Bad Hard Drive? Don’t Try These 4 DIY Fixes for File Recovery

Mar 21, 2017

When a hard drive starts to go bad, many users begin looking for their own fixes to help them save money and maintain access to their files. While some people may be experienced and knowledgeable enough to work on their own hard drive, most will be out of their depth. It’s okay for users not to know how to fix a malfunctioning hard drive, because there are experts out there who can help without causing further damage or file loss.

What’s not a good idea, however, is to attempt a home fix that can further jeopardize the condition of the hard drive, or make file recovery impossible even for highly trained data recovery experts with all the right tools. The internet is a wealth of information, both good and bad, and research can end up yielding some very bad computer advice that does more harm than good. Here are some of the worst things a user can do to their computer or hard drive in terms of causing further damage or making data recovery impossible.

1. Don’t hit the hard drive to get it going or help file recovery

It’s easy to get frustrated with a piece of equipment that is going slow or freezing, and the urge to hit it or the computer can be very tempting, but it’s a very bad idea. Hitting a hard drive when it isn’t working is not only unhelpful, but it can cause the damage to become much worse, make it entirely unresponsive, or even completely unrecoverable.

It won’t help with data recovery, or anything else. No matter how frustrated a user is, or how at a loss for any other solution, they should absolutely not hit the computer or drive. Instead, they should turn it off and handle it with care until a professional can take a look and see what caused the failure.

2. Don’t put the hard drive in the freezer

Some “experts” on the internet suggest that placing a hard drive in the freezer can help get it working again, or help with data recovery. You may even know someone who swears they've done this – or, more likely, they know someone who's tried it – with great success. This computer urban legend is absolutely bogus, and can end up causing much more damage than what was already there.

A hard drive is built to operate in normal conditions that would be found in a home or office, and most people don’t live and work at temperatures below freezing. A freezer can actually cause damage to the electrical parts and internal components of a hard drive, which can severely reduce the chances of data recovery.

3. Don’t try to transport it with the computer still running

Yes, we're talking about a laptop or notebook computer as opposed to a desktop computer plugged into an outlet.

Sometimes a hard drive failure situation can cause users to panic and take the wrong action, like rushing their computer to an expert without turning it off. Perhaps they think that if they take the computer in while it is experiencing the problem it will be better than trying to explain it.

Unfortunately, this only invites more trouble. Computers and hard drives are meant to be used while sitting still on a stable, hard surface. Not only does the continuous running of failing hard drives pose a potential for failure, but moving them while in operation can jolt the moving parts around, or cause an accidental drop. The best thing to do is note down every detail about what is going wrong as clearly as possible, and then shut it off completely before moving it.

4. Don’t take anything apart

Curious computer users may decide that they want to know what the problem looks like from the inside, prompting them to remove screws and covers to see what’s clicking or whirring. This is also a bad idea, because unless the person knows how a computer is put together and how to safely take it apart they can do serious damage.

A static shock from a screw driver or a person’s hand can fry circuits and stop a computer from turning back on. It can also damage data on hard drives or storage devices that rely heavily on flash memory electronics, such as SSDs. It’s best to avoid causing more damage by leaving any disassembly to the professionals.

Take a malfunctioning computer to a professional data recovery service

If a user is not a knowledgeable computer expert when it comes to data recovery or malfunctioning hard drives, the best thing to do is shut everything down carefully and bring it in to someone who is. A data recovery service can examine the hardware or drives to find out what the problem is, and advise whether data recovery is a possibility. If the user decides they need data recovery help, they can pay the experts to dive in and recover the data to an operational disk or drive.