How to Recover Files from a Failing/Failed Hard Drive.

Losing your computer files can be an overwhelming and scary experience.  Knowing the basics about the types of data loss and how to recovery your files from a failing or failed hard drives can help you be better prepared on how to deal with the situation.

Types of Hard Drive Failures - Physical and Logical

Physical failures typically mean that the drive has experienced some sort of physical damage and the mechanical parts of the drive are malfunctioning or no long working correctly.  Logical failures mean the file system has experienced some sort of corruption.

What Causes Hard Drive Failures?

Physical failures are generally a result of the drive being mishandled (dropped, bumped). If the drive is shorted out by an electric surge, if power is cut while the drive is writing data, or if dust/debris manages to make it inside the drive housing can all cause physical failures. Physical failures can eventually occur overtime an extended period of time as the drive is used or, while not as common, can result from a manufacturing defect which is the reason many drive manufacturer provide a warranty. Logical failures are caused by deletion of critical system files or the system not being able to find those critical files. It can also be caused by improper shutdown of the machine, including power loss, as well as malware attacks and software conflicts.

Symptoms of Failing Hard Drives

  • Clicking, grinding, or rattling noises coming from the drive
  • OS, system, or applications become slow (beach balls)
  • Disappearing data and disk errors (unable to read/write to/from the drive)
  • Drive doesn’t mount or randomly unmounts while in use
  • Computer crashes, kernel panic, drive won’t boot
  • Drive regularly needs to be “repaired” using disk utility

Recovering File from a Failing or Failed Hard Drive

When a drive fails there are two methods of data recovery available. Software data recovery such as Data Rescue 4, and physical data recovery that requires the drive be sent into a Data Recovery lab such as The Data Rescue Center where the drive will be repaired to a state in which the data can be extracted from the drive. Typically you will want to try a software recovery first since it is possible to do it yourself at home and it is a significantly cheaper route. If a software recovery is unsuccessful, the next step would be to look into a physical data recovery services. Data Rescue uses an advanced scan engine and reconstruction algorithms to piece the data back together using the file patterns found during the scan. It can recovery data from failing drives that don’t mount or boot. When recovering data from a failed drive it is always best practice to avoid working with the failing drive, if possible, especially in the case of physically failing drives. Any time a failing drive is connected to a computer and data is being read/written to the drive you run the chance of causing more physical damage which can eventually lead to the drive failing completely. Data Rescue 4 has a feature which monitors for bad blocks and returns “slow read” warnings which are indicative of a failing drive. Data Rescue 4 has a cloning feature which is a block by block clone. Using this cloning feature on a failing drive will allow you to copy over the data to a new drive which isn’t failing which will allow faster scan and recovery times, a higher chance of recovery, and prevent further damage to the failing drive. In the case of attempting data recovery on a failing drive we recommend cloning the problem drive to a new drive and running a deep scan on the cloned drive using Data Rescue 4. If your drive fails and no longer shows up in Disk Utility or Data Rescue 4 the next step would be to contact a data recovery lab such as The Data Rescue Center. Prosoft offers a full trial version of Data Rescue 4, so you can try before you purchase.  We also have FREE phone and email support.  The Data Rescue Center is our full recovery service division contact us for a FREE estimates.