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What to Do After a Hard Drive Crash

Hard drive failure can be a frustrating time, but try not to panic. Remaining calm and acting fast will ensure that you have the best chance of getting all your data back in one piece, whether you go at it yourself or enlist the help of the professionals.

The first thing you need to ascertain is what type of crash the hard drive has suffered. There are two major types: a logical or a mechanical failure.

A mechanical failure means that the drive has become physically damaged. Often you will be able to hear clicking coming from the hard drive. This is the sound of the head that reads the hard drive’s data being misplaced. If the hard drive has a mechanical fault then there is very little you can do to fix it without sending it to a recovery company. You should definitely not try to open the hard drive as exposing the delicate platters inside to particles in the air will cause further damage. Data recovery companies will open your drive in a professionally graded clean room in order to repair it.

A logical failure means that the drive can’t find the data stored on it due to something like a corrupt file system or a formatting error. If you notice files going missing or not opening then it is likely that your hard drive is logically failing. The most important thing is that you stop using the drive as soon as you notice anything dodgy. To keep using it may further corrupt the drive and make it overwrite your data (even something as simple as opening a file).

If the failure is logical then there is a chance of getting your data back by yourself. The first thing you need to do is create an image of the disk. A program like R-Image will allow you to do this and will guide you through the process to clone your hard drive. You should write this copy to a separate drive (and not the one you are imaging).

You can then use a recovery program like R-Studio to search the drive and try and recover any files that you may have lost or that have become corrupted. You will still have a chance of recovering data even if the drive has been reformatted or repartitioned. If necessary, you can narrow the search to file type (like JPEG for photos, for example). This is helpful if the file names can’t be recovered and will save you time looking through irrelevant results.

Whatever the outcome, you should never reuse a hard drive that has failed. It is the component in the computer that is most likely to fail. Using it again after it has failed once is just asking for trouble. Your best solution would be to copy your data over to a brand new hard drive and use that instead. And remember, implementing a backup solution will mean that you won’t have to go through such a recovery program if your hard drive does fail.


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