Boooring.. HD failure, and my options.
April 19, 2005 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Farly new HD clicks, then does not click, is not completely recognized by my system. It contains very important data. Recommended diagnostics, options, or services for professional data recovery?

So yesterday I thought.. I'm due for a DVD backup of about 14 gigs of important data. I would probably be doing just that, right now.. except that my drive decided to act up.

Sequence and stats:
I'm fiddling with my firewire chain, which results in me needing to restart, get a couple loud clicks, softer clicks, and then spinning. Restart. Windows logo screen forever. The drive is recognized via Device Manager, but it can't retrieve volume information. The drive is a Maxtor ATA/133 250GB, with two ~120GB partitions, and is not my boot drive.

Should I test it, or is that simple.. clicks = death rattle?

Lastly, if anyone can recommend a professional data recovery service, I would consider it for this information.
posted by Jack Karaoke to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Unfortunately, whenever I have had a HD start clicking, it has died within days.
posted by grouse at 6:47 AM on April 19, 2005

Best answer: The clicking most likely represents the only real moving parts of the drive (beyond the spinning platter): The heads. If the heads are mechanically failing, the drive won't mount. It'll register as a device, as it's still powered up and responding to the system queries for identification, but it won't answer the call.

Data Recovery may be your only option. We sent a drive to DTI Data in Florida. They weren't able to retrieve the data from the drive, but they didn't charge us for the effort. They mentioned to me, during the sales pitch, that they have an 85% success rate. Were they to succeed, they had quoted me 1400.00 for the full retrieval.

We then sent the drive off to OnTrack, a service suggested to us by Dell. As Dell customers, we recieve a 10% discount. OnTrack, after a 500.00 non-refundable diagnostic fee, was able to recover all the files. Unfortunately, it looks like the full price for their service will be somewhere in the 5900.00 range. My bosses are currently debating it, but I'm betting they'll eventually bite at it, considering our lack of options.

So, the lesson here is that a mom-n-pop organization will be cheaper, but it appears the industry is definitely priced in relation to the effort required to recover your data.

One word of warning: The cheaper places, in an attempt to retrieve your data, may in fact damage the drive further and make it impossible for the more expensive places to take care of it. According to OnTrack, DTI may have caused some media damage that added about 2000 on to the overall price tag from OnTrack.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:50 AM on April 19, 2005

This is probably completely obvious, and may be completely wrong, and if the heads are going you may not want to power it up again: but have you unplugged everything - drives and hubs, firewire and power cables - waited a few minutes, then plugged the Maxtor back in by itself and rebooted?
posted by carter at 8:33 AM on April 19, 2005

Exact same thing happen to my 120gb WD drive...
It would click click... and computer will not recognize it sometimes..

I had one of those external usb drive enclosure... I put the problem HDD in the drive case and copied over the data over usb... YOU Have to do this right away... before even USB drive could not recognize and die...

After the complete copy... my clicking HD died completely.. it would some times turn on now and then.. but nothing could recognize it... just clicking...

If this does not work.... send it over to Recovery place... There is good chance you can recover data.. especially since you didn't drop or harmed physically in major way...
posted by curiousleo at 8:45 AM on April 19, 2005

Best answer: I recently used in Vancouver for a failed laptop drive - mechanical failure of the thingie that moves the heads around. They managed a 100% recovery. They charge a flat fee of 500$ Canadian whether they recover anything or not, plus you have to ship them a blank hard drive to put recovered data on, and there are taxes etc. So ti worked out to about 650$C when all was said and done. They take it apart in a clean room and put the platter onto a new platform, I think. When researching this, they were the most reasonably priced. Apart from some oddly non-grammatical Asianglish emails I was pretty happy. The new desktop hard-drive I sent them I stuck in an enclosure when I got it back and now have an external USB backup system for said laptop. (oh, yeah, and NEVER buy a frickin' Toshiba)
posted by Rumple at 9:25 AM on April 19, 2005

You may be able to get it working just long enough to copy the data off. I've done this many times with a sucess rate of about 70%.

Here's how... Put the drive is a ziplock bag. Now put it in the coldest part of your freezer for at least 45 minutes.

While your drive is chilling, prepare your computer to recieve the data. Do not use the damaged drive as your boot drive. Do use another hard drive as the destination for your data -- it speeds the copy process. You'll also want everything ready and waiting since the data copy is dependant on the drive staying cool enough. The longer it is out of the freezer the less likely it will be to get the data off.

You may wish to have a cold pack and a towel ready too. Again the whole trick is to get the drive cold and keep it cold until the copy is complete.

When the drive is sufficiently chilled, remove it from the freezer, but do not remove it from the bag. This is to slow condensation from forming on the drive itself. Put the drive and the cold pack together and wrap with a towel. Open the ziplock just enough to connect power and data cables and close it back down as much as you can to prevent condensation inside the bag.

Each time you attempt this cold copy routine, you are less likely to succeed. I have done it on the second cycle, but never the third.
posted by kc0dxh at 9:31 AM on April 19, 2005

Whenever I have a failing drive, I always pop it into a linux system. It deals with read timeouts much better than windows.

Another option is to grab The Sleuth Kit. It is simply the best data recovery app I have ever used (I always use it on client systems - I'm able to recover, on average, 4 out of 5 drives - unless there are extreme hardware issues with the drive). And it's free!

It can be a bit complicated (I don't know your level of expertise).
posted by zerokey at 11:08 AM on April 19, 2005

It deals with read timeouts much better than windows.

If the drive is making a clicking sound, your OS isn't going to help you.

unless there are extreme hardware issues with the drive

If the drive is recognized, but isn't readable, then this is a hardware issue, and recovery software isn't going to do anything but waste time while the drive heads etch ancient greek into your platter.
posted by thanotopsis at 11:49 AM on April 19, 2005

If the drive is making a clicking sound, your OS isn't going to help you.

I beg to differ. I cannot count how many on-their-last-revolution drives' data I've been able to recover by popping them into a linux box. Granted, if the motor is gone or the head and/or platter is completely stripped, this won't work. Time to ship off to a clean room DR outlet.

But in the early stages of mechanical errors, a drive may still be readable.

The freezer trick works too. The last ditch effort I typically use is to give the drive a firm rap against a hard surface (typically works if the motor bearings are locked and frozen).

I will also grant that I am in possession of that annoying and mysterious IT magic, so, many of these tricks ONLY work when I have a mystified audience, and when I am touching the broken thingy :)
posted by zerokey at 3:05 PM on April 19, 2005

Best answer: I am not going to venture a guess at whether or not your drive has already or is about to fail beyond the point that you can retrieve the data. Without seeing it, I can't know. (Even if I saw it, I might not.) I'll just assume that you are not going to get it working, and just want the data off of it. I would like to scream my personal opinion that you should absolutely not try kc0dxh's freezer method, and second zerokey's IT magic comment - I don't think you should try the "percussive realignment" either - no offense. Thanotopsis makes a good point - further attempts on your part could cause currently recoverable data to go bye-bye in little flakes of platter, scraped off by crashed heads.

I have no personal, first-hand experience with any data recovery services - I've never lost anything important enough to try that hard to get it back. However, the company I work for recently partnered with a data recovery company that I think has a good record and reputation. Check them out for yourself at Vogon International. Diagnostics as well as recovery sounds to be cheaper than some mentioned above, they work with the US and British governments, have "Level 5" or some such clean rooms that they work in, etc. etc. They have three levels of service depending on how quickly you need your data back. If I remember correctly, a basic diagnostic is about $85, and data recovery starts around a couple hundred, more if you need it sooner.
posted by attercoppe at 6:45 PM on April 19, 2005

Response by poster: Aren't the Vogons the ones who wanted to build that highway..

Thanks all. I do not plan on freezing it, tapping it with love, or chocolate syrup.

Through this process, I learned about SMART monitoring, and ways to reduce drive temperatures, which in the end.. may be worth the whole mess.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 8:39 PM on April 19, 2005

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