Section 3: Hard drive recovery: Hit It
Hard Drive Recovery Tip From: Karen_Roman
- Check CMOS settings to make sure the drive setting are what they should be the CMOS battery could be dead or the user may have changed the settings. A bad hard drive could cause the Autodetect to misread settings.
- Boot from a floppy disk and run fdisk/mbr to restore the backup copy of the master boot record.
- Image the drive with drive copy program to a new drive.
- It’s possible the HDD controller is bad. Try the drive in another machine.
- Boot from a floppy attach to a network drive or have a secondary drive installed and if you can access the data copy it off to there.
- The drive could have a stiction problem. Tap it gently on the sides, preferably with a rubber mallet.
Hard Drive Recovery Tip From: Alan Gates
As "unscientific" as this sounds, I have found that rapping the drive case a couple of times sometimes allows the drive to come up. I have had several experiences in the past like this. Sometimes the drive is having trouble "spinning up." Obviously, the drive is on its last legs but a rap on the drive case will sometimes free it to spin up. This will allow the system to boot so the data can be backed up before the drive goes into the trash…
Hard Drive Recovery Tip From: Bob Barker
I have found on more than a few occasions that older disks can develop a sticking problem. I believe it is a combination of weak motor and surface-to-surface tension between the disk and heads. This problem usually shows up on older disks that have been running a few years (usually 24 hours a day) and then shut down for service or other reasons.
- When you try to start up again, the disk will not spin and you get disk errors trying to boot. After checking for the usual problems (power, cables, jumpers, etc.) and finding that the drive was in fact not spinning, I have had great success jarring the disk with my palm (of my hand, not my PDA). I some times have to be a little more violent to get it to start but I have never had to use a hammer.
- I would be careful using this method if the data on the disk must be recovered at any cost which I would then send to On-Track or some other expensive data recovery company.
- I have found this problem mostly with older servers, but a few weeks ago I ran into the same thing on a two-year-old Compaq IDE drive that was only used a few hours a day.
Hard Drive Recovery Tip From: Earle Pearce
When a drive is really gone cannot be read at all due to a physical failure, I employ a trick that has yet to fail me.
- Install the replacement as an additional drive.
- Remove the bad drive and smite it firmly on both edges (bang it on something solid)!
- Reinstall it, reboot, and it will work long enough to get the data copied to the replacement drive.
- I haven’t had the opportunity to check this step yet but I think it should work. If it’s the boot drive that’s bad, mirror the boot partition to the replacement drive, then break the mirror, remove the bad drive rejumper, and boot to the new one.
Hard Drive Recovery Tip From: Randy Forston
If the hard drive isn’t making noise and when you place your hand on it (not on the PC Board side, but on the metal casing), you don’t feel any vibration from the drive, you may have a sticking problem (some older drives with a variety of drive lube no longer used have this problem).
If the above describes the symptoms you’re seeing, try rapping around the drive case with the plastic handle of a screwdriver.
This will quite often remedy the stiction and allow the drive to come back up as normal.
Hard Drive Recovery Tip From: Philn
Hi there, A few things can be performed on a crashed drive before declaring it DEAD:
- Touch the drive (or listen to it) to feel whether it’s spinning. Some drives gradually suffer from spin-up problem but otherwise work fine once spinning. If it doesn’t spin at power up, gently knock on the side the drive once or twice to jump start it. This works best if you knock on the drive approx. one or two seconds after power is applied. Repeat the procedure a few times and add a little more force if necessary. Remember that too much force can permanently damage the drive, but again, you have nothing too lose at this point.
- If drive spins normally and stays spinning, try listening for irregular sounds emitting from the drive. A series of ‘clicking’ sound usually signifies multiple bad sectors including the boot sector that can prevent drive from booting. If drive ‘Auto Detect’ is enabled, make sure that its signature is shown at boot screen. If not, drive is certainly suffered from major hardware failure.
- Check system’s CPU to make sure it’s not overheating (CPU can run warm, but should not be hot) due to a failed cooling fan, etc. Overheating the CPU can cause the system to be unbootable or cause the system to reboot itself frequently.
- You could use another system to test the problematic drive to make sure that the controller is not at fault. Try both "Auto" and "User Type" (where you manually enter the drive’s parameters) settings.
- Try booting with a floppy and run ‘fdisk’ to view drive information. Some drives suddenly lost all of their data possibly due to corrupted FAT, but otherwise, continue to work fine once initialized and formatted. In many cases, FAT can be restored by executing Norton Utilities from floppy.
If all failed and data from drive must be retrieved, you can try swapping its hardware (drive’s main board) with similar working drive. Though this procedure can void drive warranty, but your data is more important, right? Or else, you try services that can save your data from dead drive for a fee.
Hard Drive Recovery Tip From: Joseph Bruno
Actually, the solution isn’t mine. We had several Dell PCs and the C drive went out on one (with no current backup, of course). The Dell tech came out with a new drive but the warranty didn’t include data recovery for which they wanted a $5,000 deposit and offered no guarantees.
I asked the tech if there was anything we could do on our own to get the drive to spin up so we could get a backup. "Well", he replied, "there is one thing I’ve done that sometimes unsticks the drive." He then took the drive out and slammed it flat down on the desk as hard as he could. After putting it back in the drive, it spun up. I was advised to back up the data before shutting down the system as "the slam" doesn’t always work and seldom works a second time.
Fortunately, once was enough in this case. The data was backed up to a portable tape drive and the C drive was replaced and restored.
Hard Drive Recovery Tip From: Sam Espana
I have used several ways to solve the same issue. The reason is the fact that a hard drive is a hard drive is a hard drive, or is it? The answer is NO. If a hard drive is failing it’s usually because it is legacy equipment that often doesn’t even support LBA mode. But, sometimes it isn’t even the hard drive that’s causing the problem. Say what? That’s right.
By in large, I first approach this situation by asking the user how much hard drive space he/she used to have. Usually the answer is over 512 megabytes. But, again, you’ll be surprised.
Secondly, I ask the user if this is the first time this situation has occurred and whether or not he/she knows if we are dealing with a new or old computer.
Armed with the above answers. I usually solve this problem by performing a combination of the tasks described below.
1) Test the motherboard BIOS/CMOS battery. Often, the hard drive is just fine. But, the internal battery is dead. Some computers like a few Packard Bells I have dealt with have LBA and 32-bit mode turned off by default. Those settings may have been enabled during assembly, but now that the battery is dead they are set back to factory settings (when the user turns his/her computer off) rendering the hard drive inaccessible. Solution: Change the internal battery and enable CMOS LBA/32-bit mode.
2) Ask if the computer has been moved recently. Often, when computers are moved, data cables are detached from hard drives and/or motherboards. Obviously, without a data or power cable, a hard drive will never work. Solution: Reattach cables and be prepare to actually replace them.
3) Worst case scenario. It is the hard drive that does not seem to respond. Then, replace the hard drive with a new Master drive and install the faulty drive as a Slave drive. Make sure you install the same Operating System used by the Slave on the Master. Then, proceed to probe the Slave drive. Ideally, at this point you should use diagnostics tools such as Micro-Scope from Micro2000. If you have experience, you should not close the computer box making sure that the Slave drive is within reach. Twice, I have been able to restart a hard drive after gently banging on it (once as Slave and once as a Master.) Don’t miss the boat. Even if you happen to restart the faulty Slave drive, you must copy your info to the Master so that you are not placed in the same situation again because the next time you may not be as lucky. The above procedure works whether the drive is an IDE or SCSI drive. However, when using SCSI hard drive, you may have to test the SCSI card as well. I am leaving now to fix a drive that belongs to a RAID pack because it seems to be out of the scope of this drive quiz.
Hard Drive Recovery Tip From: Christopher Tolmie
- If the drive is not spinning up on power-on, I’ll lightly rap on the side of the drive enclosure with the handle of a screwdriver while listening for the platters to begin to spool-up.
- If it doesn’t spin up, I’ll increase the pressure of each rap until it does start spinning. I’ve gone to the extreme of picking up an externally mounted full height 5.25" disk drive and slamming it continuously on the desk while it was starting up.
- I did this for over six months until the drive finally died completely, but I did extend its life and it never had corrupt data on it. Of course, it was all backed up. If the drive won’t spin, then you aren’t going to recover the data.
- You can you a third-party utility like RESCUE that reads the drive directly using its own operating system and saving individual files and directories to another drive. I’ve recovered entire drives this wayI it is time consuming but it works. When all else fails, send it to the professionals.
- Search the Web to find different companies that specialize in rebuilding the drive, but expect to spend mucho dinero.
Hard Drive Recovery Tip From: Lyle Giese
Put CMOS back to auto for HD and see if it sees an HD at all. Put in a bootable floppy can you see the HD? (Don’t forget to write protect the floppy in case this was a virus.) Now try EZ-Drive. Some versions (I have several on hand with different advanced options) show what parameters the hard drive is set to in CMOS and what parameters the drive was formatted with. The second set is important. Sometimes the BIOS doesn’t auto correctly.
Listen to the HD. If it powers up normally by sound (no strong thumping sound) and the platters seem to spin up, you still have a chance. If the drive spins up and then down or if it emits a strong thumping sound, the hard drive is toast and only a professional recovery company with a clean room can help.
If the HD doesn’t spin up at all, occasionally you can gently slam it down to get stuck platters unstuck and it will spin up long enough to back up your data. The HD is toast physically at this point, and it needs to be replaced before trying the slam technique. There were also a few older HDs that had the flywheel exposed, and you could nudge it slightly and they would spin up long enough to back up the data. Again these are last resort techniques and you ARE planning on replacing the HD anyway.
From here, one of several software products are available to assist you as long as the drive spins up physically to assist the technician. Most of these products can read drives with damaged FAT tables or missing sectors.
And it could be just a simple matter of losing the Active attribute for the partition! Also, viruses can cause this by blasting the partition table, and some of the professional revival products can assist from here. Good luck!
Hard Drive Recovery Tip From: Craig Shipaila
Before you do the following, make sure that the controller is not the problem or a cable on backwards, etc., by taking the drive out of the computer and putting into another one to see if it’s the computer causing the problem. If the other items have been checked, then do (what we call) the slam test.
If the drive is dead the only thing you can really do is:
1. Find out if the person needs any important info that you might be able to get off of computer. 1a. If person has data they cannot live without and the drive is not running, take the drive out of the computer and slam it down to the desktop to get the motor running. Nine out of 10 times, this will get the motor running long enough to get data. If needed you can also send the drive into a White Room to have them get the info.