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How can I recover data from a dead external hard drive? Answered

I have a 2TB external hard drive with lots of stuff on it

Recently it stopped working and now I cant access it

I have tried it in many computers but they only ever find the SATA to usb bridge which connects the hard drive to the computer

I have also tried some hard drive recovery programs, some of them find the hard drive but when they scan it, they find nothing

Does anyone know of a good, working, reliable hard drive recovery program (free if possible) or any other way to get the stuff off of it


11 Replies

sailor25375 (author)2013-10-05

You can use all the techniques available in the market like EaseUs or other restoring programs but this is the expensive way around it, since in most cases you will need to purchase a licence. Also, taking it to a computer store means you will be overcharged for something you can do yourself.

I had a Windows 7 crash several months ago on my work computer while away on the field (I am an Engineer). As you can imagine, it is not the greatest of situations since IT assistance is ineffective until you return to your office. Someone suggested I use Linux to start my PC and retrieve what I needed (something your IT support will never tell you). It worked, I transferred all the files I needed to another computer available and could do my job.

Download a Linux OS that is free. I used the puppy linux , but this is more a matter of personal preference than anything else.


Whatever Linux OS you download, make sure you burn it on a CD, do not just copy the files, otherwise it won’t work.

When done, reboot your PC with the Linux CD in it and allow the data to load up. The screen will be a Linux environment (by the way it is single click whilst working with Linux, not double click). Connect your external hard drive. Even if Windows could not "see" the external hard drive, there is a good chance that Linux will "see" it. Try copying the files you need from the external drive to your documents folder. It might work for you, however, it did not work for me (was getting a warning message that the files are read only), so what I did was I connected an empty external drive and transferred my files from the damaged external drive to the good external drive. It worked just fine. A couple of points to remember:

1. Do not expect all the files to be saved, however you would probably able to salvage 99% of your files. Some can be damaged from the bump, some might not been copied correctly to begin with. You can try to copy the individual files that initially failed and might succeed. It worked for a couple of seemingly corrupted files for me.
2. Try to see if your PC “sees” the damaged drive by swapping to Linux. If not, then it is pointless to go on further. You can use Hard Disk Sentinel to see if your computer "sees" tje external hard drive as well, without bothering with Linux, it is up to you. I prefer to use Linux, but this is a matter of choise as well.

When done, eject the Linux CD (you can do that any time you wish after the PC starts on Linux) and reboot. The PC/ Laptop will start your windows version normally and you will have salvaged the files you want, without paying a penny (other than if you need an extra external hard drive – which is not money wasted anyway).

Good luck, hope it helps.


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Vyger (author)2011-10-01

It sounds like the drive has gone bad. There are several things that you can try.

By the way, when they started developing these huge drives many of us wondered if it was really that great an idea. The reason being that they have to much data to loose when they fail. Drive savers will tell you, and accurately so, that ever hard drive will fail. Its only a question of when.

Anyway, the first thing to do is remove the hard drive from the case. It is possible that its the case that has gone bad or is not connecting. Remove the drive and try direct connecting it to the motherboard with a SATA cable. Don't hot swap it, start with the PC off and let the bios detect it. If the bios can identify it, its possible that you will be able to access it once the os has booted up. If the BIOS pick it up ok and you can get into it, order a replacement and plan on copying over your data. Don't continue to rely on a questionable drive.
If the bios don't detect it then you can try a little trick that sometimes works. Sometimes you can cool a drive down and then get it to work long enough to move the data off it. Get an antistatic bag and put the drive in it and put it in your freezer. After an hour when its really cold, pull it out and hook it up. If it starts and works then you bought a little time. I have left drives in the freezer and run the cables out of it so it would stay cold. You need extra long cables for this but it can work for a short time. Again get your data off it as fast as possible, its dying.

If that does not work you can try one more thing but its a little more costly. Order a second identical drive, and I mean identical, the same thing, and use it to replace the electronics board of the dead one. This will only work if its the electronics thats bad. Most people don't realize it but the controller circuits are contained on a PC board. If the boards are identical the controllers will work and you can rescue your data, provided its the board thats bad. If its not the board but instead is a mechanical problem with the drive heads or the tracking mechanism then there is nothing you can do. They can rebuild these in a clean room but that takes special equipment and its expensive. When you get to this point you need to decide just how much your data is worth to you.

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ARJOON (author)Vyger2011-10-02

when my dad brought 2 identical drives from his work, he told me to try to recover all data from both drives. one was in a casing and one nude. i removed the hard drive from the casing and connected directly to the mobo and it worked. The other was not making any sound i.e not powering up. I changed the pcb and it worked!!!!

Sometimes we don't find solutions even if they are before our eyes.

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knkonde (author)ARJOON2013-09-05

am having the same problem, mine isnt making any sound and not powering up. wat is a pcb?

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ARJOON (author)knkonde2013-09-08

the printed circuit board is damaged, find another identical hard drive and swap the pcb. it the green or red board with a lot of components on it on the rear of the HDD. Sometimes this method works and sometimes not. it's because that when the pcb dies the hdd platter get corrupt too.

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Jareadx (author)Vyger2011-10-05

I have already taken the hard drive out of the caddy and plugged it into the computer, but I still got nothing.
The freezer idea does sound good though and I might give that a try, but I would say that there is a software issue with hard drive, not physical, because the computer does see it, but it wont show up in my computer. If I right click on my computer > manage > disk management, the drive shows up as not initialized. If I try to initialize it, it gives me "data error (cyclic redundancy check)".

Does anyone have any other ideas?

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kchaitanya7 (author)2013-08-20

I am facing the Same issue. You got any solution for this?

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the mechanical engineer (author)2011-10-04

i can vouch for the freezer thing. that would be what i'd try first.

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andy70707 (author)2011-10-02

There really isn't much you can do unless it's simply corrupted, but if it is running hot, crashing or clicking, it's a hardware failure and it's pretty much dead. You should keep backups, or get 2 or more and set up a RAID configuration. Is the drive a Seagate by any chance? So far, every single last one I've seen or used in the past has catastrophically failed after about a year. Another thing, do you REALLY need 2TB? I have 2x500GB Hitachi 7K1000 drives in a RAID1 configuration. I find I never really use more than 200GB anyway, and that includes program files. My personal files are only something like 40GB.

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thegeeke (author)andy707072011-10-02


I do data recovery for a living... (mostly the clean room stuff others have mentioned below), but I also do professional audio as a side job/hobby. I have about 7 tb of data. (Most of it archives... I learned the hard way never to delete old files from clients!) I have it distributed on my nas on 14 1 tb drives. (7 for the data and 7 for backups.) I would try removing the drive from the USB casing and hook it up with sata.

(Sorry I can't give you advice on data recovery software, but I haven't worked in the privet sector for years, and the software I use isn't avalible to the public.)

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computer_guy (author)2011-10-01

I think it might have the click of death man.
If you really really really reallyyy needed the information on there then you would have to go to a hard drive specialist and they would retrieve the data for you and place it on a shiny new hard drive for you, but it's relatively expensive. About 1,000-$2,000 dollars to recover it.
Good luck!

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