Don't panic! Here's the good news: all, or most of the time, the data stored on your hard drive is still there, you just can't access it. Hard disk drives are the most unreliable component of your PC and there are generally two different ways they can break: physical failure and logical failure. Depending on which failure you're dealing with, you can use PC system utilities software, household tricks, software or professional services to begin hard drive recovery.
When your hard drive is experiencing failure, you'll see signs of trouble like a slower than usual computer, corrupted files, an inaccessible drive or what's known as the click of death. Even a speck of dust can wreak havoc with your drive. Depending on its symptoms, your drive will fall into one of the two following types of failure: Physical or Logical.
If you hear a clicking noise coming from your hard drive, you're most likely experiencing physical failure. Your hard disk drive has what is called a platter and a head. The head reads and writes data on the platter but they never touch. The most common hard disk drive malfunction occurs when the head breaks, or bumps, and scratches the platter. You can damage your platter and head by dropping the hard drive (or your laptop), or it can break on its own due to normal wear and tear.
Dos: No matter what method you use for retrieving your data, the faster you do so the better. The longer your drive is on and clicking, the more data you could be losing. One option is data recovery software, which might be a viable solution depending on the amount of damage done to your drive. Also, putting your drive in the freezer is a common, but unconventional fix. This method works best with external hard drives (so you don t end up putting your whole laptop in the freezer). The cold will help fix scratches for just long enough to read and retrieve data. Tapping and rotating the disk in circular motions can also help if the damage is minor as well.
Don ts: Don't let the drive continue to run at the first sound of clicking, turn your hard drive and computer off. You can lose more data the longer your drive runs while broken. Although, cloning the drive is a possible solution, it is extremely risky as the stress of cloning could sabotage the whole drive. Don't remove the hard drive and transplant it into a system unless you know what you're doing. This is the solution a professional data retrieval service will take, so if you don t have the technical know-how, take it to the pros. Unfortunately, retrieval services are expensive but provide a much higher probability you'll get your files back.
Logical failure occurs when there is no physical damage, just a miscommunication between your system and your hard drive. Signs of logical failure include a malfunctioning operating system and an inaccessible drive, both of which can be caused by a virus, malware or software errors. There won't be the telltale sounds of clicking with a logical failure hard drive. The good news is that with a logical failure, you're much more likely to get your files back than with a physical failure.
Dos: With a logical failure, the chances are high that you can fix the problem yourself. Data recovery software is your best bet for salvaging your family pictures or important office spreadsheets. Running one of these programs can take days, so patience is required. Your files will be renamed and completely out of order when the software is finished, but at least you'll have everything back!
Don'ts: Do not clone your drive. Cloning your drive will just clone the errors too and you'll have two broken hard drives. Don't turn your system on and off multiple times, instead use the F8 function key to enter your computer's safe mode so you can successfully retrieve files.
With these tips and tricks, you'll be better prepared to cope with a broken hard drive. Also, keep in mind that after you successfully retrieve your documents, your drive is dead and you should purchase a new one. To prevent another catastrophe, try backing up your documents every once in a while to a cloud drive, backup hard drive or other file-saving device.