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Dead portable hard drive

  1. Jul 28, 2012 #1
    My portable hard drive has died on me, is there any software (preferably free) that can help recover the contents?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 28, 2012 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Define "dead". That can be anything from "usb socket busted" to "been through the building's incinerator".

    The short answer, of course, is "yes" - it can be anything from extracting the drive from it's enclosure and plugging it into another one (or direct into the computer's SATA bus) to dismantling it completely and putting the disks into another HDD box. Maybe it "works" but won't read - which may be a ,matter of rebuilding the drive's inodes or reading the raw binary off the surface and eyeballing the hex for file tags. There are lots of things that can help - maybe not a lot but they'll help.

    Data recovery is usually expensive.
    You want to google around the subject of "data forensics".
  4. Jul 31, 2012 #3
    don't forget to do backup!
  5. Jul 31, 2012 #4


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    First thing to do is to check whether your OS recognizes it at the lowest level: if this is the case then you can use special tools to try and fix the file table and the other information that is prevented when you get a crash.

    If you can't get any kind of detection at the lowest level and you know it's not something that can be easily replaced (like USB cable, power cable, so on) then you'll need to open it up (preferrably by someone else who knows what they are doing).

    If it's a driver board that is easy to replace, then find another driver board that you can rip off another working hard-drive, replace it and fire it up (and then move everything over to another HDD immediately!): this is how you deal with the cases of a burnt out or shorted board circuitry.

    If this isn't it, then you'll be going a lot deeper and it's going to have to been done by someone serious (who will command serious money for getting it done) and then the question remains: how important is that data?

    In terms of getting driver boards, think of this like a spare parts car lot where there are lot of dead cars with good parts on them that are needed by the customers: the people might have the part, or they might not. The point is that depending on the drive and considering that the boards and chipsets are changing even faster than what happens in automobiles, you might be lucky if you can even get another working board especially if the portable is a little old.
  6. Aug 5, 2012 #5
    There are two inexpensive methods for fixing damaged hard drives.

    If the damage is caused by data errors, the Partition Wizard drive management software can read non-readable hard drives using an algorithm that bypasses access restrictions in the operating system. Using the command "Check File System", this software can automatically delete corrupt data that is making the hard drive unreadable. While operating systems possess scan drive software, this scan drive software is 10 times faster and can delete large amounts of corrupted data in the gigabytes range. The home edition of this software is free and can be found at the following link:


    If the damage is caused by electromagnetic interference, the problem can be fixed easily by the HDD Regenerator software. It uses the hard drive's read/write head to demagnetize incorrectly magnetized sectors. The trial version is free and the software's full version only costs $59.99. The software can be found at the following link:

    http://hddregenerator.org [Broken]

    If the two methods mentioned above do not work or as a preventive measure for data security, the files can be backed up on the DriveImage XML drive cloning software. It can copy drives using a special algorithm that can access files that are locked out of copying by running processes in order to copy every file in the hard drive to a backup hard drive. The home edition of this software is free and can be found at the following link:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  7. Aug 6, 2012 #6
    Usually if you are a Windows User you can easily just run a Linux/Ubuntu live CD and be able to gather everything from a corrupted partition, if the light does not light up on your external hard drive you will have to take it apart and plug it internally into your computer, if linux cant read it or you deleted files or formated your drive and it just shows up as a blank disc, i can only suggest downloading a dos program called TestDisc and/or Photorec.
    these programs allow you to recover deleted/corrupted files and using the advanced features you can also rebuild an entire filesystem.

    If your hard drive does not show up in your computer at all (as in right click my computer, go to manage, disc management) you may need to find a PCB for your hard drive (this is what people usually charge $5000+ for) i can only suggest at that point you should have a look and see if you can buy a new hard drive exactly the same, use the new ones pcb and your drive may be in a working order again.

    I personally just use Ubuntu and if that fails i use Photorec/testdisc, 90% of the time if it is a first time offense Ubuntu reads the faulty hard drive (windows safely remove hardware sometimes break things)
  8. Aug 6, 2012 #7


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    I'm not sure what this company is claiming, but any write to a sector will change the magnetic fields used to represent the bits in a sector. I'm not aware of any commands, including vendor unique commands, that would allow any operation other than normal like write operations (voltage and data frequency) to sectors, and re-writing sectors would not help with recovering data.
  9. Aug 7, 2012 #8
    With a hard drive unreadable and with no other software to turn to repair the damages, the HDD Regenerator was used and it worked as claimed. It only demagnetizes the magnetic field back to the level the sector needs to maintain the bit of data written on it. It only completely demagnetizes the sector if the data written on it requires complete demagnetization. Besides the trial is free so there is no risk in trying it to recover at least a few sectors and this will prove that the software works.
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