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How do I know, if my drive is affected by physical failures?


Mechanical Failure

A physical failure is any time a drive can not be accessed because of electronic malfunction or internal hardware failure.

These failures can result in the drive not being recognized by the computer’s BIOS or operating system, as well as repetitious clicking or grinding noises. If you hear any unusual sounds coming form your drive, power off your PC and don’t attempt to use it again until you can have your hard drive sent to a recovery center.

The noises you are hearing could indicate a head crash. A head crash happens with the arms that read the data on the surface of your hard drive’s platters smash into the rotating platter instead of gliding across it on a cushion of air like they are supposed to. This results in physical damage to that pltters and can cause a complete and permanent data loss.

The only way to recover from a physical failure is to either replace the damaged hard drive component or move the data platters to a donor drive where they can be recovered to a stable destination drive. This process requires special handling and the use of a cleanroom.

  • Hard drive does not get detected If the computer does not detect the hard drive, or the computer just does not want to turn on when the hard drive is connected to it, you might have a bad hard drive board. This is the big circuit board located at the bottom of your drive. PCB boards tend to get damaged over time due to the heat generated by the hard drive itself.


  • Hard drive gets detected but data is inaccessible Hard drive gets detected by Windows and can be accessed but you do not see any data inside, or you get a message saying that the drive needs to be formatted. You probably have a corrupted file system in you hands. Data may sometimes in this case shows as 0 bytes. Formatting may not be an option in the circumstances and data recovery softwares readily availble in the market will no longer be able to read/write the disk surface. Printed circuit board/ data controller chips failure is likey in theses cases. Commmonly available drives can be repaired in these cases.



  • Hard disk drive displays no sign of power and/or no sound of the drive “winding up” It is not all too uncommon for a logic board component to begin to smolder and burn. There are several reasons for this, such as sudden increase of power or a failure of a power regulator to function properly. In most cases, it is possible to see the location on the logic board which has received the damage.



  • Hard disk drive powers up & then spins constantly with a loud winding sound Hard drive unit powers up and appears to spin out of control. The drive may or may not mount. If it does mount, it will most likely be sporadic in successful operation. This symptom is often indicative of a severe power regulation failure. The symptom could also be caused by a component malfunction within the drive.



  • Hard drive powers up and then winds down, non-responsive The hard disk drive will power up, you can hear the unit wind up and then it suddenly powers down. The unit may or may not power up again. It would not be uncommon for a hard drive in this condition to function for a period of time and then fail again. It is likely that a drive in this condition has suffered from an inconsistent power feed. Low or inconsistent power supply can often cause more damage than an over power supply or surge.



  • Hard drive unit emits an OCCASIONAL clicking sound This is very common and often an overlooked sign of imminent drive failure. One of the locking points for the Cam/Actuator arm has malfunctioned and the arm swings overly wide, causing it to smack against the inner drive unit housing or stop block, which is usually made out of plastic. The drive most likely works and the volume is mounted and functioning perfectly. This condition promotes a false sense of security and will often cause a user to ignore the obvious warning signs. Drive in this case can be repaired however, a replacement is strongly recommended.



  • Hard drive unit emits a CONSTANT clicking sound Hard drive’s read write head/actuator arm has likely broken from its locking points and is swinging freely within the drive or swinging wide. This can also be caused by failure of the servo motor. The drive likely does not mount and appears not to function accept for the loud clicking sound. In this state, the drive is unable to read or write, to or from, the digital media on the drive platter. Please STOP using this device immediately and send it for data recovery. Head/Platter replacement and then using data recovery equipment to read data is the most likely solution in this case.



  • Hard drive unit powers up, but the drive does not mount, and there is no discernable data read/write sound This condition is often caused by overheating and occurs when excessive heat causes one or more of the inner components to expand and stick to another component or to the housing unit itself. This condition will cause the drive to stop reading or writing data. It is not uncommon for the unit to show up as a mounted drive under windows when this condition exists, however; no folders or files will be displayed. A prompt to format the drive may even be displayed, but the system will most likely lock up when attempting to access the volume.



  • Hard drive powers up and a scraping sound is audible Read/write head or arm has broken or come loose and is scraping the digital media on the drive platter(s). STOP using this drive immediately. The scraping sound is the read/write heads impacting with the drive platter. The read/write heads are scraping the magnetic media from the drive platter and throwing debris all about the inner drive housing unit, increasingly compounding the problem. If this condition just occurred, and little damage has taken place to the drive patter’s digital magnetic media, it is possible to remove the broken read/write arm and replace it with a known good arm. Extensive and delicate cleanup will be necessary in order to remove the debris from the drive platters and drive housing unit. Data recovery rates dealing with this type of symptom are very low. Head/Platter replacement and then using data recovery equipment to read data is the most likely solution in this case.



  • Hard drive has been exposed to water damage You have a hard disk drive that has been immersed in or otherwise exposed to water. Even if the drive has been removed from the water and appears to be dry, do not attempt to power the drive up. If the drive was running at the time of exposure, it is possible that the logic board has been damaged beyond repair. All hard drives have ventilation ports, they are small and usually regulated by a flap type of control that allows air to escape, but does not allow for dust and debris to enter. Chances are good that this flap prevented water from entering the drive housing unit and reaching the digital media on the drive platters. It is possible, under controlled conditions, to properly dry the remaining and unseen moisture on the drive, replace the logic board, and recover data. To increase your probability of data recovery, and decrease your risk of damaging or contaminating the logic board during handling or removal, deliver the drive to a data recovery specialist immediately. Platter replacement and then using data recovery equipment to read data is the most likely solution in this case.



  • Hard drive unit has been exposed to fire Hard drive has been damaged by fire. The most delicate portions of the drive have likely been melted or damaged to some degree. Many individuals simply call it a lost cause at this point but not so fast, there is still hope. This drive is in serious need if examination by a professional data recovery expert. Attempts to replace the logic board and power the unit up could cause an increase in damage. Metal expands when exposed to heat. It sometimes contracts when it cools down, but there is no guarantee. A data recovery expert may be able to manipulate the drive, replacing parts where necessary and even removing the platters for successful data recovery. Platter replacement and then using data recovery equipment to read data is the most likely solution in this case.


The methods discussed here have proven successful for thousands of data recovery incidents. Many recovery methods rely heavily on proper diagnosis of the problem(s) affecting the hard drive. If the wrong diagnosis is made and the wrong method of data recovery is applied, total and permanent data loss is inevitable.

Although, these are only some of the issues we as a data recoery company have come across, if your drive is experiancing any of these symptoms OR if it is not listed here, please contact support detailing the cause of the problem and issues experianced.

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Article details
Article ID: 6
Category: Hard drive, RAID arrays and NAS (Network Attached Storage) issues
Date added: 27-Mar-2011 14:02:26
Views: 14479

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