How to Recover Files From a Crashed Hard Drive

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. 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, which means that it has no power or spin-up, then your only hope is a data recovery specialist who will remove the platters in a clean room for a hefty fee.

Step 1

Turn off the power. Then open the computer case and locate the hard drive. Restart the computer. Listen for signs of life from the problematic hard drive. If it spins up, makes a humming sound or you can feel it vibrating, you most likely can retrieve some of the files from it. If nothing happens and it is just dead, you'll need to bring your hard drive to a data recovery specialist.

Step 2

If the drive in question contains the operating system for your PC, you can still boot your computer with 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 operating system, you can mount and browse the crashed disc drive and copy files from it to another drive, a USB memory stick or another optical drive.
Using a live Linux CD can also help when your operating system doesn't recognize the problematic drive anymore. Sometimes Windows will stop identifying a drive that is still there, but partially corrupted.

Step 3

If you cannot burn the Linux CD on your computer because the hard drive has crashed, use a spare or friend's computer to burn it.
You can connect your drive to another computer, and connect it (while powered off) to an open drive connection inside that computer. Power it on to determine if your drive is recognized there.

Things You'll Need

  • Linux live CD

  • Spare PC

  • USB memory stick

  • Screwdriver

Tip

Backing up your data is much easier than recovering after a problem occurs. At the time of publication, external USB drives are less than $100 for 2 terabytes of memory.

Warning

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.

Touch metal or use an antistatic strap to remove static from your body before handling electronic parts, which can become damaged from static electricity.

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