How To Get Data off a Dead Hard Drive

One of the most serious problems you can encounter with a PC or a laptop is experiencing a hardware failure. More than a damaged RAM or a processor conking out, though, a hard drive failing is probably the most stressful problem you will encounter. A processor or a RAM module can be easily replaced, but the data that is lost when your hard drive dies is something that cannot be easily replaced. It wouldn’t be as catastrophic if you are the type of person who periodically backs up his hard drive. But, let’s face it, not a lot of people really do this. So what will you do when your hard drive just gives up its ghost?

Don’t lose hope yet. There are some things that you can still do to try and salvage the data that was left inside a dead hard drive.

The lowdown on Hard Drive failures

Not all hard drive failures are catastrophic. There are certain instances when you can still recover data from a damaged or dead hard drive. When your hard drive fails, pray that you have one of those hardware failures from which you can actually still retrieve your data. In fact, there are even cases when the hard drive doesn’t really have any kind of physical damage. It’s just that, for some unknown reason, you cannot access the data stored inside.

Recovery steps you can do on your own

There are certain steps that you can do in order to retrieve data from a dead hard drive. It’s all about troubleshooting the root cause of the problem, and then applying the appropriate solution.

  • One of the more common causes of a hard drive failing to work is when the hard drive’s partition is inaccessible. One of the reasons this happens is when the hard drive has been formatted to use a partitioning system that is specifically for a particular operating system. The solution for this problem is quite simple. Just try to identify what operating system was used. This is a simple fix for accessing a hard drive, especially if the partition table has not been totally damaged. Remember, though, that if you use this fix and you still can’t access the data, do not try to mess with the partition table because you’ll just worsen the problem.
  • Another way to retrieve data from an inaccessible or “dead” hard drive is by using “unformatting” tools. These tools can be used to recover the data that has been lost in a drive that has been formatted only a high level and not a low-level sector-by-sector basis. This is a crucial distinction. Drives that have undergone low level formatting cannot undergo this recovery method because the data is already physically destroyed. There are many types of tools that you can use, from freeware to purchased software.
  • An additional method that is related to the tip above is by going to the web site of the manufacturer of your hard drive and finding out if they provide retrieval tools to aid you in getting data off your dead hard drive. Diagnostic tools are what manufacturers usually provide but it’s not uncommon for them to also provide retrieval tools as well.

Of course, when all else fails, you can go to a professional PC technician or a data recovery service and ask for help in recovering data from your dead hard drive. This is your final and last resort, as it is often expensive. But with data being priceless, the money you would spend on data recovery is probably well worth it.


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