A Successful Data Recovery Story Using Some Desperation Moves

A friend recently came to me with an old IDE hard drive that was determined to be dead by a computer tech. He had held onto the drive, which was several years old, with the hope that someday the data on the drive could possibly be recovered, without costing him an arm and a leg. Typically, professional data recovery can be very expensive and there are no guarantees the data can be fully recovered.

Data Recovery

As a challenge, I opted to take a shot at recovering the data on the drive. I placed the drive in an external drive enclosure, powered it up and connected it to my PC. The first bad sign was the clunking noise being generated from the drive and the drive not spinning up properly (which indicated a mechanical problem); AND the second bad sign was that my computer could see the drive but was unable to pull up the file/folder structure (which indicated a potential drive sector or partition issue).

At this point, I had to agree with the original tech’s assessment of the drive; however, it hit me to try a couple of things out of desperation. I put the drive in a ziplock plastic bag and placed it in the freezer for a couple of hours. The theory being that this would cause contraction of the metal parts in the drive. Following the deep freeze, I quickly connected the drive to the PC and I could tell immediately that it was spinning up and the clunking noise had dissipated. My PC could see the drive; however, the sector/partition issue was still looking me in the eye. What I did next was really out of desperation. I started thinking, I can see the drive and if I can see the drive can I format it?  My plan was to do a “quick format” then use data recovery software to extract the data on the drive.  Guess what?  It worked!

Using data recovery software (called Power Data Recovery) I was able to extract every single bit of file data from formatted the drive ( a total of 21 GBs of data). Using the Power Data Recovery software, the data recovery process took over 8 hours to complete.

Several points this article:

  • The Hard Drive Freezer Trick – I do think there is something to this!
  • Data Recovery – Don’t ever think by formatting your drive you are wiping the data from the drive! It can be recovered…
  • Backup Your Files – If you have files on your PC that is close to your heart and soul, make sure you back them up.  Hard Drives do and will fail.


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16 thoughts on “A Successful Data Recovery Story Using Some Desperation Moves

Add yours

    1. Pochp,

      Power Data Recovery software, I highly recommend. There is a FREE version on their site. I have used this several times and it pulls data like no other that I have seen. Seems to go a little deeper than the others.



  1. Great story (I’m a sucker for happy endings) and I thank you for sharing it with us.

    You saved your friend’s files; and a ton of money – forensic data recovery (using special techniques, in a “clean room”) is not cheap.


  2. Rick..
    I have used this method several times.
    I learned that if you can get it to spin up, do NOT power it back down for any reason. The chances of it powering back is is very slim.


    1. Frank,

      Really nice to see you hear. I did exactly as you reflected in your comment. Once I got the drive up and running and could hear the platters spinning I knew I was making progress. In this case the drive ran continuously for over 8 hours until I was sure the data was recovered.



  3. hmmmm good one recovered data loads of time using different softwares but this deep freeze tip is new to me but dint get exactly what it did to harddrive?


    1. Neerajawat1,

      The deep freeze is an old trick… If you google it you will see quite a few results on this. What it does is cause the parts to contract (tighten up). Sometimes it works; most of the time it does not.



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