How to Recover Data From a Dead Hard Drive

By Ty Arthur

  • Overview

    Experiencing a hard-drive failure can be a catastrophically bad event if you have important documents on your computers such as financial information, family phone numbers or work projects with impending deadlines. Depending on what caused the failure, it is possible to recover some of your lost data with relatively little work.
    How to Recover Data From a Dead Hard Drive
    • Step 1

      Turn off your computer and remove all of the cables connected to outlets or any of your peripheral devices such as a monitor, keyboard, mouse or printer.
    • Step 2

      Use a specially sized computer screwdriver to remove any screws holding your case together and pull the side or back panel off so that you can access the internal components.


    • Step 3

      Disconnect the hard drive from your computer's motherboard and remove it from the case. Inspect the hard drive for any obviously broken pieces and then try gently shaking it side to side and listen for any rattling noise that will indicate a broken part.
    • Step 4

      Connect the hard drive to a different computer and try booting it up to ensure that the problem isn't with your motherboard, processor or internal cables.
    • Step 5

      Obtain a secondary hard drive and install it in your computer as the "master" drive. Take your old hard drive and connect it to the new one as a "slave" drive. Put your case back together and reconnect all of your cables.
    • Step 6

      Purchase or download a data recovery software program such as "Recover My Files" or "Stellar Data Recovery." Run the program and follow its prompts to designate which hard drive is the new one and which is the old one. The program will then copy any data that hasn't been completely corrupted from your dead drive to your new hard drive.
    • Skill: Moderate
    • Ingredients:
    • Screwdriver
    • New hard drive
    • Data recovery software
    • Tip: In some instances you can get a dead hard drive to work long enough to back up important files by putting it in a Ziploc bag, placing it in a freezer overnight, and then hooking it back up to your computer. If the hard drive failed due to overheating or if heat caused any of the parts to pop out of their correct position, it may then work again until it returns to its normal operating temperature.
    • Warning:
    • If your hard drive has a visible broken part, you will need to take it to a professional computer repair store or send it back to the manufacturer to see if it can retrieve any of the lost data.

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