How to Recover Files From a Crashed Hard Drive

By Techwalla Contributor

Clicking sound coming from your disk, or unable to access your family photos, or music? Here are some steps to save time and money, and hopefully get your files off of a disk gone bad.

Things You'll Need

  • Dead hard drive
  • Linux 'live' CD
  • Friends PC
  • USB memory stick
  • screw driver

Step 1

First the caveats: This article may help you recover those files on a hard drive that has crashed that are recoverable. If the drive is completely dead, IE no power, no spin-up, then your only hope is a data recovery specialist who will remove the platters in clean room. They will also remove much of your checking account for this service.

Step 2

To get started, we are going to have to open up the computer. My steps deal with a desktop PC, but you can do the same thing for a laptop. With the power OFF, take the case off of your computer, or just the side panel, so you can get access to the guts of the computer, most importantly the hard drive(s). Once you can see the harddrives, power on the computer. We are looking and listening to see signs of life from the drive with problems. If it spins up, makes a humming sound, or you can feel it vibrating, we will probably be able to get some data off of it. If nothing happens, and it is just dead, see above.

Step 3

If the drive in question had the OS for your PC, the easiest solution is a "live" linux cd. This is a cd that can be used to boot into a fully functioning linux operating system. From this live version of the linux OS, you can mount and browse the 'crashed' disk drive and copy files from it to another drive, a USB memory stick, or second CD/DVD drive. Using a live linux cd can also help when your OS is simply not recognizing the problem drive anymore. Sometimes Windows will stop seeing a drive that is still there, but partially corrupted.

Step 4

Remember, if you cannot burn the linux cd on your computer, because the drive is crashed, use a laptop, ask a neighbor or friend to burn it, or you can order them, but then you have to wait. If you need to, take your drive to another computer, and connect it (while powered OFF) to an open drive connection inside that computer. Power it on and see if your drive is recognized there.

Tips & Warnings

  • Backing up your data is much easier than recovering after a problem occurs. External, USB drives are less than $100.00 for 1 Terabyte.
  • Always disconnect the power when taking the case or panel off of your computer.
  • When touching or listening to the drive that has problems, watch out for other connections near it, and stay away from the fans and power supply.