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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hard Drive in Your Freezer to Recover Data

Both a technology urban legend, as well as a fact of physics -- putting your hard drive in a freezer can work to "repair" your hard drive long enough to pull your information off of the drive. It can be used as a last ditch effort when your hard drive has crashed and left you in a bind -- providing up to two hours of time to pull the data off!

This technique usually works with damaged or problematic hard drive where the failure was not of a mechanical nature. The reason for this is that by lowering the temperature you are changing some of the chemical / physical aspects to the drive - head geometry, electrical resistance is lowered, and the electrical contact points are adjusted. All of these can add up to a temporary (and possibly permanent if you repair or re-format the hard disk) working solution for you valuable data!

In fact, it is a technique that many data recovery specialists have known about for years. So, I explain all of this to tell you of my recent experience with trying to pull some data off a hard drive.

If you recall, my Lenovo T61 laptop gave me the 'Error: 2110 HDD0 (Hard Disk Drive)' error a couple of weeks ago leaving me without a working drive. Giving me no other choice after trying to slave the drive to another machine, the freezing the hard drive was my last chance.

For those who have not experience the trick, here are the important steps that give you the opportunity for this to work. Pictures below are from my actual test.

1. Remove the hard disk drive from the device - computer, laptop, or USB / Firewire holder.

Removing the drive from the Lenovo T61 laptop in preparation for data recovery using freezer trick
2. This is a very important step that many people leave out! Place the hard drive into an anti-static bag to protect it from any static energy or discharges. A freezer, because of its cold and often dry nature has a ton of static electricity present. You need to do everything you can to protect it.

Place the hard drive in a anti-static bag to protect it from static electricity in the freezer
3. Place the hard drive in a Ziploc or Glad Lock baggie. Preferably a freezer bag, the quart size seems to work very well. This step protects the electronics in your drive from moisture and condensation which could cause damage during the freeze process or while warming.

Placing the hard drive into a freezer baggie to protect from moisture.
4. Put your hard drive into the freezer to start the freeze process. This is the where the variability comes in. In some cases it can take up to 72 hours of freezing for the process to complete. Others have had success in as little as two hours of freezer time. My advice? Let the first try be at least 24 hours, and up to 72 hours if you can wait. That will give you the biggest chance for initial success.

5. Pull out the hard drive, connect it to the device -- the best opportunity, depending on your drive situation is to put the drive into a USB 2.0 or Firewire case and connect to your computer. If you need to put it in your computer or laptop and boot up, you may lose 10 minutes of valuable data recovery time. Now pull the data off of you disk.

How did this attempt work for me? First, because of the drive's encryption -- I needed to boot from it rather than slaving or attaching it via a hard drive cage. That meant I was going to need to boot and bring up the operating system. Still, my outcome was not good. My drive, even after freezing would not get beyond the 2110:HDD0 error.

A little bit of a bummer, but still worth the limited time it took to give it a couple of tries. I first tried a 24 hour freeze of the hard drive and then tried a full 72 hour freeze. Neither attempt made much of a difference, leaving me to believe that the drive's failure was mainly mechanical. Who knows.

Did this trick work for you? Let me know with a comment!


Anonymous said...

We actually do these tricks at work, with our Lenovos of various models, my superiors really use the trick a lot, there's always a hard drive or two laying casually in our kitchenette's freezer.
Though I'm yet to try the trick on my home drives that lay around house without use. I think it's a good idea.
IT of E&Y Moscow

Mac joe said...

this trick also works for memory, :D
on the past time i also wash motherboard with heat water and then let it dry, haha...

Mac joe said...

this trick also works for memory, :D
on the past time i also wash motherboard with heat water and then let it dry, haha...