Hard drive sitting in open trailer for a year or two, inside open computer tower. Data recoverable?
December 11, 2010 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to salvage a hard drive that has been through hell and back? I have a 40gig HD from a few years ago that was inside a computer tower that was ditched in the backyard for a few months, and there was stuff on it when it was pitched.

A few years ago (probably more than a few -- I used the computer in probably 2004-2005, even 2006 early 2007) the computer I used primarily was thrown out, I don't really know when -- left sitting in an open top trailer amongst a pile of junk, the casing for the computer dented and partially open. It wasn't my idea to throw it out, for some reason my dad did. Why, who knows. Again, I don't know when he pitched the tower, but if I had to guess it would have been sometime probably in 2007-2008.

I salvaged it a year or two ago from the trailer. The hard drive was still in the tower, screwed in where it had always been. It was in fairly good condition, at least I thought -- there was no rust on it, the bolts and all the pieces were still in place, the sticker was still on the top, it was like nothing had harmed it while it was in the trailer.

When my dad pitched the tower, the hard drive still had stuff on it; old photographs, movies, videos, games, what have you.

My question is, given the fact that it was in the backyard, inside a computer tower (which was partially open due to damage) left to fend against the elements of nature, would it be possible to still salvage the information that was on it? Or is it a goner?

I am toying with the idea of sending it to see if anything can be recovered from it, but this is somewhat pricey and I'm not even sure if the disks inside the drive would even work, let alone retain any data that was on them.

The OS on the HDD was XP SP2, and I am in London, ON (if any of you know of local repair shops that do that kind of thing.)
posted by koolgiy to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
Response by poster: ** I wrote in the headline "a year or two" but the question "a few months" is probably more accurate.
posted by koolgiy at 3:11 PM on December 11, 2010

Have you tried putting it into your current computer (or a USB enclosure) to see if it does still work?
posted by sacrifix at 3:26 PM on December 11, 2010

Response by poster: I have tried but - unless I'm mistaken - I don't have the correct cords and connections inside my current computer.
posted by koolgiy at 3:32 PM on December 11, 2010

I have tried but - unless I'm mistaken - I don't have the correct cords and connections inside my current computer.

This guy for $20 should let you hook up any reasonably recent hard drive to your computer via USB, just like any other external drive.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 3:39 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your best an cheapest bet is to do as sacrifix suggested. Figure out what connections it has then get a cheap USB enclosure and connect it up to your current computer via a USB connector. It'll cost you 10 bucks to find out if you have to spend more.
posted by merocet at 3:39 PM on December 11, 2010

Response by poster: This is what the connections look like on the hard drive. Would that USB thing work with this?
posted by koolgiy at 3:49 PM on December 11, 2010

It should. That's an IDE connection your hard drive has.
posted by Hoenikker at 4:09 PM on December 11, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks! Theres a tiger direct store by my house so I'll take a trip down there and see if it works. Should I be optimistic? Would the hard drive even boot up after being where it was?
posted by koolgiy at 4:14 PM on December 11, 2010

I wouldn't suggest trying to boot it up with that drive. What you'll want to do is make sure that it is set up as a "slave" drive, so that the drive that is already in your computer is the one that it boots up under. I would find a link to explain it better but I'm at work, so I can't. Just google something like "master slave hard drive" and you should be able to find information easily. So, if it's set up as a slave, it will just show up under Windows Explorer as a secondary drive. One thing that I would suggest is that if it does boot up, get your data off of it immediately. Do not power down the computer until you've taken the data off. Good luck.
posted by sacrifix at 4:19 PM on December 11, 2010

Honestly unless it managed to get soaked I would bet the drive will spool up just fine. Hard disks are susceptible to shock (more so when they are running) so being tossed in the junk pile might have hurt it, but I have put mine through worse.

If you have a computer with an IDE cable then you can just plug it in, set the pins on the back of the drive to slave and see if it will work. If you don't another option would be to do like other posters suggested and get an external hard drive case for an IDE drive.
posted by token-ring at 5:08 PM on December 11, 2010

Response by poster: Would there be a problem if it was a master drive on my old computer? Would I run into any problems even if I set the jumpers to make it a slave? (At the moment nothing is showing up.)
posted by koolgiy at 5:23 PM on December 11, 2010

Response by poster: Also, in my Dell, there is a ribbon cord that goes to my DVD drive - there is an empty space below it for, say, an extra CD drive or something like that -- and with it, is another plug on the same ribbon cord. If I plugged the second plug on the ribbon cord into the HD, while the other plug on the ribbon cord is plugged into my DVD drive, would this even work? Would the HD show up on the computer?
posted by koolgiy at 5:32 PM on December 11, 2010

If you've got power (a rectangular 4-pin connector that's got much bigger pins than the others it will look like the white/left plug here) for the spare drive attachment, and it's an IDE plug, it should work fine in the spare external slot. I don't know the specifics about getting drives to mount in Windows, but you do want it set as "slave" before installing it, I would think. This is done with teeny tiny jumper pins on the drive itself. See the image here. Every drive manufacturer has their own pin settings, so look the drive up by the model number on the sticker. -- search for " [whatever model] hard drive XXX jumper settings" - they're usually available online.

I have connected an external drive to the empty plug on IDE ribbons on a few Mac is the past, and it's always worked fine. It's normal for the ribbon cables to have a spare slot in the for just this purpose. Hardware-wise, your computer doesn't care if the drive you plug in to it is an internal disk drive or a removable drive, like a CD or DVD, so long as it's IDE. (also referred to as ATA or PATA)
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:03 PM on December 11, 2010

If you're inexperienced enough to be asking the questions you're asking, you probably don't want to cable this thing up to the internals of your computer, because you won't have ready solutions to the problems this may cause you. The USB enclosure route is the way you should go.

Set the drive jumpers for Cable Select before putting it in the enclosure. Don't try to boot off it; once it's in the enclosure, just think of it as a big fat USB memory stick.

If the old computer ran Windows XP and the hard drive was formatted with NTFS, you might encounter permissions problems.
posted by flabdablet at 6:13 PM on December 11, 2010

Response by poster: To every person who helped me on this; you are the greatest people ever.

Not only did you help me get this drive back up and working again, but you helped me rediscover tons of old files I thought I had lost.

Thank you :D
posted by koolgiy at 6:15 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Also, I'm not as inexperienced as I sound through text. I was just asking those questions to make sure.
posted by koolgiy at 6:17 PM on December 11, 2010

Glad you got it working, I had a similar experience when I discovered a leftover backup archive of my old PC from high school years on an external hard drive.
posted by token-ring at 8:43 PM on December 11, 2010

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