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Clever Ways of Rescuing Data from a Damaged Hard Drive

Actions to recover data from a hard drive

There is a rule in working with computers, and storing data in them that we all seem to forget. That rule is: all hard drives eventually fail. Sooner or later something happens and your hard drive doesn't seem to respond anymore. All those times you couldn't be bothered to make a backup of your files come back to haunt you. Don't panic! As fragile as the data may seem, information on hard drives is much harder to erase than we think.

Hard drives can fail in two ways: a software problem, also known as a logical failure, or a hardware problem.

image credit: techmynd.com

Software recovery methods

Software problems vary a lot. It can be an innocent case of someone just deleting the files, and all it takes is a few clicks to get them back, or it can be a more serious, logical problem within the hard drive. Just think of all the data that is constantly being stored, read, copied etc. from your hard drive, and you'll see why sometimes it doesn't go as planned. The data is still on your drive, it's just that your hard drive has problems finding it.

The first thing you should do if it's a software problem is to disconnect the hard drive from your computer. Because your computer doesn't know that the hard drive actually has data on it, it can see it as free space and start overwriting the data you have on it, permanently destroying it. Using apps, it is possible to create a virtual „clone" of your hard drive, and using that clone to try to recover your data is recommended. A software problem requires a software solution, so get some of the numerous hard drive recovery programs, scan the clone with it and watch them do their magic.

Hardware recovery methods

If your problem is in the actual hardware of the disc, meaning that a mechanical failure has occurred and a part of your hard drive is broken, the first thing you want to do is figure out exactly which part of the hard drive has failed. Hardware problems are generally easy to spot, as faulty hard drives will emit various noises which will give you a clue about which piece of the hard drive is broken.

image credit: thepctool.com

Noises of faulty hard drives

Clicking, uncharacteristic buzzing, beeping, scratching noises all play a vital clue in diagnosing your hard drive. Even total absence of noise is a clue, as it can indicate that your hard drive isn't doing anything, and has no power. If your hard drive emits these noises it is best to take it to a trained data recovery professional, as it can be a very delicate procedure and require usage of sterile tools and a clean room.

Some problems you can fix yourself, such as removing a short circuited diode which disables your hard drive, or replacing a chip or two, but with hardware problems you need to be sure with exactly what you're doing, as sometimes you can cause even more problems.

Hard drives are made to be resilient. The data on them is well protected, and hard to get rid of. 90 to 100% of your data can be restored, although it might be a bit messy and misnamed. So when your hard drive fails, keep a cool head and make sure you follow the correct procedure, and more than likely you'll get all your data back. Just remember, the best way to save your data is to make backups regularly.

More Stories By Goky Brkic

Goky Brkic is a web analyst and website security specialist working as a consultant with couple of website management companies as well as several small IT businesses. In addition to his area of expertise, he loves all things technology, especially tech gadgets. When not working, you can find him cycling, hanging out with family and friends or taped to armchair watching Formula 1, usually every second Sunday. A loving husband and father of a 2-year old sunshine; residing in Croatia.