How to Recover Data from a Crashed Hard Disk

If your Mac is showing a file icon with a question mark, or Windows is displaying an error message stating “Windows detected a hard disk problem,” then possibly you’re dealing with hard drive failure. When your internal or external hard drive crashes, all you think of is losing your precious data. At this dire moment, the biggest concern of most users is to save their valuable files. So, if you’re also facing a similar situation, this article may help you!

Before dying, a hard drive typically gives certain signals to indicate that something is wrong with it. These signs include frequent error messages, odd noises, undetected drive, no or erratic computer boot ups, missing files, and more. If you keep ignoring these signs then you may experience a sudden drive failure and data loss. And when that happens, you wonder how to recover files from a dead or crashed hard drive.

In most cases of HDD failure, data recovery is possible. Sometimes, it’s even possible to make a malfunctioned hard disk work properly again.

Whether your drive becomes usable again or not, the hard drive recovery process allows restoring lost files from a crashed drive. The method of HDD data recovery depends on the failure scenario. Typically, different hard drive errors can be categorized as a logical issue or physical damage. For simple logical errors, a good data recovery software program may help you restore your lost files. However, for serious physical damages, you need to resort to a data recovery professional. So, to choose the right method of data recovery, you need to first find the exact cause of failure.

How to Find Out the Problem?
Before declaring your hard drive dead, first, find out if there’s actually an error. If you’re using an external hard drive, then possibly you simply need to make sure that the cables are in order and properly connected. Take a closer look at the enclosure and cables. Maybe, your drive has not failed but a connection within the enclosure has failed. In this case, you may use an IDE/SATA data cable and power connector to make the drive internal. However, removing the hard drive from its casing can be risky. So, it’s better to use an IDE/SATA to USB adapter or a new USB enclosure to connect the drive externally via USB. If the enclosure was responsible for the problem, Windows should recognize your drive when you re-connect it. In case you decide to remove the drive from the casing, make sure you are grounded to protect your drive from the static electricity.

Likewise, it’s not always necessary that your internal drive has failed. Sometimes, the culprit is the physical connection of cables that connect the drive with the computer’s motherboard. Possibly, your problem can be easily solved by firmly connecting the data and power cables on both ends. If you open up the case, make sure to turn off the computer before you work on your computer’s internals to check all connections.

What if Hard Drive is Clicking?
One of the most obvious signs of drive’s physical damage is odd sound. If your hard drive is repetitively making a strange noise like buzzing, clicking, or grinding, then your drive is possibly physically damaged. This sound is generated when the read/write head tries to return to its original position. The cause of HDD noise can be either internal or external damage. The sound can be of different types and the particular type of sound your drive is making will help you diagnose the type of damage.

For instance, if you hear a clicking sound, then it means internal damage, and possibly your hard drive’s head is malfunctioning. The scraping or grinding sounds, on the other hand, indicates physical damage. External damage that leads to a printed circuit board (PCB) issue often renders the drive dead. No matter what type of sound your drive is making, make sure to immediately stop using your computer.

What to Do When a Hard Drive Crashes?
The minute you notice any issue, you should stop using the device. Continuous use or even installing a data recovery app could lead to overwriting the files and permanent data loss. Also, after turning off your computer, don’t turn it on again until you fix the issue. In the case of an external hard drive malfunctioning, simply unplug it from your computer. The issue could be mechanical damage, drive overheating, moisture, system file corruption, loose wires and connections, malware, or power surge/failure.

Instead of using hit-and-trial methods, use a tool like Drive Monitor to check the SMART disk information. Self Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology, commonly known as SMART, is a system used to find out critical problems within your drive to help you choose the right method to deal with hard drive failure.

Make Your Internal Disk External
When the hard drive crashes and become corrupt (RAW), your system will fail to boot. In this case, a user can take out the drive from the system and use a SATA-to-USB converter cable to make the internal disk external. This will allow you to connect the drive to another functional Windows PC. Even if you suspect a probable drive failure, it’s better to work with it is as external storage. You may also get a USB case to connect your internal drive through the appropriate port.

Check Your Dive’s Health Status
The next step is to take a look at the drive’s health status in diskpart. If the board is damaged, then you need to replace it to solve your issue. You can manually check whether or not your computer recognizes the drive. If your primary hard drive is creating troubles, then turn on the computer and enter the BIOS by pressing Del, Esc, F2, or F10. However, if you’ve made your internal drive external, then there’s no need to access the BIOS. Press Windows + R to launch the Run input window. Now type cmd and hit Enter to get the Command Prompt. Type diskpart> hit Enter> type list volume> hit Enter. This will show all drives connected to your computer.

If a small icon appears on the left, it means that your drive is detected and the board is in proper condition. However, if the system recognizes your drive but doesn’t show up as an accessible drive, it means that the only PCB is recognized and possibly the drive is internally damaged. In these cases, replacing the PCB will not fix the issue. However, if your hard drive is not detected, it means that the board is possibly damaged.

Make Your Disk “Online”
To check whether or not your disk is “online”, go to Disk Management by right-clicking on the Start button. Under the disk, you may find the following options: Online, ONLINE (ERRORS), Missing, or Not initialized. If your drive is showing “Online” then there’s nothing to worry about. But if it’s showing any other option then you need to get it fixed. If your disk shows “ONLINE (ERRORS)”, you should take a look at all connections and make sure they are in order. In the case of the “Missing” option, right-click on the hard drive and select “Reactivate the disk” to change the status to “Online”. If you find the “Not initialized” option then you can try changing it to online by right-clicking on a disk and select initialize. Remember, initialization may result in wiping all your data.

Recover Your Data
When HDD becomes RAW or inaccessible, you may format the drive and change its file system to NTFS using Disk Management. However, this may result in data loss. If your hard drive is detected, you may get back your inaccessible data with the help of a top-rated data recovery program. For DIY data recovery, you need to download and install the data recovery software. Launch the software and select what file types you wish to recover. However, if your hard drive is undetected or physically damaged, you need to find a hard drive data recovery specialist to repair and recover your lost data. If the Printed Circuit Board is broken, you may fix the external PCB. However, it’s best to avoid swapping out the PCB yourself. Unless you’ve got an older model, finding a matching model isn’t that easy. Only data recovery engineers can “copy, rewrite, or repair the microcode needed to boot. Also, these professionals will open your hard drive in a clean, dust-free room, to prevent further damage.