Different ways to retrieve a hard drive: Freeze it, Drop it, or Hit it (copy from somewhere I don't remember)
From: Travis Standen
One trick I have learned as a technician, when the problem is data-read errors off the platters themselves, is to freeze the hard drive overnight. It makes the data more 'readable,' but for a one-shot deal. If this data is critical, and you have a replacement hard drive (which, if it's a drive failure, you probably do), then you can hook up your frozen hard drive and immediately fetch the data off before it warms up.
If the problem is heat related, I put the drive in the freezer for about 15 minutes to cool it down... sometimes this gets the drive up long enough to copy any critical files...
Put the drive in a waterproof sealed bag, put it in the fridge for an hour or so, then have another go.
From: Kelly Reid
Well, I won't start playing with your specific situation, too many steps or possible solutions where everything starts "If that last thing didn't work try..."
But I'll give you one for free that was a nice hero moment for me. Had a drive where it sounded like the drive motor was engaging but not getting anywhere, so we stuck it in the office freezer for an hour! I'll be darned if it didn't work. The drive was up long enough to get the data ghosted to another drive and we turfed it, even though it sounded fine at that point. I can't really take credit for it though—I had heard it in some geek bull session but I thought it was some jedi-geek urban myth. Goes to show you that you know you're really screwed when you say something to the effect of "Okay, hold on tight, I'm gonna try something I saw in a cartoon once but I'm pretty sure I can do it"
If this drive isn't spinning up, putting it in the freezer for about an hour will usually get the drive spinning again so you can copy needed files before the drive warms up again. The first thing you want to do is run a disk utility like Norton disk doctor or wddiag (if it's a western digital drive) to verify whether the drive is working mechanically or not. If it is a master boot record problem, sometimes running Fdisk/mbr will correct the problem. It could also be a virus, and a program like F-prot will look at the drive as a physical unit. As an A+ PC technician I have seen this problem many times. Usually if the drive is not making a clicking sound I am successful in recovering the data.
From: Bob Matott
Besides the typical use of sys C: to transfer back the system files deleted during "housecleaning" by typical users, I've gotten lucky by turning the drive upside down and setting it on top of the power supply (which seemed to remove "a static charge" that had built up).
Also have used various Disk Manager packages to "talk" to drives with FAT/NTFS corruptions just to recover the data. If drives are being reformatted from an operating system that doesn't want to "fully go away" (can name a few!), the disk manager software has also worked in this scenario many times to get rid of the old and allow you to reformat with the new.
Of course, there's always the "drop it from 4-5" onto a flat hard surface" or "smack the side of the case with the flat of your hand" approaches. Believe it or not, both techniques have worked. Rumor has it that sometimes the heads "stick" to the platters during parking/cooldown.
From: Kenneth Lillemo
Sometimes a hard drive that has been running since nearly forever won't spin up after being shutdown for a while. This can be caused by the heads sticking to the platter. As a LAST resort, I will drop the drive onto a firm surface from approximately eight inches. Inevitably, this will solve the problem and the drive is useable long enough to remove the data. My Sys admin spouse gives me a funny look every time I do it but can't argue with the results.
From: Peter Tello
If the low level diagnostics fail, I declare it officially dead. At that point, I have nothing to lose, so I pull it out and over a thin carpet, drop it 6" squarely on all 4 sides, repeating this 2 or 3 times. I have approximately a 50 percent successful boot-up rate, usually enough to copy the data off and save my behind for not having it backed up in the first place.
From: TDC Tech
This is a one-time fix—long enough to revive HD to get data.
•Take the HD out of the computer and squarely drop it on the closed side of the drive (to your bench) with perhaps a little slam.
•This seems to free up the bearings long enough to copy data off of the hard drive. I have quite a bit of luck, but 90 percent of the time it only works once.
1. Check CMOS settings to make sure the drive setting are what they should be—the CMOS battery could be dead or the user may have changed the settings. A bad hard drive could cause the Autodetect to misread settings.
2. Boot from a floppy disk and run fdisk/mbr to restore the backup copy of the master boot record.
3. Image the drive with drive copy program to a new drive.
4. It’s possible the HDD controller is bad. Try the drive in another machine.
5. Boot from a floppy attach to a network drive or have a secondary drive installed and if you can access the data copy it off to there.
6. The drive could have a stiction problem. Tap it gently on the sides, preferably with a rubber mallet.
From: Alan Gates
As "unscientific" as this sounds, I have found that rapping the drive case a couple of times sometimes allows the drive to come up. I have had several experiences in the past like this. Sometimes the drive is having trouble "spinning up." Obviously, the drive is on its last legs but a rap on the drive case will sometimes free it to spin up. This will allow the system to boot so the data can be backed up before the drive goes into the trash...
From: Bob Barker
I have found on more than a few occasions that older disks can develop a sticking problem. I believe it is a combination of weak motor and surface-to-surface tension between the disk and heads. This problem usually shows up on older disks that have been running a few years (usually 24 hours a day) and then shut down for service or other reasons.
•When you try to start up again, the disk will not spin and you get disk errors trying to boot. After checking for the usual problems (power, cables, jumpers, etc.) and finding that the drive was in fact not spinning, I have had great success jarring the disk with my palm (of my hand, not my PDA). I some times have to be a little more violent to get it to start but I have never had to use a hammer.
•I would be careful using this method if the data on the disk must be recovered at any cost which I would then send to On-Track or some other expensive data recovery company.
•I have found this problem mostly with older servers, but a few weeks ago I ran into the same thing on a two-year-old Compaq IDE drive that was only used a few hours a day.
From: Randy Forston
If the hard drive isn't making noise and when you place your hand on it (not on the PC Board side, but on the metal casing), you don't feel any vibration from the drive, you may have a sticking problem (some older drives with a variety of drive lube no longer used have this problem).
If the above describes the symptoms you're seeing, try rapping around the drive case with the plastic handle of a screwdriver.
This will quite often remedy the stiction and allow the drive to come back up as normal.