I know that sound. That's a bad sound. (Hard drive failure)

I have a dead hard drive. I left my laptop on overnight to charge my MP3 player. No applicatons were running. The next morning, there was a loud screeching sound. I did a hard shutdown of my laptop. After a minute, I restarted it. Almost immediately, it was screeching again. I immediately shut it down again. I pulled the hard drive out, and it was very warm. I let it cool for about about thirty minutes, slipped it back in, and restarted. No screeching, but I got two error messages. The laptop could not find any media. The laptop could not find the operating system.

I had a copy of DSL (Damn Small Linus), which I put into the CD-ROM drive and tried to use. The laptop refused to do anything beyond telling me it couldn’t find media or the OS. I checked BIOS, and it was set to boot from the CD-ROM drive first. I put the DSL disc in another computer, and it loaded just fine. So, I had a little bit of hope that maybe something else was wrong. That hope died today when I bought an external enclosure and plugged the hard drive into it. My other computer didn’t recognize it. When I plugged another hard drive into the enclosure, the computer recognized it. So, definitely a bad hard drive.

Here are some other symptoms of the bad hard drive. When it gets power, I can feel it try to spin up, but the motor pulses. So, it doesn’t seem like the motor seized. There were no usual sounds on the attempts I made to power it up. I didn’t hear anything rattling around inside of it when I was handling it. This evening, I’ve been looking at data recovery websites. I realize now that it was stupid of me to keep powering up the drive (much like it was for me to put running another back-up last weekend).

Here are my questions for y’all:
[li]What might have happened to my hard drive?[/li][li]How boned am I with my data?[/li][li]Anyone have any experiences with data recovery companies?[/li][/ul]
Here’s a big lesson learned: run back-ups more frequently than every six months.

[li]What might have happened to my hard drive? [/li]
Head crash

[li]How boned am I with my data?[/li]
Utterly short of a data recovery $ervice

[li]Anyone have any experiences with data recovery companies?[/li]
No - DR has always been so expensive (huindreds to thousands) that I chose to live without the data

My only experience with hard drive failure didn’t involve a screeching sound; it was more of a nails-on-chalkboard grinding noise. I had a friend who worked for IBM in their on-site service division who suggested dropping it from 2-3 inches off the ground onto carpet, then trying again. No idea why. It worked for enough time to boot and backup crucial data, then it started making the same noise and screwing up.

I’m not saying the drop is what temporarily fixed it, or that it’s a good idea… I’m just saying it worked for me. More legitimate approaches are advised.

Try putting the hard drive in the freezer for a while, then putting in the enclosure. This can sometimes shrink the innards enough to get data read. It only worked for me once, though.

I also get good info on such stuff from the CNET forums.

Good luck!

I used the frozen hard drive trick once. After taking the hard drive out of the freezer, I was able to read some files from the drive until the drive warmed up enough that it stopped working. But I was able to refreeze the drive and read it again. Eventually, I read all the files I needed from the drive. The only problem was that condensation developed on the drive.

I actually just started a thread about this a few weeks ago. I haven’t decided if I’ll use the service corkboard did, or go with the one that is recommended by Western Digital.

If the read/write arm or the drive heads are stuck (either to the platter or just jammed), the technical term for that is “Sticktion”, dropping the drive onto hard surface (the “Sticktion solution” or “gravitational repair”) might just jar the heads/arm loose long enough to recover data, but it’s an extremely risky proposition, as the drive would be at risk for a stationary head crash, and even if it works, the old drive should be replaced ASAP anyway

The Sticktion Solution is a last-resort “I don’t have anything to lose by trying” emergency procedure, after data’s recovered, the drive should be tossed

I did try the freezer trick, and it didn’t help at all. I’m really hestitant to drop the hard drive. Honestly, I don’t know if anything is stuck in there or not. The motor spins, but it pulses instead of maintains a steady speed. There were no odd noises aside from the screeching Saturday morning. I don’t know enough about hardware to build hope on that or not.

I contacted a couple data recovery companies. One of them is Fields Data Recovery, and they have a service center here in Houston. I traded emails with an account manager over there, and I think I’m going to send it in to them to at least get the diagnostic and a quote for how much they think they can recover and how much it’ll cost. I’m trying to decide how much the sentimentality I have in those emails, pictures, and music is worth to me.

It’s a pity you’re not near here. I just bought SpinRite6 in the hopes of recovering a drive. It won’t help if the underlying structure is corrupted. :frowning:

If you’re planning to send the drive to a data recovery company, stop attempting to use it, every time you plug it in and try to retrieve data, you’re putting your data at more risk, assuming the drive suffered a head-crash (likely, given the scraping/grinding noises) any further attempts to spin the drive up might just scratch/gouge the platters more, making recovery more difficult

this won’t just go away or get better on it’s own, any attempts to retrieve data yourself is potentially risky, YMMV