Recovering data from dead hard drive

Dollar

Member
SoSH Member
May 5, 2006
7,500
I bought a Lenovo laptop in 2012 and it was great for about 6 years, then the hard drive failed a couple months ago and I tried a million ways to fix it, but nothing worked. I tried changing the boot drive to the mSSD that was also installed, which seemed to work, but it couldn't access data on the dead 1TB 5400rpm HD where I was storing most of my files. Now, I realize I should have backed up my hard drive more often, but it's really just a few files that I recently created that I am hoping to access.

I tried putting the hard drive into another laptop, and that didn't work (just to see if maybe the power source or connections were broken and not the hard drive itself.) I bought a USB to 2.5" SATA III connector cable and connected it to my new laptop, but that didn't work either.

Am I just out of luck and there's nothing you can do when the hard drive goes? Is this one of those times when it's worth going to Geek Squad or something? Or is there some service that does this stuff through the mail? I'm fine just giving up, but if there's an easy and cheap-ish way to get some stuff off that hard drive, I'm willing to try.

Thanks in advance!
 

axx

lurker
Jul 16, 2005
6,094
Drivesavers I think? There's companies that specialize in this but it's not going to be cheap though, like expect to pay like $500 at least.
 

Couperin47

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
If it's the electronics of the drive and it's a common brand it will cost several hundred but there's a decent chance of recovery, if the mechanics, head or platter bearings, the odds on recovering anything but fragments are quite low and will cost too much to bother and with a 6 yr old drive in a laptop, it's almost always the mechanics.
 

Dernells Casket n Flagon

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 24, 2008
3,572
I had this happen a few years ago, and had allowed my online backup subscription to lapse (never again!). It had stuff I could have lived without, but would have preferred not to lose. In my case a drive got overwritten rather than died. Ended up using a company called Secure Data Recovery, and was very happy with the overall results, but you need to deal with a little bit of their salesmanship.

First, they have a free diagnosis if you send the drive in (I dropped it since they have a location in Boston). They'll tell you the format they can recover the files in and an estimate of what they might be able to recover. After they do this they'll send you a quote. Mine was something pretty ridiculous, like over $1,200. I told them it seemed like a lot of money and without guarantees of the recover, it just wasn't worth it for me and I saw expecting it to cost a few hundred dollars given the drive wasn't physically damaged. They came back to me a day later and agreed to their economy pricing of $450 with a slower turnaround (6-14 business days), which I agreed to. Next salesmanship was when they provided a few drive options for me to purchase to restore the data onto. When I offered to order my own drive on Amazon and ship it to them via prime, they offered to price match and did provide a suitable drive matching the best online price. That was an additional $80 or so, but I obviously had the drive to keep as a result.

It's possible I could have saved an extra hundred bucks if I had negotiated harder, but overall I was happy with the results of the service. They recovered far more than my own attempt to restore with open source software and commercially available software that I purchased. They have very good reviews online and with the BBB. Hopefully my stupidity at least let's you know what you're getting into.
 

InstaFace

MDLzera
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
7,900
There are Data Recovery Services that will get it for you for a few hundred dollars, depending on how dead it is. It's kinda a Billy Crystal in Princess Bride kind of situation - mostly dead is very different from all-dead. There are a lot of different things that could have failed - the motor to spin the disk would be a "pretty close to all-dead" situation for you, except that professional services using a clean room could mount an otherwise-working disk into a new drive in order to get it to spin again. Whereas, bad connectors or whatever would be pretty easily worked around.

There is also software you can use to try and spin up the basics, even if a partition is corrupted sometimes you can read it, even if some sectors are corrupted it'll know how to skip them and still read the rest of the data, etc. I don't have names off the top of my head (am on my Mac and I'd have to look it up on my PC), but there was one with a life-preserver icon that I ended up using some years ago that worked well for the task.
 

savage362

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 16, 2003
1,319
Vernon, Vermont
I was in a similar situation back in December. The M.2 SSD in my work laptop stopped working and I had many documents and an email archive that I had not backed up in over a year (my fault).

I found a company online and sent them the drive. They did an initial diagnostics and came back to me with a quote of $250 as the most I would spend if they were unable to recover anything and an additional $1,195 if they were successful in recovering the data.

My employer had no interest in paying that kind of cost to recover a mid-level managers files and I certainly was not going to pay for it out of pocket, so I declined the work. They initially came back and offered to reduce the successful recovery fee by $400 down to $795 but it was still more than my employer and I were willing to spend.

I'd say there's definitely a possibility in recovering your data, but it probably won't be cheap.
 

charlieoscar

Member
Sep 28, 2014
1,339
I had a RAID array on the desktop before this one and I figured everything was safe. Then the motherboard died. Then I learned that the RAID controller was built into my motherboard. And the data sits there along with a number of photos I lost. The capacity of external drives has increased enormously, their physical size has decreased amazingly, and their cost has plummeted. back up two ot three times.
 

kneemoe

Member
SoSH Member
Dec 19, 2006
2,138
Troy, NY
I bought a Lenovo laptop in 2012 and it was great for about 6 years, then the hard drive failed a couple months ago and I tried a million ways to fix it, but nothing worked. I tried changing the boot drive to the mSSD that was also installed, which seemed to work, but it couldn't access data on the dead 1TB 5400rpm HD where I was storing most of my files. Now, I realize I should have backed up my hard drive more often, but it's really just a few files that I recently created that I am hoping to access.

I tried putting the hard drive into another laptop, and that didn't work (just to see if maybe the power source or connections were broken and not the hard drive itself.) I bought a USB to 2.5" SATA III connector cable and connected it to my new laptop, but that didn't work either.

Am I just out of luck and there's nothing you can do when the hard drive goes? Is this one of those times when it's worth going to Geek Squad or something? Or is there some service that does this stuff through the mail? I'm fine just giving up, but if there's an easy and cheap-ish way to get some stuff off that hard drive, I'm willing to try.

Thanks in advance!

TestDisk/PhotoRec has been my no frills go-to for quite a while
https://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk
Free and pretty straight-froward

That said, if the drive isn't "showing up"when you drop it into an enclosure and plug it in (or connect it directly using another laptop) you're likely out of luck