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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Freeze your hard drive to recover data: Myth or reality?

About 2 weeks ago, I wrote an article about hard disk recovery that was quite popular (I received approximately 20000 hits for it). The article covered a couple of solutions to help you in the case where your hard drive would stop working. While I was doing some research for this article, I ended up on a few stories about people who were putting their HD in the freezer to help fix it long enough to be able to recover their data. I guess that by doing this, some metal parts in the HD could contract, putting back in place defective parts, and making everything work again for a few minutes.

What do you guys think? Myth or reality? It seems that a lot of people agree that this solution actually works, so I decided to test it myself with an old Maxtor hard drive that failed me a couple of weeks ago. There was no important data on there, so losing the disk didn't really bother me.

Before putting it in the freezer, the drive was making a weird clicking noise, and the computer was showing me this message: Primary hard drive 0 not found, strike F1 to retry boot, F2 to run the setup utility

I removed the hard disk from the computer and sealed it in a ziplock bag to prevent condensation.

After this, I shoved it in the freezer, and waited an hour.

I finally installed it back in the computer, closed the case, and pushed on the power button.

YES! it works, the computer is starting correctly! Unfortunately, after I logged in, Windows froze and I wasn't able to do anything. I tried rebooting, and....

Well, at least the hard disk spun for about 2 minutes before crashing again. Maybe that's not long enough to let me recover any data, but it worked for a little while. :)

edit: The day after, I shoved the hard drive back in the freezer for 24 hours. After getting it out, I was able to get 20 more minutes of life out it.

If you don't want to risk losing you data and are afraid to try this out, you can always ask experts to do the job for you. The folks at DTIData or at the Hard Drive Recovery Group can probably help you get your data back, no matter how damaged your drive is. Here are the specific pages on their sites concerning hard drive data recovery solutions:

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  • That weird clacking noise is a track 0 failure. Generally one platter in an IDE hard drive contains offset information (I'm not sure about scsi). By reading this platter the armature can tell where exactly it is in relation to the platters. When you loose the ability to read this offset platter for whatever reason, the armature will try to seek a specific offset and end up banging against the inside of the drive case as it seeks right past the outside of the platter, or track 0. Usually a very bad thing, but funny when it happens to somebody else ...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:44 PM  

  • Instead of booting off of it, get an external USB enclosure ready on a running machine. After freezing the disk, quickly plug it into the USB enclosure and power it up.

    Get all the data you need off the disk ASAP. You might have to freeze the disk a few times before you get what you want, if you even can.

    I've frozen disks in the past and have been able to get some data off of them. It doesn't always work - it depends on why the disk stopped working. I'm not sure why it works when it does, either.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:22 PM  

  • I've tried this as well, twice actually. The first time happend pretty much as you describe with windows loading and crashing.

    The second time I was a bit smarter and used the ultimate boot cd to load upto a promp and copy the files I really needed over to a new drive as quick as possible.

    By Blogger Emerica, at 1:23 PM  

  • One hour? Try waiting maybe four hours to let it get really cold, then try again. I have used this method before and it worked like a charm, my HD worked well for about 30 minutes before it died.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:25 PM  

  • Generally you don't try to boot off a frozen drive like that. See, it's not going to work for very long, so the idea is to copy as much data off it as you can as fast as you can.

    So what you do is to put it in an external enclosure (since being in your computer will heat it up faster) and attach it to an already running machine. Then simply copy the critical data only as fast as possible. Sometimes you even want to make batch files ahead of time to copy the most important files first. You've literally only got minutes, but those minutes can be a lifesaver when a drive dies unexpectedly.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:25 PM  

  • Booting off a CD (WinPE, Barts, linux, take your pick) works as well. Of course, you need a USB drive to copy the files to, but who doesn't have one these days?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:27 PM  

  • If staying cold helps the disk, then will it work better if we run the harddisk in the freezer, but with wires stay connected to it?

    I think this could help to keep the allowable recovery time longer

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:28 PM  

  • well mabe if u leve it in the frezer with the wire runing in ther it will stay on longer so u caN get your data back got to try it

    By Blogger Unknown, at 1:29 PM  

  • If this works so well, why don't you guys just get an extra long cable or ribbon, encase the HD in a waterproof bag, seal the cable penetration, and submerge in iced water or surround with blocks of Co2?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:35 PM  

  • I've had some last 20 minutes up to 2 hours. I aslo had a bad laptop drive, took the laptop out side ( winter time ) and it worked fine too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:37 PM  

  • I've never tried freezing an uncooperative hard drive before, but i'd like to make a suggestion. Instead of taking the drive out of the freezer and reinstalling it in the computer, install the drive in a USB enclosure and leave it in the freezer. Bring your laptop to the freezer and connect the USB drive and power it up. By keeping it in the freezer, you may gain a little more time to save your data.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:37 PM  

  • With long enough power and data cables, maybe you could leave the drive in the freezer?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:38 PM  

  • I tried this just a week ago with my PowerBook! Since it's a laptop, I had to leave the whole computer out overnight in sub-freezing temperatures, but it allowed me to have a working HD for about 10 min, enough to get the important stuff off!

    By Blogger dean strelau, at 1:48 PM  

  • It would seem best to use a USB enclosure and actually leave the HD in the freezer while the recovery is taking place.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:55 PM  

  • Harddrive recovery companies do this all the time. They generally have an IDE string running into the freezer as well as power. Then you just turn it on while it's frozen, grab your data and run. Another trick if your head is stuck is to hit the corner w/ a hammer. Fun fun fun!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:55 PM  

  • Hey I just had this totally unique idea that nobody has thought of before ever. Why don't you run a wire to the hard drive while it's still in the freezer?

    How do I come up with these things that nobody could ever come up with I am the best.

    By Blogger John Cook, at 1:56 PM  

  • I've used this technique successfully on two occasions. The first was the "clicky" type failure, and the second was an IDE that wasn't even spinning up. Got the data both times to a second drive in the system.

    I learned to stand by the fridge (an office fridge) to avoid coworkers who felt it necessary to throw the drive away. eeeesh.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:03 PM  

  • slightly ironic that your computer "froze" after putting in the frozen hard drive ;-)

    By Blogger Pharoah6905, at 2:04 PM  

  • I wonder if it will help more to put the HD in the freezer overnight, maybe the cooler it is the better and longer it will work? can you retest?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:07 PM  

  • I have done this on 2 of my own hard drives and recovered all of the data. I have also been told first hand by 3 friends that they have done it and been successfull. I sudjest putting the drive in the freezer for at least 24 hours.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:11 PM  

  • Try to keep the disk cool by putting it in an icebox or on a very cold enclosure. Maybe put a very fast and large fan next to it to keep it as cool as possible.

    Heat kills hard drives, and recovering data from ice-cold disks is sometimes an option.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:11 PM  

  • Now you tell me this! I threw my old hard drive out a few week ago. Should have tried this...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:20 PM  

  • A close friend managed to "fix" a CDRW this way. Since it was dead to begin with, it was no great loss if it didn't work. But low and behold: It Works!

    I don't recomend this for anything that you would be worried about damaging more, but if its already dead - why not try?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:26 PM  

  • To the guy leaving his laptop out in the freezing temperatures ... are you an idiot or what? That's a good way to kill your LCD screen. Also, the condensation from bringing the laptop back into the warm, considerably-more moist air could really screw it up too. Do this and you'll be replacing more than your hard drive.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:28 PM  

  • Now we can justify having a refrigerator in the tech Lab!!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:32 PM  

  • This really works if you catch the drive before it gets too bad. I used to work desktop support and we would leave the hard drive in the freezer over night. In the morning we would put it back in the pc or laptop and take an image. It was always funny to see a couple of harddrives mixed in with the frozen waffles.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:38 PM  

  • The reason that this works, is that when a head crashes it gets off center and will hit the pin the harddrive. Freezing it compresses it, allowing it to gain a little room to move where it wouldn't before.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:40 PM  

  • Yup, this trick was taught to me by my high school computer lab teacher, who was also the former owner of Priam, a defunct HDD manufacturer.

    I was skeptical at first, but tried it, and it worked. I usually leave the drive in the freezer overnight, and leave it hanging out of the case. Then copy what you can quick and toss (or RMA) the drive.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:42 PM  

  • By Chance, could the Curie point have anything to do with it?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:47 PM  

  • Yes, as I said on the original article on digg, it works in some cases. I used it as a last resort on a HDD with the same symptons you mentioned and it worked. I got about 30 mins read time for every 72 hours in the freezer.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:52 PM  

  • Why not set up your computer right next to your freezer and stretch the ribbon and power cables into the freezer while you do your data recovery... In other words, maintain the cold temperature while you work.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:52 PM  

  • I had an older Dell Laptop (1.1 GHz) and the hard drive failed spring 2005. The guy from our helpdesk took it out and put it in the freezer then reinstalled it. It worked! I thought he was joking when he said he put it in the freezer but he was serious. I was able to retrieve everything I wanted. I worked for about 2 hours then wouldn't boot up the following morning.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:54 PM  

  • if this works i'll be the happiest man alive
    i swear it.
    i will freeze my drive tonight and try it tomorrow

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:55 PM  

  • You all keep talking about long wires to the freezer. I did this with a laptop HD...except I brought the freezer to the computer. I double ziploc'd the drive, put it in an ice bath, put the ice bath next to the computer, and used a ribbon and power cable out the side of the case to hook it up. It ran long enough for me to copy off ALL the data. (60GB)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:11 PM  

  • Ive been doing this same procedure for years! Ive been a tech for almost 15 years now and every time I have a failure I freeze my drives. There have only been a few times I was unable to recover data, and seem to be more electrical than mechanical issues.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:17 PM  

  • Another idea for those that don't want to string cables into their freezer would be to obtain some dry ice and sit the drive on the dry ice and hook it up to an open chassis computer. Of course, let the hard drive sit in the freezer first for a goodly amount of time to get it nice and cool first.

    Though I have not tried this, I bet it runs longer too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:18 PM  

  • I had something similar happen with one of my drives, it wasnot working at all and I tried everything including opeinging the drive in a "clean" enviroment and then what fixed it was getting the drive good and cold and then insterting it into the system. after it got going, it would work for days and then I just had to freeze it again and it would work for a while longer.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:20 PM  

  • I managed to SAVE 2 HDDs from the trash can. I used the Trial ver. of HDDREGENERATOR
    from http://www.dposoft.net/ .
    This app really repaired some crucial bad sectors (usually the 1st on the HDD). After that I used the Mfctr (IBM) app to "Erase"=Repair but Data Recovery was possible (I didn't have to). I am using both HDDs now and SMART status is just fine.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:23 PM  

  • For the love of god peope, it's "LOSE" not "LOOSE"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:35 PM  

  • Having watched hard drives go from "out in the car" in an Upstate New York winter and into a computer and then die in minutes, I can assure you that hard drives are like windshield glass.

    They really really don't like to go from cold to hot in a hurry.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:35 PM  

  • Gosh, Can't believe I didn't find this article. It would of been a great help for fixing my maxtor external.... Too bad I beat the crap outta that drive with a hammer already... or at least tried. The external casing I swear is semi bulletproof.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:36 PM  

  • Put it in the external usb enclosure, and stick it in the freezer, run the cables out the door and plug it in, leaving the HD in the freezer :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:37 PM  

  • I actually got this to work myself. After getting the drive dripping wet from condensation a few times, even after putting it in a bag to freeze it, I got out my old dorm fridge, cranked it up and ran the power and ribbon cables out through the magnetic refrigerator seal.

    It worked great.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:39 PM  

  • I tried this with an old BASIC IV minicomputer back in 1985, on a drive that was one of the old cartridge types. Put the drive in my car in the winter, let it sit for a while, brought it back in and loaded the disk back into the drive and was able to recover the data long enough to updgrade the machine to a new system.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:53 PM  

  • Hey guys,

    I'll put it back in the freezer for the next 24 hours, and report back the results.. maybe 1 hour wasn't enough. If it's colder, it'll probably run for a longer period.

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 3:55 PM  

  • I want to try this, i have a bunch of crappy hard drives lying around that i can do whatever i please with. can i force a failure? like hitting it with a hammer perhaps, so then i can try this freeze thing

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:57 PM  

  • I'm a Systems Admin at a shipyard. I always thought the idea of freezing a hard drive to make it work was a joke. Then I had one crash and despite what tools I used on it, it was unreadable. Someone reminded me of the freezer trick, which I tried as a last resort. After about an hour, I was able to read the drive and clone it. It saved me a few hours worth of reinstall and data recovery pain. -Scott Maynard www.cashewraffle.com

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:01 PM  

  • Not all hard drive failures are the same. Google for the model number of your Maxtor -- I had a problem with my wife's a few months ago, and it appeared to be some sort of firmware-related issue, so I couldn't get it to mount in any drive utility.

    On the other hand, my PowerBook drive started acting strangely 2 weeks ago -- occasionally it would just spin and sping, and then it didn't want to boot. It seemed to be worse when the machine had been in use for a while, and I couldn't keep it working long enough to get my data off.

    Enter the coldpacks. I put a coldpack on the wrist-rest, above the hard drive, and another below, and was able to get all 52-odd gigabytes off the drive.

    By Blogger Frank Steele, at 4:13 PM  

  • Often hard drive failures are a result of overheating.... placing a heatsink / fan combination from an old cpu can often help the drive run long enough to recover information off of it.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:32 PM  

  • i used to work at a print shop doing graphic design where one of the scssi drives would periodically not boot. the owner of the place used to heat it up with a heat gun for about a minute, and then restart....after that, it would boot and run fine. also the drive was fine until you shut down. dont know why this worked, but it did. i thought it was really weird.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:56 PM  

  • Time for a new monitor.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:00 PM  

  • I froze a drive then blasted it with a heat gun and encased it in carbonite. Incredibly, my data was recoverable!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:02 PM  

  • Put it in a usb enclosure, use a long cord to the computer from the freezer. Boot up the pc from there.


    By Blogger Chad, at 5:11 PM  

  • I've tried this solution may times before. This freeze solutions it help you only to backup your data it does not repair the HDD. We should thanks the physics for making this freeze thing work

    By Blogger Unknown, at 5:30 PM  

  • I have used the frozen drive trick a number of times, it works like a charm. On one occation, a friend of mine had his hard drive chipset catch on fire from a short. He asked if there was anything i could do.

    I recomended since the drive was new enough that he might try ordering one with the same model number from newegg and then swaping the hard drive controller card. He did and he is still using that composite drive today.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:39 PM  

  • next time take your drive & pc to the artic and get a solar panel for power oh and a sat link to the internet and vnc to it whenever you need to view any data on that drive. you shouldnt use a freezer cuz they waste energy and we need to love our planet more and maybe some girls too. peace bro.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:45 PM  

  • Don't put it in the freezer, that's just silly. Instead get a cold pack (like mentioned above) or if you don't have one, just get some frozen bags of peas or other vegies and put them in a zip lock bag and sandwich the drive between them. This also works well on external LaCie (or other brands) metal cased drives.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:46 PM  

  • It spinned? heh

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:49 PM  

  • I've used this technique several times over the years. You should boot to another drive if possible or at least be ready to copy the data to another drive as soon as it comes up. Leave it in the freezer for at least 2 hours. You can wrap the drive in a towel with a bag of ice (or dry ice if possible) to help keep it cold longer. You can usually get about 20 minutes out of it before it craps out again.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:52 PM  

  • You should definitely do what I've done many times: put the drive in an USB drive enclosure and keep in running in the freezer while you recover the files.

    Sheesh, I thought everyone knew that! :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:23 PM  

  • In 12 years of Tech work, I have used this technique as a last resort for datat recovery, and it has worked almost every time ( 12/14 times) but yeah, copy data off it immeadiatly, external nclosures are cheap nowdays and easy to use, double bag the drive and freeze for minimum of 4 - 6 hours.

    I reccomend, but f your down to this, consider the data lost, anything recoverable is a bonus.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:32 PM  

  • For improved runtimes you can also try using a USB to IDE cable rather than an enclosure, with just the cable you can apply an ice pack. We've done this with a reasonable degree of success in the service shop where I worked. The USB to IDE we've had best luck with is by Cables to Go

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:35 PM  

  • You are supposed to freeze it for much longer, 1 hour isnt enough to really shrink the plates so that the head can read from it, its been highly reccommended for at least a day or few days, or many even do a week. Give it a shot, and try to recover your data.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:39 PM  

  • The reason this works is simple - integrated circuits sometimes partially fail, and if you can keep a chip cold enough it will still work. Putting a drive in the freezer only helps if you have a *partially* fried chip on the board.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:33 PM  

  • okay lol first of all, placing the Hard Drive in a plastic bag does not prevent condensation. You need a Vacuum atmosphere to prevent condensation..

    bah i won't even bother to say anymore..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:27 PM  

  • True but arn't some HD's completly sealed? I've always wondered why all HD's are not sold with the inside in a vacume.

    "okay lol first of all, placing the Hard Drive in a plastic bag does not prevent condensation. You need a Vacuum atmosphere to prevent condensation..

    bah i won't even bother to say anymore..


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:39 AM  

  • my god I hope this works for me !! I lost ALL of my pictures from our Myrtle Beach family vacation to a dead hard drive. I had JUST downloaded the images from the laptop to the HD (this was before I had an external DVD-R Drive) and accidentally did a MOVE instead of a copy - once done I took the HD upstairs to burn the images using my main machines DVD-R and thats was it clickity clickity :-( I was NOT happy one little bit. I cant afford the $800+ they want for data recovery so I have kept the hard drive in a protective static proof case since then (4 years ago) in the hopes of one way affording the recovery service fee. I am going to give this freezer trick a try and see if I get lucky. I only need 5 minutes 1 minute to spin up and access 3.5-4 minutes to copy my pictures. I could care less about anything else on the drive I just want my pictures !! now where the heck did I put that thing...

    Chris Taylor

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:22 AM  

  • Any advice for a drive that won't even start up?

    Also I have lost loads of memories over the years but I put it down to beer. The wierd part is I have been freezing the beer ...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:20 AM  

  • Still trying to recover clients data from IBM Hdisk.

    This should be an important lesson to folks...

    ** holds up sign **


    ** puts sign down **

    Nuff' said

    By Blogger Astrotrain, at 4:52 AM  

  • Well, my Hard drive recovery experiment ended up fairly well, after 24 hours in the freezer, the drive ran for 25 minutes, long enough for me to recover the data.

    Great ;)

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 12:35 PM  

  • the easiest way to make the 30 min window before the disk thaws out last longer is to bring the freezer to the hard drive after freezing as has allready been described get a small igloo fill it up with ice and water and salt (the salt lowers the meltimg point so it makes it colder) and then get a ziploc bag and set it in vertically with the cables coming out of the top of the bag and tape it to the side of the igloo to where no water can get in and the hard drive will work all day long or at least until you run out of ice

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:50 PM  

  • I think I won't try this at home :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:12 PM  

  • if you need a vacuumm environment, seal it with somthing like a seal-a-meal

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:13 AM  

  • I tried this for the first time ever tonight on a 40-gig hd that was making the click-clank sounds. I let the drive soak in the freezer for about 4 hours. It was put in an internal-to-external drive converter and I kept the drive in the freezer during data extraction. It didn't work at first. I tried all the jumper settings and it worked when it was on cable-select mode. I banged it a few times b/c it was still clicking. Even after banging it, it still made noise. I nearly gave up hope and then on it's own while still in the freezer after 3-4 minutes the thing stopped clicking and I could read all the data I wanted off the drive.

    Thanks so much for the tip!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:04 AM  

  • I have a 250gb Lacie external that just stopped. period (no wierd clicking or anything). Any chance this could work for it?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:20 PM  

  • Hmm, I don't think so. Is it spinning? It's probably an electrical/power issue, but I can't say for sure. It isn't making any noise at all?

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 4:45 PM  

  • I tried this freezing at the request of someone who had heard this. I put it in and forgot about it. After two days when I remembered it I stuck it in a machine and low and behold it worked. It only worked for roughly 20 minutes but I was able to retrieve the data I needed. Too COOL!!! No pun intenteded.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:35 AM  

  • I tried this freezing at the request of someone who had heard this. I put it in and forgot about it. After two days when I remembered it I stuck it in a machine and low and behold it worked. It only worked for roughly 20 minutes but I was able to retrieve the data I needed. Too COOL!!! No pun intenteded.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:37 AM  

  • It's "losing", not "loosing".

    And "spun", not "spinned".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:45 PM  

  • I have an awesome idea! You should leave the hard drive in an enclosure, and leave the enclosure in the freezer. Then, you can run a long cable from the enclosure out the freezer and plug it into your computer!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:07 PM  

  • Thanks for the corrections. My native tongue is not english, so my text isn't always 100% error proof.. even then, I'm not that bad hey? :)

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 7:55 PM  

  • There's only one reason why this works: there is a vacume in the hard disk and sometimes dust particles get in the drive. By putting it in the freezer, the dust sticks to the surface. You're disk wil stop working again as soon the temperature is back to normaL

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:19 PM  

  • Not sure who has said this. I had a Dell hard drive crash after the clicking noises for a while. I saw somewhere that it's "stiction" (sp) where some of the platters actually get fused together or something like that. They are made of different materials so they expand/contract at different rates when subjected to temperature extremes, so the hd works again, for a while. After a few days of freezing and extracting data with a usb enclosure, I got all the data off and sent the hd back.

    Sorry for any repetition.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:43 PM  

  • Okay, since it is clear nobody can read the replies before posting - let me say the same thing 85% of you have repeated already:

    How about get an external usb drive, and leave it in the freezer? Maybe you'll get more time!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:08 PM  

  • I back up my data regular

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:14 PM  

  • I have done this so many times. I live in the rocky mountains, so leaving it outside is also fine. Also I can run the machine outside and keep it freezing cold. In the winter months of course.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:18 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Piscesburning, at 10:57 PM  

  • I tried to not get my hopes up, but it seemed like fate or something. A while ago my hard drive had burned out, the same day I was planning on backing up all my important stuff. I thought about it today for the first time in a while and then just happened to see this article on torrentspy.com.

    I put the hard drive in the freezer for 5 hours but every time I hooked it up to my computer, it just wouldn't start. The fan would twitch as if to spin, but that was it. I tried putting it in by itself, as a slave, pretty much every combination. I switched cables around to make sure it wasn't a connection issue, and nothing. The computer boots with the drives I have right now, and even when there is no drive, but the moment one of the power cables is connected to the problematic drive .. nada. Zip.

    I am in the process of picking (at random pretty much, because I have no idea how to find the best one) a data recovery place to bring this to. Before that happens and I spend money I don't have, I thought I'd give it a shot and see if any wise good samaritans could offer some advice. Maybe there's something I can still do myself?

    Thank you and please excuse the length of this comment and my please-help-me-ness.

    By Blogger Piscesburning, at 11:04 PM  

  • Any tried and true geek with experience with bigfoot HDD's knows the freezer trick and for some scientific reason, (a career-path I chose NOT to follow) it works.

    hooray freezers.

    I'm serious.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:38 PM  

  • DUH....Has anyone ever thought about leaving it in the freezer in maybe, I don't know, a usb enclosure? That would be a GREAT idea!!!!!......some of you ppl have permanent ID ten T errors!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:29 AM  

  • Please guys, I need help with an external LaCie 250gb usb drive! It just stopped working, 6 weeks after I bought it. Now XP doesn't even recognize the drive. Any ideas?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:42 PM  

  • did you try installing it on another computer? If it's working on another computer, then the drive is fine, if it's not, then the problem is with the drive, and you'll have to get it back to the store for a refund.

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 10:24 PM  

  • If you think the freezer works good...try putting it in the oven at 275 degrees and then it will work for up to 2 hours after....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:58 AM  

  • This does sometimes work, I have done it.
    You are best using a deep freeze for at least 24hrs. Once done i sat the drive in between 2 freezer blocks and ran ghost on the drive. The drive ran for about 30mins which gave me plenty of time.
    Unfortunatly it only worked the once for me so don't go making promises.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:35 AM  

  • Looks like most of the anonymous contributers are FARKERS.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:49 AM  

  • I've been receiving tons of traffic for this article through shoutwire, a lot more then what I should have got normally, probably someone who blogged the article through shoutwire.. Anyone can point me to the source?


    By Blogger Kiltak, at 2:11 PM  

  • For those of you who think hard drives have vaccuums, they don't.
    If you put a hard drive in a vaccuum, it's going to crash.
    The heads float on a cushion of air created by the spinning of the platters, hence the reason for the little holes on the hard drive enclosure.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:49 PM  

  • To Kiltak - Don't know if this helps, but I found the link under "most popular" here: http://www.torrentspy.com/

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:03 AM  

  • Well, one of my harddrives just burned out this wednesday... And God damnit I'm gonna try it!

    If I can keep it near point zero, maybe I can get my collection of designer pictures back!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:43 PM  

  • I had two Maxtor HDs die in a month. Freezer trick didn't work for either of them. Fug Maxtor.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:06 AM  

  • Here is a thought for you all: First, I would seal the HD. Condensation was mentioned as an issue. But that would depend on heat of the HD initially. Perhaps cooling it before sealing it. The seal a meal seemed tenable. Now for an offshoot of all the above posts. I like the one that lowered the melting point with salt. Where I'm going is to make a bath with dry ice [CO2 frozen] and acetone. The exact number fails me, but it will go to minus 50 degrees F, for sure. Your freezer is stable at 0 degrees F. Surrounding it with a fluid better regulates the temperature [laws of thermodynamics]. And in this case minutes/seconds count!
    As to duration, use common sense.
    Dry ice/acetone bath gets the temp. down in minutes. For the calories to reach equilibrium with the HD, I do not know. The guide I'd use is hours, or even over nite, as mentioned in posts above. Of course, you are hooked up, and that temp will not change that much, if you give it a try sooner than later!?!

    Remember, this is for mechanical related issues, not electrical.

    Yes, the USB/1394/Serial external HD case seems most appropriate [slave it, don't boot it!]. Ah!! A good reason to upgrade to serial transfer! Much faster transfer rate! lol

    On the wilder side, go to a lab auction, that is selling liquid nitrogen freezers. Talk about cold... I have seen a mod comp with liquid nitrogen cooling. After a certain point [colder], electricity flows faster. That would be absolute zero.

    Footnote: I've used this principal to remove an axle from its' housing from a bulldozer. It compresses the metal enough to get it out!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:16 PM  

  • I didn't read every comment, so I hope no one already said this, but I've found this to work for batteries that don't hold a charge. I discovered it when I accidentally left my laptop in the car overnight when it was about -30. The laptop never quite worked the same again (thought I was still able to squeeze another 3 years of life out of it), but the battery went from holding 2 minutes of charge to holding 2 hours of charge.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:21 PM  

  • Old trick, been using it for 20 yers and it only works for mech. problems, normally bering related problems. Ref a few erlier posts: ..the dry ice / acetone will pull it down to -195c
    ... oif the drive was in a vacuume it would crash big time since the heads actaully ride on a layer of air without the air they would grind into the platters

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:25 AM  

  • It totally works. I recovered a drive by wrapping it in plastic bags and submerging it in ice in an insulated box. The trick was to keep it below 3 degrees centigrade. Your mileage will probably vary.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:54 PM  

  • I too can attest that the HDD in the freezer usually works, though as said above, only for mechanical errors, not electrical. What got my attention was the mention of a battery fix by this. I'm not sure how Li-Ion batteries discharge, or what reactions take place to make them lose their ability to hold a charge, but going by the post above, I'm throwing my toughbook's batt in the freezer tonight. Right now it only holds a charge for about 2mins, 10 with the LCD off.

    Oh and just so it can be said for the 101th time.
    "Hey, why doesn't someone just use an external USB enclosure so that it will last longer DUH!.

    Why do people post to threads that they don't even read., jeez

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:56 AM  

  • OK, I don't know about the freezing part. But. One of my kids knocked my external flying, and I swear that sucker bounced! After turning it back on to a message of "would you like to format this drive?" PCInspector saved the day which was a good thing since I had used the external as my back up and it had about 5 years of crap on it. The biggest plus is being able to go and tell my boss about it, since our network admin holds his fancy schmancy software over our heads and claims he's the only one able to do recovery. This is going to save us a lot of lunches being served at a nice resturant to say thank you for him helping us out(even tho' it technically comes under the heading of "doing his job")

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:33 AM  

  • Worked for me.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 10:14 AM  

  • Does this work on all hard drive brand? Toshiba, fujitsu, maxtor, Lacie, Western Digital WD, Seagate, panasonic...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:31 PM  

  • The main point of all this is the fact that hard drives do fail - and that people are stupid to think they can rely on hard drives forever. If you don't back up your data on multiple media, you _will_ lose it! Period.

    That said, I turn now to the stack of Maxtor 5T020H2 drives sitting on my kitchen counter - more than two dozen of them. I am currently engaged in repairing them.

    I work in the computer industry, and this is the single most common drive model that gets scrapped - why do so many of this model fail? I don't know for certain... but I do note that most of them are missing chips - ICs have actually fallen right off their printed circuit boards, and no amount of freezing is ever going to restore them.

    What DOES restore them is the procedure of replacing the PCB. I typically look for a unit of the same model type where the PCB is still intact, but the HDA has failed - spindle off-balance due to impact; thrown a head; etc. - and then simply swap the good PCB off that drive to another that has a failed PCB but with the HDA apparently intact (no rattles, torn seals, or such).

    All it takes is a T8 screwdriver, and a couple of minutes to swap the PCBs. About 4 out of 5 of the "apparently okay" HDAs will also prove to be defective - noisy running, vibrating excessively, or running abnormally hot after several minutes - but the remaining 20% will run fine. I then wipe them and test them, mark them as 'okay', and put them on the stores rack - and I have yet _another_ perfectly usable hard drive... that I get from the scrap, for _free__.

    I use the ones that test perfectly clean in my home systems. I've been doing that for about a year and a half now, with no serious problems - I've yet to encounter one that actually fails. The ones with bad sectors near the end, however... I know those drives will fail sooner, so I partition slightly short of the damaged area and use those drives to transfer data to friends - they USB the files off them, and then throw the drives away... the drives work at least well enough for that. Sometimes they get sent back and forth several times... and again, I haven't seen one returned that has failed critically yet.

    Gotta love recycling!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:48 PM  

  • Then let's try this ... Get a small zip lock bag and put your hard drive in it. Put that one inside a large zip lock bag. Put two cold packs inside the large freezer bag on each side of the hard drive and freeze the whole lot together. You should be able to bring this package to your computer and run cool for quite a while. No long cables to buy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:59 AM  

  • My hard disk does not show any activity; the platters do not spin when you power it up.

    Have there been any success stories with this type of problem as well?

    By Blogger Simon, at 11:10 AM  

  • Simon: I don't think it will work.. the disk has to be spinning if you want to be able to get back data from it..

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 11:23 AM  

  • this madness makes me feel crazy. should I do it or is sarcasm controlling my actions?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:31 AM  

  • i think i will try it with a 60gb lacie (porsche) external...

    ps: reading all the comments, I was realy wondering, why nobody had the idea to leave the wirded HD in the freezer while saving the data?!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:37 AM  

  • I have only had this work once and it was a laptop hard drive. It did allow me to get the data transferred to another drive.

    By Blogger picdout, at 7:44 PM  

  • Try Freeze spray you can get it at Dick Smithsf for about $10 it helped me in the past and am about to try it again.

    - wOOp #hell Austnet iRC

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:26 AM  

  • Tried every trick listed here and nothing worked. Doh. There goes a month of hard work...

    Stay away from the WD4000KS drives, theyre worse than the deathstar (deskstar) drives from a few years ago!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:56 PM  

  • are those weird clacking noises can generally be fixed by this freezing technique? What if the real culprit of it was the Logic Board? Can it still be fixed? As many said this only applies in mechanical issues not in electronics, but the symptoms of mine is a weird clacking noise and it can't be detected by the system, I'm trying this right now maybe i can freeze it 24-30 hours.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:02 AM  

  • re: from anonymous - The reason this works is simple - integrated circuits sometimes partially fail, and if you can keep a chip cold enough it will still work. Putting a drive in the freezer only helps if you have a *partially* fried chip on the board

    Aboslutely TRUE. Worked for me on a dead, non spinning drive. Apparently once the drive was up and running it kept running until I shutdown - 5 hrs later. In this case, I believe that a failing chip on the PCB was sending the start command to the drive (your situation could be different.. so image the drive ASSAP).

    For those of you who think you have a failed PCB (..but not fried), "Give Freeze a Chance".

    -thanks anonymous

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:54 PM  

  • Hey I recently had a problem with my computer where it froze after booting making a clicking noise.. I resolved it by doing a simple CHKDSK function provided in Windows.. Check out the procedure if you are interested

    By Blogger Sam, at 1:52 PM  

  • Half year ago, in summer, I had a small problem with my HDD. After a few minutes of running, I heared a strangle clicking sound from my HDD and then after 10 seconds my PC crashed. I restarted my PC and it could't boot, but later that day I turned it on, it booted but then crashed again. I realized that it could be because of heat and I bought a new really big case and installed additional 5x 8cm led fans into my case, and my PC is running great, and I love that blue color of the fans ;-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:56 AM  

  • The computer in my lab (which stores my data) started making the horrible clikcing noise (i have nightmares about that) and died. I tried the freezer trick, and it worked, gave me about 5 minutes. Unfortunately the flash drive i was trying to copy to died. I tried feezing it again with no luck. So i was stressed and a bit crazy, so we decided to through the bugger in a bin full of liquid nitrogen. We pulled it out 5 minutes later, and an hour after that (had to let it warm up enough so that no more ice formed) and plugged it into a computer as a slave. Lasted long enough to get my data.

    P.S. Maybe an airtight bag would have been a good idea. Lots of condensation, the drive got soaked.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:17 AM  

  • Hmmm.... Have any of you considered maybe... I don't know... Running it in the freezer?
    You could use an external hard drive case, and It would run for hours! how about an Ice bath? An old college fridge? Maybe outside in the rocky mountain air? What if you left it outside in 30* weather all night... I bet that would help the battery. Infact, I'm going to do this with my toughbook right now, but I already know it works because I've been in comp tech for 13,14,15,17, and 20 years! That'll show my boss with his "Real" software.

    The only reason this works is:
    Dust in a vaccuum,
    Bi-metal expansion,
    "The physics",
    and cushions of air.
    And becaus of that, it will and won't work forever.

    Duh. It is all so simple now.

    Why oh why didn't I see it before?


    -Cody C

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:22 PM  

  • why am I not surprised that the hdd in question is a maxtor diamondmax 8 "hot pancake" drive ??

    maybe because i had at least 10 (yes, TEN) of these suckers die on me during their first two years of service ?

    oh man..these were a real pain in the rear to return for warranty...you should have seen the arguments i had.

    At one point Maxtor was even considering a worldwide recall of these suckers... dunno what happened to that.

    Those incidents cured me of ever using maxtor drives again.
    (and yes..i know that they are now owned by seagate... but they still suck)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:46 PM  

  • I had an interesting situation where I tried it in the freezer and it still caused the POST sequence to have a heart attack when detecting IDE. Because it was dynamic disk that had been striped in windows I was understandably a bit worried.

    I then booted windows and plugged the drive in through a USB adapter and it worked perfectly for long enough to get my data off it. Windows detected it instantly and re-activated the striped disks.

    So if after freezing it still causes the PC to not boot, try it via a USB interface as well.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:42 PM  

  • When I have that problem, I always take my computer and drive to the North Pole. It works real well, though one time an Eskimo named Nanook shot my computer with a harpoon.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:23 PM  

  • Ive had it work twice, both with Hitachi Deskstar models that had an overheating problem. I was able to keep them working in an icebox just long enough to Ghost the data off to a new drive. Of course, seal them in a plastic bag, hot hard drive and ice dont mix.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:02 PM  

  • somebody said to put it in an external enclosure so that it does not heat up inside your computer real fast. i was just wondering what if you used a long cable and put your external in the freezer while it ran

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:50 PM  

  • I tried freezing my Maxtor 200 gb external harddrive (USB)for 2 days.. the cracking noise stopped.. but before the motor attains speed, it slows down for sometime and hence does not read the data..

    Any suggestions?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:36 PM  

  • Sorry dude, Can't do much for you apart from that... and opening a disk is way too risky if you don't know what you'Re doing. You would have to send it to a data recovery shop.

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 8:10 PM  

  • I took my non-spinning Maxtor and put it in a zip lock with the IDE ribbon attached but sticking out of the bag . I had previosly frozen about an inch of water in a tupperware container about 6 inches deep . Next I put the drive with the cable attached and the zip lock into the tupperware CAREFULLY with the ribbon coming out the top so it couldn't get wet. Then I added water to the container CAREFULLY to the top. Put it in the freezer til solid. Hooked up the drive and it worked till I could retrieve my data, about 1 hour. It was still frozen solid when I got done and still was working, but I decided not to use it again after that.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:28 AM  

  • I froze my hard drive also, after reading this article I was inspired... I could'nt get my hard drive to work at all! It wouldn't even show the screen!!! So I did what you did! I put it in the freezer, (for 24 hours).

    I woke up the next morning to get some waffles, and I saw my hard drive... Reminding me what I did last night. So I took it out, connected it back, and it loaded!!!! It runs great now, all I had to do was fix some partitioning errors, and then re-install Windows XP! It worked, I was so overjoyed that I took pictures like crazy, thinking that it wasn't going to last! But it's been 3 days now, so it's fine!!!

    This is now no myth!!! What it does is it contracts all of the metal components, so that the disk can spin more freely and can boot correctly... in due time hard drives get old, they die just like anything else on this planet, there is no escaping it. I thought there was nothing left to do, nonetheless thought that I had done just about everything I could trying to get this thing to work! Thank GOD for this article! Are else I'd be a wreck right now! I am on the computer that I am talking about right now!

    -Alic Stone

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:51 PM  

  • ok this is what i did:

    got a ziplock bag,used an empty plastic cd case ( the one that u get when u buy a 50 /100 blank dvds or cds). poured water into (no leaks at all). i then put the harddrive in the ziplock bag and that into water within the case and left it in the freezer for 24hrs. next day, the hardrive was frozen solid in a block of ice and i took the plastic cd case upto my computer and opened the ziplock lock from the top, connected everthing up and it DIDNT work!!Does any1 have any other ideas? do u think i should do that again? what do u think?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:16 AM  

  • Thanks for this article!! My client was desperate to recover data from 2 Western Digital 140G? ide drives (they were a spanned volume within a LaCie case posing as a single drive). One drive produced the telling "knocking sound," which another poster explained.

    My client, who normally is good about backing up their 10 PCs (including 4 servers) inexplicably hadn't been backing up the external LaCie nor had been using it as a backup of internal drives.

    Before sending the Western Digital drives to a recovery company, I stumbled upon your article and tried freezing the drives.

    After 24 hours in the freezer (in a plastic bag), the drives were accessed by my client, who ran a usb and pwr cord from the LaCie case in the freezer to a laptop. It (they) didn't work.

    I returned 3 days later. I removed the coverless LaCie skeleton w/drives from the freezer, pulled the LaCie from the bag and put it on a wooden table, on which the laptop sat.

    Before plugging the usb cable into the laptop, I turned the LaCie case on. The knocking noise was higher pitched and less jarring than its room-temp crash sound. Windows XP recognized the electronics of the LaCie case but not the drives. I unplugged the usb cable.

    While listening to the drives to re-confirm which one produced the knocking sound, I put the back of my finger onto the suspect frost-covered drive in order to feel the knocking. The circuit boards were frost covered, too, by the way.

    Suddenly, the knocking WD drive started purring, so I plugged the usb cable back into the laptop and voila! Windows recognized the hard drive and my client began copying data to the laptop. I left after an hour and half and my client was still copying data!

    I liked watching the drives and electronics thaw: first they were white with frost ("hoary hard drives" -- I should trademark that), then the frost melted and turned to liquid water, making the drives and circuit board look like they were sweating in summer! Yikes! Then after several minutes, the drives were dry.

    The whole process was fun and I got paid for it, charging my client only for my time, which was much, much less than a recovery company's low estimate.

    Ode to Western Digital

    Why do you knock?
    Why do you mock!

    I keep forgiving you
    But never again

    You make people want to jump
    Or go postal

    Your warranty promise is empty

    Who wants a replacement
    When data's heart is lost

    You're as dependable as a borderline, but marketed by a narcissist.

    I'll freeze your ass if I come across your kind again.

    P.S. I had 2 Western Digitals go bad in two different cities within 2 weeks. About 7 years ago I had to replace about 8 Western Digital hard drives within 6 months, as they all crashed and made that depressing knocking sound.

    But, I've also replaced IBM DeathStar drives many times and more recently some Maxtors. We all know all drive brands crash. The hard drive needs to go the same way as punch cards and Word Perfect.

    By Blogger generatech, at 5:10 AM  

  • if you really want to keep it cold, probably the best thing to do is leave the harddrive in the freezer. oh.. you could use like a usb enclosure and just read it from actually inside the PC.

    I actually got my harddrive to work by telling a joke to my mother in law.. Her icy stare froze my harddrive and I could run it for 1 hour. enough time to get a kebab. When I got back with my kebab it had stopped working. So i lost all my 'how to save a harddrive' text files... dammit!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:46 AM  

  • I had a 160gb hard drive crash on me late last year. It wouldn't boot, wouldn't work as a slave drive in my other computer and was making a horrible clacking sound when powered on. I thought it was lost for good...

    I thought wrong!

    I read this article about freezing drives to try and recover data. I tried it briefly last year but it did not work. So, before I gave up all hope, I tried it again, wrapped it in plastic wrap and some paper towels to keep and condensation out, then wrapped it in 2 freezer bags and threw it in the freezer and left it there for almost 3 months (bascially forgot it was in there) until this past weekend when I got time to give it a shot once more.

    Took it out, plugged in as a slave drive and it still was making that noise so I thought it was a goner...then, for only a second or two, the noise stopped. It started again, but then stopped for a longer time. then finally...it stopped altogether! I booted the machine, and was able to copy all of the files I thought were gone forever to another drive!!! I now have all of that backed up to dvd's.

    The drive worked for almost a full day but died again. So, thanks for the tips, I can verify it definitely worked for me!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:07 PM  

  • I froze my 60 gig harddrive over night then plugged it in and a wiff of smoke went up in the air and now the bios cannot even reconize the hard drive's name.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:41 PM  

  • Does going this void the HD's warranty?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:35 AM  

  • If it is still under warranty, yes. In this case, if you want your Data back, you will have to send your drive to a data recovery shop that is certified with HD manufacturer to not void the warranty when opening up drives..

    It will cost you thought, lots of money..

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 11:02 AM  

  • I've used the freezer method many times with much success. It really only works about 1 in 5 times that I try it but when it works it really works. It probably only works for some very specific heat related problems because as soon as the drive gets back to hot it usually fails again. I've been known to freeze the bad drive multiple times in order to get all the data from it. Th

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:01 AM  

  • What a saver! Just recovered my 5 years old collection of photos!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:12 PM  

  • Has anyone had an external hard drive fail to read because it was dropped? Were you able to freeze it and get it back up and running?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:53 PM  

  • Right, I'm going to try this later.

    I ran a defrag last night and got up to find one drive had disappeared. Not recognised by windows at all so can't use any of the recovery tools.

    Finger's crossed, this will work!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:29 AM  

  • Hmmm, I have some hitachi drives in a Raid array, I guess this technique would not work with this kind of setup right? What are the options to recovery a damaged Raid 5 or Raid 0 array?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:05 PM  

  • looks like someone let the secret smoke out that makes all electronics function.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:38 PM  

  • I know, why not try putting the harddrive in a usb case and putting the whole thing in the freezer! then running the wires out to the pc


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:39 PM  

  • I tried this last night after reading this post. It worked for my slim USB drive that was knocking. Just long enough to get almost all me data off!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:17 PM  

  • this trick oddly enough not only works with semi-broken hd but also with cd-rs and cd-rws which have scratches all over them. I believe this is due to the matter of the drive contracting and thus closing spaces which cause loss of data

    By Blogger Unknown, at 10:21 AM  

  • Freezing the hard drive works 1 out of every 10 for myself. I've found that every drive has a special tactic to recovery, many of the methods with success include what has been mentioned.

    USB and Firewire platforms tend to help mostly. Take an NTFS formatted hard drive, it might be wise to place the drive into another system as a slave drive. This might enhance your changes of viewing the data, as the drive typically will repair itself if orphaned files could be potentially causing the startup issues, and you might luckily bypass the damaged sector if repairable by the OS.

    When I mentioned another system, remember Macintosh systems could also potentially become your greatest friend during this process. Try placing the drive into an enclosure, using Firewire attach this to a working Tiger based system with plenty of RAM installed on it (1Gb if possible). Run the Disk Utility to see if the drive is recognized, and if possible try using utilities such as DiskWarrior or TechTools to work on the drive, in this case the latest version which supports Intel chips since we're dealing with Tiger. You may be able to get your data, this is the overall goal right?

    Try repairing the drive if you're willing to take the risk. This can always be performed if the head is still functional, but hopefully you have a device to clone or image the drive when it's functioning correctly (meaning spinning with jams). :)

    Switching out the board on the drive is always an option but can be hard to find the exact match. Typically you won't get that lucky, but in my opinion it's always the best way to get a drive running again. In 12 years of experience I've never been that lucky.

    Lastly, try booting utilities such as ERD Commander and use this example to show to others the problems with the risk of running without a backup to encourage better habits to encourage a change in your backup process or to implement one.

    Backup software can be risky and many options are out there. Let's just say without a backup it's truly a risk that could be prevented and with so many nightmare stories, I'd hope articles like this would encourage each of us to do the right thing, and make copies, perform backups, or find alternative means to safekeeping data you just can't live without.

    Hope this helps.

    Toru Fujimoto ~ Punk Ninja

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:13 AM  

  • If freezing doesn't work, you can try to get the exact same drive (make sure it has the exact same firmware listed on it as well as same make and model). Get the special screw driver for opening drives. Open the drive and swap out the logic board with the new one. Once you get the data off, return the logic board to the new drive, dump the data to the new drive and discard the old one. This obviously only works for drives with fried logic boards.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:16 PM  

  • It appears as though most comments are made by men, so here is an idea from the other side. Use some of the coldpacks for lunch boxes, INSIDE a lunch box, or cooler, to keep in the cold. I think it would be difficult to do it in the freezer, since you do not want condensation on or in it, which is why you seal it in a bag. So if you freeze it, and immediately transfer it to the cold lunch box or cooler, then you might have less of a chance of getting condensation. SB

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:28 PM  

  • the freezing stop the clicking, but the HD still wont mount.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:19 PM  

  • Condensation is what happens when you put the drive in a warm, moisture-rich environment after it's been in the freezer. It doesn't happen in the freezer!

    Brains, people ... how about you use them!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:28 AM  

  • 1 - Works just as well with Macs?

    2 - Any way to do this but not void the warranty?

    By Blogger Ryan, at 10:12 PM  

  • Ryan: The brand of computer is irrelevant.. a hard drive is a hard drive..

    2: Of course it'll void your warranty :)

    People should do this at their own risk and only as a last resort. If they can't risk it, they should send the drive over to a Data Recovery shop..

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 11:15 PM  

  • . to the guy with a raid 5 or raid 0 array:
    It will work, but you only have to freeze the problem drive only, not the OK one, and with raid 5, you cankeep the "parity" disk at room temp also.
    Given that raid disks are usually identical make/models, and do the same service hours in the same environment, scrap the whole array, or at least retire the undamaged drives to a less crucial role

    18 months too late, but there ya go...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:06 AM  

  • Nice to see that "cooling" - not necessarily "freezing" still works. Thirty years ago when a critical system crashed (usually a disk read error) we'd try everything - including cooling. Step 1 of everything was to change the read retry counter from 8 to 65535 - next was removing the disk pack (!!!) - followed by taking it outside for cooling. Lots of reasons why it might work. Expansion/contraction of platters changes bit density and locations. etc. etc.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:12 PM  

  • A few months ago I had a 160GB laptop SATA drive fail on me. I tried all kinds of different tricks to try and access the data, but nothing worked. For years I've heard about the "freezing the drive" trick, and out of desperation I thought I would give it a try. After letting the drive freeze for a few days, I connected it to a computer, while keeping the drive in a cooler. Initially it started making some awful sounds, and I had some issues. But after a few attempts, I was in. Although I had a few glitches, over the course of an hour I was able to grab all my important data off the drive. Thanks for the excellent article, and thanks for all the great comments.

    By Blogger dnovosel, at 11:44 PM  

  • I think this has come a saviour, I must give it a try or should I? My 120 GB Back-up Hard Disk, an IDE in an USB enclosure, slipped from my hand fell on the floor this morning. All the computers ard just wouldn't detect it anymore. It has all my important data, all my digital pix all of abt 30 gigs, purchased mp3, movies, files, etc.. etc..

    It makes only the connecting ad disconnecting sound to the computer's usb port and removal, but just wouldn't show up in the explorer. I donno why am I afraid even after reading so many positive responses of the "freezing physics". Can anyone help me/ tell me if in my case it will work??

    Thanks ppl!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:21 PM  

  • I think this has come a saviour, I must give it a try or should I? My 120 GB Back-up Hard Disk, an IDE in an USB enclosure, slipped from my hand fell on the floor this morning. All the computers ard just wouldn't detect it anymore. It has all my important data, all my digital pix all of abt 30 gigs, purchased mp3, movies, files, etc.. etc..

    It makes only the connecting ad disconnecting sound to the computer's usb port and removal, but just wouldn't show up in the explorer. I donno why am I afraid even after reading so many positive responses of the "freezing physics". Can anyone help me/ tell me if in my case it will work??

    Thanks ppl!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:22 PM  

  • To last commentator: Hmmm, you're taking a big risk by doing this, especially if you have important data on there.

    You're the only one who knows if you data is worth the try.. if your files are too important to risk this procedure, you should contact a data recovery company.

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 4:29 PM  

  • I actuall pured acid on my hard drive, put it into the freezer and then had my cat shit over it, and it worked amazingly after that!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:26 PM  

  • I am about to try this freezer trick but wonder what is the quickest way to grab my data,pics,itunes,email off of the drive quickly, while getting the entire program and all contents? The bad one is my primary drive but i do have an external hooked up to drag it to. Or should I use a program? I'm scared it will just drag a shortcut over.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:12 AM  

  • I've also tried this and worked enough to the old data off it. Nice article.

    By Blogger Robert Plumer, at 7:25 PM  

  • I tried a different tack on this. Apparently, the drive overheats during the continuous read cycle that data recovery involves. Logically, this means that the drive needs added cooling. So I stuck a 12" fan next to the drive and turned it on high. The drive stayed cool enough for me to identify and recover 2+ gigs of files. Just for kicks, I did another recovery cycle, and the disk stayed "alive" through that as well. Just thought this might help some of you out there as it did me. Saved me the trouble of constantly freezing the disk and trying to recover a handful of files at a time.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:14 PM  

  • Hello
    I just have a failed HDD. After noticing it I placed it in a USB enclosure. It(HDD)tries to start up and then it clicks and it repeats this for 3-5 time before shutting down itself.
    I have placed it in the freezer for appr. 1 hour tried again without success.
    Does anyone have anothe suggestion?

    By Blogger Gion, at 6:03 PM  

  • I was skeptical in begining how freezing would help me to retrieve my data from a dead hard drive but seeing no other help line avaliable to me I decided to jump on the test.

    I then put my clicky maxtor 300gb hard drive wrapped with film and pu in frige for 24hrs, then quickly took it out and put it in my computer as slave drive and I was able to read my harddrive again!!!

    I'm truly amazed that I was able to retrieve all the data on my dead hard drive more than 2 hours and that's all I need. Great tips!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:58 AM  

  • This is not a myth but a truly reality but of course it would only work for certain hard drive that meets its condition. Otherwise, your best option is to seek advise from the data recovery specialist.

    Fortunately, it worked for me (much thanks to this article). Guess what? I'm no hardware specialist or even close to novice. Before I saw the blue and then black screens, I heard a loud rattling noise from my laptop. The blue screen came up so I had to reboot. Then I had to to a hard boot and got this: "Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM". I have rebooted several times and saw the black screen and got an "OS not found" error. Ding! I had to do some thing. I ran linux knoppix and found some files about 25% that are not imporant to me so I copied them to my seagate external hd. I still needed to get the other files so I made a research and stumbled here. Thank goodness!

    Here's what I did after removing the hd from my laptop. I wrapped the hd with paper towel and placed it inside a small ziploc freezer bag. I let it rested in the freezer for 3 nights/4 days. Then I took it out and attached the 2.5 usb enclosure > put it back in the small freezer bag > got a couple of blue ice and combined them with the hd (nicely covered) in a bigger plastic bag. Then I attached the usb connector coming out from hd to my desktop PC. I did not encounter major problem copying my 30gb of files except I was getting a windows error "delayed write failed" after 1.5 hours but I just ignored it and it kept copying the file although it seemed very slowly but oh well. At least I got my files I wanter. I could have done this by leaving the hd inside the freezer if I had working laptop to get close to the fridge. Next step is to buy a new hd and format the problematic hd (if that does now work to fix the problem then it's time to recycle).



    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:52 PM  

  • this is a very interesting post. i have been reading this post and none thus far have encountered their HD being dead which was caused by static, EMF. my HD became dead after i tried removing it and put it on another pc. i must have forgotten to ground myself and by the time i installed the HD into the new one, it didnt detect it. tried playing around with the jumpers, master slave cable select and still would not detect it. theres no movement from the hd nor you cannot hear anything from it (platters not moving). after that incident, i assume its a lost cause, my hd is official dead. so my question to everyone, do you think freezing your hd would make a difference and enable me to recover, if not all, some of my data?

    thanks in advance!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:21 PM  

  • I don't think it will work.. your drive's circuit board probably fried...

    You may want to try replacing it by getting a indentical drive... who knows, it may be worth the try, but it's not guaranteed to work.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:40 AM  

  • Here's an idea.... Instead of trying useless, idiotic home remedies like putting a hard drive in the freezer, why not just make backups of your data? I mean seriously people, it's not that hard. If your drive dies, toss it, and buy a new one. What's next, putting a dead mobo in the microwave?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:03 PM  

  • I hate to burst the bubble, but there is no empirical evidence that freezing hard drives is a reliable method of recovering from drive errors. The evidence is all anecdotal. For each poster who comments that it worked for him, there could be hundreds for whom it didn't work.

    Even still, I've tried it on drives that didn't matter. I've had 4 unsuccessful attempts (also anecdotal).

    If your drive is making noise, your best bet is to send it to a recovery company if it contains data that you can't afford to lose.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:15 PM  

  • I always keep a small cooler, a 'playmate' by the side of my computer for all my external hard drives. I am thinking of prototyping a refrigerated external HD case. If it works of course I will have them mass produced and later cut a deal with CompUSA.

    By Blogger Otis, at 5:10 PM  

  • The "Click of Death" took my WD external drive well before its time. I called a local data recovery company & they quoted my $600.00+ to recover years of pictures of my kids and other important data... I know, I know... it's happened to me before & I swore I would back up religiously. BUT, I DIDN"T! Anyway, I stumbled across multiple threads encouraging me to freeze the drive to recover the data (which the local recovery company told me not to fall for the BS on the web insisting that it DOES NOT WORK). I read another thread (with pics) on how to remove the drive from the enclosure with hope it was the board or power supply (i have two of the same drives). After removing the drive & connecting it as a 2nd drive... no joy. I then decided it was worth the try to freeze it based upon all the "success" everyone else was having. I stuck it in a anti-static bag then used a FoodSaver to evacuate the air within their bag. Then put it in a freezer bag wrapped with a rubber band for 4 days... with explicit instructions to the kids, "DO NOT MISTAKE IT FOR GROUND BEEF & THAW OUT IN MICROWAVE! I ordered a IDE/Sata to USB cable to make data transfer easier (if it will work at all). The cable came UPS & I hustled home to give it a try. You should have seen the look on my son's face when he saw me with the drive wedged between two freezer ice packs praying to the hard drive gods to look upon me favorably. I connected the cable (great purchase BTW), powered up & heard the familiar "click, click, click". NOOOOOOOOOOO! Then I heard the USB connection "ding". Then to my suprise... a "My Book" drive icon appearing in windows explorer and autoplay scanning the drive. I knew I had limited time to transfer. Then, my bluetooth keyboard & mouse refused to cooperate. I could see the drive, but could not navigate to make the transfer. I ran to my son's room, ripped off his wired keyboard & mouse and re-booted, praying I would still see the drive afterward. IT WORKED! I moved all the data as fast as I could to another drive with intentions to back it up often... yeah right!.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 5:38 PM  

  • I just do this today. My notebook hard disk is not readable and have clicking noise. At first, I freeze it for 8 hours, but still the data is not readable. I re-packed the hard disk and freeze it again for 24 hours.

    After taking out from the freezer, I left it in normal room temperature until the drive did not feel cold anymore.

    Then I plug the disk to the notebook using USB-IDE converter, and magically, some of the partition is able to be read. I quickly copied all the important files to the new disk in my notebook.

    Conclusion, it is not a myth. It is a reality. But it depends on how bad your hard disk has been broken, and how lucky you are :)

    By Blogger Sharuzzaman, at 8:19 AM  

  • Does this only work if your hard drive is seen by windows before you do it? When i go to My Computer, its not there.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:04 PM  

  • Hard drives store information via magnetic materials that polarize North or South in tiny areas representing a logical 1 or 0. All magnetic materials are temperature dependent, their magnetic field grows stronger or weaker with temperature (depending on the type of material). The recording media in hard drives becomes magnetically stronger as it cools. The signal picked up by the read head is "louder" in a frozen hard drive, helping the read head pick up a partially corrupted, or possibly weak signal. I'm not sure if this is why freezing a hard drive allows it to live again until it warms, but the fact the magnetic media increases flux density when cold may be one contributing reason. - Graham Gunderson

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:18 PM  

  • So is colder better? I have access to -80 Degree C freezers in the lab I work in, and I am hoping to use this method to recover the data off my clicking maxtor 250GB external drive. I am planning to leave it in the freezer during the process, but am unsure if this would be too cold. Any suggestions?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:36 PM  

  • I dunno about anyone else, but I found the freezer trick to work extremely well for about 3 minutes in my case.
    I got myself some dry ice, packed it and my drive into a cardboard box, and was able to recover EVERYTHING.
    Take it for what it's worth.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:43 AM  

  • I got a Western Digital 250 GB. About half full and i need that data...
    The disk would spin for a minute and then stop. When i try to reconnect the power to the drive it would not spin unles only after a day or two, and it spins again for a minute or two.

    Tried the fridge trick and it worked for 3-5 minutes, not enought time to backup everything.
    THE SOLUTION TO BACKUP: I used an open external enclosure with the drive upside down hooked up to it. Then with a can of compressed air turned upside down i was spraying liquid air and cooling parts of the board to detect where the problem is - when cooled in the rigth place the drive started to spin. By constant application of liquid air to that part of the board (every 15 seconds or so) i was able to get all my data out. Worked for me, it might work for you too.
    PS: I will try now heating the drive :), maybe it will fix it and i can use it again.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:17 AM  

  • well this site was my last attempt. i put the hard drive inside an enclosure for 6 hours last night in the freezer and then tried it - nothing. Then left it in overnight for an additional 8 hours and tried it this morning - still no luck. I guess i won't try it again for 24 hours. anyone else have any other suggestions? i have a macbook so i am just running a firewire cable directly from the freezer to the computer. :(

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:52 AM  

  • Hi, I found you at the top of google after I had heard this rumor.

    Let me tell you that a completely dead Seagate SATA making the most god awful noise is back to full strength after 24 hours in the freezer.

    All I wanted was enough time to pop it in a USB caddy and get the data on to my laptop.

    3 days later and after numerous boots it is still going strong! Obviously I have all the data I need backed up elsewhere now!

    Thanks for giving me the confidence to try this and if anyone else is in the same boat.... give it a go... what have you to lose?


    M :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:46 AM  

  • I can't believe this actually works. I thought I'd lost everything for good until a friend sent me this link. I removed the hard drive from my laptop and placed it in the freezer (it had been making any annoying clicking noise and not booting up) and removed it after 2 1/2 hours. 2 hours later.....it's still running......and I've managed to get everything I need off it!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:44 PM  

  • A large meat freezer is much colder than a regular fridge freezer.
    Leave the drive and a small towel
    in the Deep - freezer = Large meat freezer
    with a towel, also placed with the drive to keep both very cold.
    Wrap the Hard-drive in the small
    towel upon removal and the wrap the towel and drive with plastic wrap, thus keeping a fridge
    unattached to your computer.
    This will likely yield one and a half
    to two and a half hours HDD spinning time.
    The deep - freeze works better.
    Ed the Cannuck
    PS: I'm used to Feezing

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:26 PM  

  • About the condensation issue, you should throw a few of those little moisture absorbing packets in the bag with the drive when you freeze it. You know those little "do not eat" packets that come in the package of most every little electronic device under the sun. Starting with a preliminary fridge cool down before going for deep freeze, seems to cut down on the condensation too. The shift in temp isn't so drastic.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:12 PM  

  • i tried this, but unfortunately it didnt work. my hd stopped working from one day to another, without showing signs of failure. when i start the drive, it spins up, makes a click, spins down, spins up, click, spins down, etc...
    its also not recognized in the bios.
    im facing to send it to a data recovery centre...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:24 PM  

  • To anonymous: If you need to have the drive sent to a data recovery shop, use the contact button on the sidebar.. I can get special prices at a shop I know.

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 9:27 PM  

  • I've gotten this to work for a few drives. A word of caution though - be very careful not to touch any of the parts on the controller board when the drive is plugged in. I didn't have it in an enclosure - just used an IDE to USB adapter. I accidently touched a capacitor and it sparked permanently destroying the drive(because of the moisture caused by the drive warming up). Since then I've left the drive in the plastic bag while doing the recovery. Good luck.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:26 PM  

  • Was optimistic after reading the article - my HD was making those clicking sounds. Got my hopes up, bought all the gear to capture the data should the device be detected - left the harddisk in the freezer overnight but still getting the same clicking sounds once I had it hooked up, so it didnt work for me - just to add a bit of balance to the thread.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:56 AM  

  • Works like a charm. Recovering a 500GB HDD, recovered 150GB so far over two tries at about 3-5 hours a piece. As long as things keep going as they are then everything is great.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:52 AM  

  • I'm glad I just found this article. My computer crashed a few days ago and I had to buy a new computer. I have been desperately trying to retrieve my data, I bought a hard drive casing to put the crashed hard drive into and it will only read the backup on the drive, the one with only 10 gigs on it, not the C drive with the 120 gigs. I can't get the computer to read the drive with the command prompt either, it seems to get stuck. I just put the drive in a ziplock bag and into the freezer. I hope this works!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:55 PM  

  • This is a very interesting article. I've got a MacBook HD that started to play a death melody of a short click followed by sirring noises, and proposed the idea to the tech staff. He said the temperature tricks wouldn't work, since the mechanics of the little head are broken. He admitted that cooling it can help with other problems, but whenever there was clicks, it wouldn't help.

    Now, I've read that some of you seemed to have clicking HDs and made it work - is there any way to tell if there's a track 0 seek failure or a mechanical damage to the arm's movement?

    By Blogger Unknown, at 9:51 AM  

  • I never leave blog comments, but I feel compelled to do so in this case.

    I have a WD MyBook Premium Edition external HD with 500GB that I purchased a year ago to use as my electronic "file cabinet". Yesterday the dang thing started clicking on me. Device Manager could recognize it and says it's working properly, but Explorer couldn't read anything from it. I tried everything from buying several Data Recovery software, using WD's Diagnostic Tool, to dismanteling the actual hard drive from its original enclosure and putting it into an external SATA USB enclosure...nada...just the annoying sound of click, click, click. Like some of the other bloggers here, I too called a couple of data recovery centers and they gave me a quote of $500-2000. I only paid $250 for this POS!

    Then, I ran across this blog. I was optimistic. I first froze the drive for 1 hour...nothing but clicks after plugging it in. I then froze it for 4 hours...nothing but clicks. I left the drive in the freezer overnight and into mid-morning (~15 hours). I plugged the thing in and ahhhhhhh, the beautiful sound of it churning away. Autoplay kicked in and my files were clear as day. For 24 blissful minutes, I moved as many files as I could off that POS before the click of death started again. I promptly put it back into the Ziplock bag and it's going back into the freezer for 24 hours this time!

    Lessons learned:
    1. NEVER, EVER buy a WD MyBook. I was floored by how many people out there have experienced the same clicking issues. In talking with one of the data recovery centers yesterday, they told me they mostly get WD drives to recover, followed closely by Seagate.

    2. Freeze the drive for at least 12 hours.

    3. Backup, backup, backup.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:31 PM  

  • Anonymous..^^^

    You can't know how good these kind of stories make me feel.... I'm glad things worked out for you...

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    Kiltak [GAS]

    By Blogger Kiltak, at 1:13 PM  

  • I tried this on a Western Digital Net Center drive that was making the clicking noise (head arm banging into the side) and it worked!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:17 PM  

  • Hey all, Thanks for the tip! I just tried it and it worked like a charm.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:49 PM  

  • Here's how you do this use an external usb enclosure and boot off another drive. Then take a can of compressed air and hold it upside down and spray the enclosure this will freeze the crap out of it. As the dive warms just hit it again and agian as needed. I ran my drive until I got everything I needed off it using this method.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:16 AM  

  • I have used this technique many times in my job and I'd say it works about 50% of the time. I just used it at home last night to recover a drive that has 300GB on it. I left it in the freezer for several days just because I didn't get back to it. It ran for at least 90 minutes or so. Long enough to copy all the data. I left it for a while and when I came back it was making noises again but still able to read data. The copy was done at that point though.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:14 PM  

  • I have never been able to use the freezer gig to save the "click of death" HD. I haved saved 3 HDs that were not making the clicking noise, they just would not read nor be accessed, even data recovery software. What i do is, do a dry run first b4 freezing. run from the frig with the hd and connect it up. Then freeze it, overnight. I usually connect it up inplace of the cdrom drive on the second IDE port, with nothing else connected to the cable. Make sure the jumpers are set right. I then put in a scratch HD on the primary , boot off of my ghost floppy and ghost the data on the hd to the scratch HD B4 the bad one thaws. You only get one chance. I think it is the way the drive is made and freezing contracts mechanical parts. Actually the way Hard drives are made nowadays , I actually do not ever think I will have to freeza one again.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:53 AM  

  • I read somewhere which sounds like a good idea you take the cooling elements out of one of those plug in cup coolers and attach it directly to the hard drive. that helps solve your problem of having to deal with the long cables and such.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:11 PM  

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