Stop Freezing Your Hard Drives!

 

We understand how anxiety-inducing a failed hard drive can be. Most people turn to the almighty internet for answers, and there’s no doubt that you’ll find articles and videos that can be incredibly helpful. We are here to add to that list, by warning against the biggest myth we have seen on data recovery forums.

Hard Drive freezing.

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From recommendations online, people are literally putting their hard drive into the freezer in an attempt to recover their data. There have been various methods and variations to how it should be done, but they all say that it cools the drive and keeps it cold long enough to power it up and pull the data off of it. Why would cooling it even help? Well, the ideas suggest that if the drive is experiencing a thermal failure, this could eliminate that problem (in an incredibly extreme way). If it is the printed circuit board, it’s believed that this could compress the metal enough to re-establish any loose connections, albeit temporarily.

This is why that’s a bad idea:

Even if you take the suggestions of wrapping it in a towel, plastic bag or anything else… this does not eliminate the moisture in the freezer or the moisture already present in the drive! When your hard drive goes into the freezer, that moisture crystalizes on the components and on the platters (where the data is stored).

From previous blogs, you’ll know that the read/write head is merely 3 to 7 nanometers apart from the platter. To give perspective, a human hair can be anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers wide. The smallest particle of smoke can cause a reader head to collide with the platters, erasing data completely. Near invisible clusters of ice crystals are more than large enough to cause the exact same damage. Worse yet, when those tiny crystals liquefy, the drive begins to sweat, causing the water to accumulate and possibly come into contact with other components in the hard drive.

All of this can do irreparable damage to your hard drive and the data that it stores. When this technique doesn’t work and is then brought to a data recovery company, it makes it significantly more difficult or even impossible to recover. It cannot be stressed enough, the problems that this can cause.

Now, an alternative to putting the whole drive into the freezer (because you want to keep the platters safe), would be to put the PCB in there alone. This would involve removing the board from the hard drive, and you would want to be incredibly delicate, in case the problem doesn’t lie with the board but with another component. Regardless, the safest thing to do is to bring the drive in to a professional. There is no way to tell what may be causing the hard drive to malfunction without having experts diagnose the problem with equipment that most do not have access to.

We know it’s scary when your drive fails, but trust us when we say that home-remedies are no substitute for a trained engineer.