Can lightning damage a hard drive?

My hard drive crashed after a fierce lightning storm a while ago. Nothing around me got struck by lightning and I have a rather expensive surge protector anyway. I was wondering if electromagnetic radiation from the lightning could somehow have erased key data on the drive.
Is there a way to get this data back? I know that I could send the drive to some specialty company that will charge me tons of money to recover the data. How do they do this and can I do it myself?

It’s more likely to be electrical noise generated by the lightning that travels through the power lines (or phone lines or cable lines, depending on what is connected to your computer) that screwed something up rather than electromagnetic radiation, but yeah, lightning can definately hose your hard drive. It’s also possible that it damaged the data on the drive without doing any real physical harm to the drive. Some of the data on the drive is stuff that the drive itself uses to figure out what is where on the disks, and if it gets damaged the drive essentially becomes unusable and unrepairable.

Some of the data recovery methods are fairly simple, like going through the file allocation table and fixing the obvious goofs. Other methods include things like pulling the platter out of the drive in a sealed “clean” room and placing it into a drive with working electronics, or reading the raw signals off of the drive heads and converting that into data. These are not things that you could do yourself.

What exactly are the symptoms of your “crash”? Does the drive still spin up when you power on the computer? Is the drive recognized at all by the computer? Is any data at all visible on the drive?

So the rest of your computer is fine but the hard drive died? Unlikely this would be related to lightning.

Does the drive spin up, or is it completely dead? If the drive works but your data is gone, it might be that your partition tables are corrupted or something of that nature.

You might also want to try a different data cable. They do occasionally go bad. It is also possible the disk controller on the motherboard has gone bad. To test this, attach the drive cable to a different socket on the motherboard.

If your drive really is messed up, it might be possible to swap the circuit board from an identical drive. I see conflicting info on this online. Some people say that the board is “married” to the drive, but others report swapping their board successfully.

Also, who made the surge protector? Some brands provide coverage to repair/replace equipment damaged while plugged into it. APC, for example, typically provides $50,000 - 100,000 coverage for connected equipment, which is probably sufficient to pay for data recovery.

Not likely BUT a remote possibility even with a top notch surge protector.
Data recovery is possible, at a price.

A lightning strike nearby can induce a surge in parallel vertical wiring to blow lamp bulbs.

I think in any question “Can lightning damage X”, where X is anything you can think of, the answer is yes. :slight_smile:

Check the ratings on your surge protector, you will mot likely find that it will protect against breif increases in mains voltage of +100_200%.

Lightning forces a ‘spike’ down the line, an breif increase in voltage of up to several thousand percent and to deal with this you need a spike shield, which is a once-only device, like a fuse but much faster acting.

If your machine had been exposed to a spike, I’d be surprised if it was only the hard drive that was damaged but there are no absolutes with computer electronics, the effects can be highly unpredictable.

Try the drive as a slave in another machine and see how it behaves, also substitute it with another drive in your computer, should give a pretty good indication of where the fault lies.

A tree next to my house got hit by lightning about a week ago and it caused some magnetic interference. The colors on the TV and a computer moniter were extremely distorted and some electronic devices stopped working, including several phones and the garage door opener.

Thanks for asking.
The drive is not recognized by the computer.
I have already tried the normal stuff to retrieve the data.
I believe the data is still there and that the drive electronics are pooched.
It was a Fujitsu which I later found out was a crap drive.
I am interested in removing the platters. I know this is done in a “clean room”. I know it is risky but this is a last resort and I don’t have 1000 dollars to send it away. Has anyone done this at home? How hard is it?

The drive has been tested on several other computers. I am interested in your second recomendation. I would need to get the same model of drive. Does anyone know more about this?

I have personally never heard of anyone succesfully changing drive platters in their home. I have however heard of a few folks who have swapped out the electronics boards in their drives succesfully.

As always, YMMV.

Based upon my own experience, I have to disagree. I had a Fujitsu 1.6 GB drive in my machine for well over 5 years with zero problems. Contrast that with a Western Digital (two of them, actually) that I had previously, both of which developed bad sectors within a few months.