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Data Storage Hardware

Can a Regular Person Repair a Damaged Hard Drive? 504

MrSeb writes "There's a lot of FUD when it comes to self-repairing a broken hard drive. Does sticking it in the freezer help? The oven? Hitting it with a hammer? Does replacing the PCB actually work? Can you take the platters out and put them in another drive? And failing all that, if you have to send the dead drive off to a professional data recovery company, how much does it cost — and what's their chance of success, anyway? They're notoriously bad at obfuscating their prices, until you contact them directly. This article tries to answer these questions and strip away the FUD." What has been your experience with trying to fix broken drives?
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Can a Regular Person Repair a Damaged Hard Drive?

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  • One word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mknewman ( 557587 ) * on Saturday July 28, 2012 @11:39AM (#40801587)
  • by thatseattleguy ( 897282 ) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @11:44AM (#40801633) Homepage

    In the very limited (3) cases that I've had to try and revive a client's dead desktop drive, replacing the PCB board from an identical model - usually purchased cheaply, used or new, online - has always worked.

    The other advantage of this approach is that if the first drive becomes revivable, even a time, you now have a second same-capacity drive to transfer the data to (using intermediate storage media if in fact it was the PCB that was the problem and you can only get one drive working at a time).

    If it doesn't work, you're no worse off and still have a replacement drive to load data from your (hopefully recent) backups.

  • A Better Word (Score:4, Insightful)

    by epp_b ( 944299 ) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @12:13PM (#40801857)
  • by anarcat ( 306985 ) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @01:13PM (#40802317) Homepage

    Regular person? This is slashdot, there are no "regular persons" here.

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Voyager529 ( 1363959 ) <[voyager529] [at] []> on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:54PM (#40803005)

    Incidentally, a "hard drive crash" used to mean a head touched the disk and physically damaged the head and/or the disk.

    ...and today, "my hard drive crashed" can mean basically anything. I can't count how many times I've heard someone say "my hard drive crashed" only to have their response to my question of "how do you know" sound something like, "well, when I go to 'my documents, Word doesn't load" or some other similar error where the hard disk is clearly not to blame. I tried educating people on the actual meaning of the term, but it seemed a losing battle, so now "my hard drive crashed" generally translates to "something is broken", unless it's a fellow computer tech who I'm certain knows what an actual hard disk crash looks like.

  • Re:It Depends (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OAB_X ( 818333 ) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @03:34PM (#40803255)

    The sysadmin where I work once bought two Seagate drives, they had sequential serial numbers. They failed within 5 days of each other (killing the RAID-1 because the array had not finished rebuilding).

  • Re:One word (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sancho ( 17056 ) * on Saturday July 28, 2012 @04:01PM (#40803383) Homepage

    Real data recovery places are too expensive for the average person to use. I think there's a middle-ground between your two extremes.

  • Re:A Better Word (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hazem ( 472289 ) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @04:12PM (#40803431) Journal

    Backup seems to be one of those things people don't learn until they've learned it the hard way.

    After my unrecoverable hard-drive crash, I set up a NAS with RAID that my computer backs up to every night (incrementals daily and full every 7 days). I then backup that NAS every couple months to an external USB drive that I store in another building.

    The key there, though, is it go and try to do a restore from your backup every now and then to make sure you can. There are few things worse than feeling secure in your backup process only to find it was not running correctly all along - or that you can't actually restore all your data from the process after all.

  • Re:One word (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday July 28, 2012 @11:00PM (#40805221) Journal

    I had to do that trick once as well and I'm glad to say it worked. Man you want to talk about a tense as hell experience, there I was with a gal just crying her eyes out because that drive was the ONLY source of a couple of hundred pics and little video and audio clips of her dead mother.

    But I did just as you described, vacu-sealed the drive and let it come back to room temp before opening the bag and it worked just long enough to get that data off. Luckily that one close call was enough for her so I was able to set her up a backup routine using a combination of DVDs plus Cloud plus USB HDDs that are rotated out weekly between her home and that of her sister. that way everything she has is backed up thrice on 3 different mediums at 3 different locations just to be safe.

    Please folks, i don't care if its flash sticks, get your friends and family to back up the important stuff, okay? Make digital copies of all pictures and documents and store them in multiple locations. I had a customer come home from a 3 day business trip to a smoldering pile where his house once was so I know how important they can be. Thankfully he had listened to me and all it took was retrieving his backup drive from his brother's house and he had all his records and pictures back in a few hours but he could have lost everything, all the photos of his family, all his childhood videos, the whole thing just gone.

    So backup backup backup folks, and make sure everyone you know does the same. Hell you can get a 32Gb flash stick for less than $20 off of Newegg and that will hold most people's precious stuff right there and fit into your pocket or a safety deposit box. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it, as I've seen time and time again here at the shop.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell