drive, assuming you didn't have a catastrophic head crash that wiped big chunks of the drive. Others can probably recommend a good service for this. It will not be cheap, but it should be eyepoppingly expensive, either.
posted by jedicus at 5:33 PM on July 21, 2009

Argh. shouldn't be eyepoppingly expensive. Think in the hundreds but not thousands of dollars. Your data may or may not be worth it.
posted by jedicus at 5:34 PM on July 21, 2009

If this is irreplaceable, non-backed up, gonna lose your job or your novel or your screenplay data, then you could try a data recovery service. It'll cost ya. I've heard good things about drivesavers.

You may have some luck with spinrite; I've brought back some bad drives with it- but those have been bad sectors, not violence.

Sadly, I think you are likely SOL.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:36 PM on July 21, 2009

You may want to try
posted by jchaw at 5:38 PM on July 21, 2009

you can try the freezer trick (put hard drive out of enclosure, put drive in ziplock (try to make sure air is dry, not humid). Put drive in freezer for a few minutes. Plug drive in. Copy as much data from the drive as you can, then (hopefully) repeat. This may work. this may not work. this may break your drive worse than it already is. If it's humid, don't do this, condensation will make everything wet.
posted by defcom1 at 5:43 PM on July 21, 2009

Stop plugging it in, for one, as if the head is contacting the platter it will cause physical damage. Then contact a data recovery specialist, and see if the money they want is worth it for the data on it. Hopefully the head didn't hit the platter, the platter is intact, and it's just that the head can no longer read/the motor no longer works properly.
posted by davejay at 5:45 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it was on when I dropped it. I am not sure if it was actively reading or writing files. I did have mp3s from the drive loaded into two decks on Traktor, but they were not playing at the time. The data on the drive is nothing like an unfinished novel or thesis, but it does include some priceless photos from traveling and 21,000 hard-earned mp3s.
posted by ageispolis at 5:47 PM on July 21, 2009

Double yes on stop turning the drive on before you break it, Yes on calling the recovery people, No on the freezer trick - That's useful to recover drives with marginal electronics, but will do no good here (and may actually add condensation problems to the ones you've already got.)
posted by Orb2069 at 6:05 PM on July 21, 2009

A restoration service may be your best bet, and as mentioed above, those aren't generally cheap.

When you replace it, buy TWO drives and start using one as a backup. This sucks now, but please, please learn a lesson from it.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:10 PM on July 21, 2009

Spinrite is about the worst thing you could possibly do to a mechanically damaged drive. Don't even think about it. Listen to Orb2069.
posted by flabdablet at 8:12 PM on July 21, 2009

Not especially relevant here, and I assume you've already thought of this, but just in case: is it under warranty? I did the exact same thing to a 500GB Seagate (right down to the resultant whirring), and they replaced it completely free of charge. They even sent me a mailing label thing (I was in the US at the time, and I'm not sure what you guys actually call those things), so all I had to pay for was a cardboard box.

Also, from googling around when it happened: the freezer "trick" will not work. I don't know a great deal about data recovery, but everything I read suggested I would not be seeing anything that was on it again. And as ever: take it as a lesson learnt and backup in the future.
posted by nostrich at 8:27 PM on July 21, 2009

If you want the data badly enough, a professional data recovery place could get it for you. But it would probably cost more than $1000 for them to do it.
posted by twblalock at 8:43 PM on July 21, 2009

I mentioned the freezer 'trick' because it did actually work for me. (Not super critical data, 750Gb drive, got back 90%) Also see here. I don't want to get into an argument about this, but I remember reading something that the freezer trick may work on the hardware, since it may modify the clearances on the heads slightly due to thermal contraction, allowing the drive to read.
posted by defcom1 at 12:49 AM on July 22, 2009

If you want the data badly enough, a professional data recovery place could get it for you. But it would probably cost more than $1000 for them to do it.

A friend had to use a data recovery service. He paid about $700. Still not cheap, though.
posted by musicinmybrain at 4:17 AM on July 22, 2009

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