How do I fix this hard drive?
March 20, 2012 5:54 AM   Subscribe

How do I fix this hard drive?

My question is similar to this question, but I've made more mistakes than they did so my situation is a bit different. Here we go:

I spilled a small amount of water on the trackpad of my laptop, and some got down into my secondary hard drive (it's a big laptop and has space for two drives, the OS is running on the primary drive). It's a Western Digital Scorpio (WD3200BEKT), 320GB. The water got caught between the flexible plastic drive caddy and the drive's external circuit board. The board shorted out, and the connection between the external board and the internal board was slightly shorted out also.

This shouldn't have been a problem. I have an external drive that I use Windows 7's built-in utility to back up both the internal drives. I was going to just buy a new drive and restore from that... but the next morning when the backup ran again it deleted the system image of the drive. I know it was there because I both checked the status in the backup utility and saw the few-hundred-gigabyte .vhd image file in Windows Explorer.

So, disaster. I shut down every program that might be using the external drive and downloaded several file deletion programs to the primary drive. Nothing; just tiny files I had deleted myself days ago.

I could theoretically afford a drive recovery service, but it would put a serious dent in my finances. Because of this, and since the drive was out of warranty, I opened it up; the only damage is the external board and the small internal housing that connects by a ribbon cable to the drive heads. I had the brilliant idea of buying another drive of the same model and just replace the damaged parts... but while the new drive has the same model number it's guts have been updated in the ~3 years that I've had it.

So now I've got two inoperable drives, two hundred fewer dollars, and a larger recovery bill as apparently an open drive will cost more money to fix than an intact drive. This thing has all my family and friends pictures, all my military pictures, all my cat macros, all my music. I can't just put it behind me. Do I have any options apart from paying $500+ to get it fixed?
posted by Evilspork to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
You have a water-damaged drive, which shorted out, was overwritten, and then you disassembled it? I don't know that there's much anyone can do at this point, outside of a serious data repair shop. I think the best advice we can give is to stop here; if the data is still on the platters in any fashion, the more you do, the worse your chances at recovery.
posted by ellF at 5:58 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am no expert at all with this, but it strikes me as the way I would now pursue is to see if you can recover the overwritten image from the external drive used as backup rather than focusing on the damaged drive.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:07 AM on March 20, 2012

Best answer: Stop messing with it. Put the original drives in a safe place. Call a data recovery service (or several to find a good price). Pay the price to get your data back. Get an online backup service like CrashPlan for future use. You didn't have a backup, you had a copy.
posted by procrastination at 6:31 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

You'd have to find a drive that has the same model and firmware to harvest the boards from it.
posted by narcoleptic at 6:32 AM on March 20, 2012

The backup drive may have recoverable data, if you haven't messed with it. Otherwise, ask the $1000 question -- "Is the data on my disk worth $1000", and if that question is yes, stop screwing with in and call the pros.

I disagree a bit with procrastination* -- you had a backup solution, just a really lousy one -- full imaging is bad, point in time is good. If you wipe all the files off your machine and then it backs up, with point in time recovery, you can go back a day to when you hadn't deleted the files, and recover.

Actually, the fact that it ate your backup when it saw a blank disk may make procrastination right.**. That is, in effect, a badly implemented mirror. Mirrors aren't backups -- they'll protect you from disk failure, but not from user error.

I don't think online backup systems are the be-all and end-all of backups. But they're certainly better than what you had. I prefer local, with rotating disks, and I think a combo strategy could be wise. I tend to have slower internet lines than most, though, so online solutions are harder to implement.

* I never thought in my entire life I would type that sentence.

** Phew, my life's calling is safe.
posted by eriko at 6:40 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had good luck with DriveSavers, when I decided my data was worth $1800 to me. FWIW.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:52 AM on March 20, 2012

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