Freezing hard drive

My primary computer suffered a failure of the primary hard drive last night. I had backups, but not complete and not recent. I purchased a new drive this morning and reinstalled Windows XP and various applications, but still wanted to get the data off the old drive. So I tried something I’d heard about, which is to freeze a hard drive that’s not booting.

Well, it worked, sort of. At least for about an hour or so, I was able to read data off the drive and copy it elsewhere. But then it stopped working, so I returned the drive to the freezer. When I first took the drive out of the freezer, it was ice-cold (as you’d expect) but was warm when it failed. So it seems that some component(s) shrunk when cooled enough for the drive to work. I’d always wondered if that trick would work, and I’m pleased to say that it does.

We had this happen at work just a couple weeks ago. One of our computers crashed and we didn’t have a disk image or a backup workstation and so we *really *needed to get the data off the drive that crashed. Our techs did the same thing – put it in the freezer for about a half hour, hooked the drive back up, they were able to get it to work for about ten or fifteen minute before they had to yank it again and put it back in the freezer. I think they did this about half a dozen times (at one point I joked that we should get a two-wheeler and just haul the freezer out from the break room to the production floor) but eventually they were able to recover the entire disk. I was amazed, I had never heard of this before.