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How to recover data from failed external hard drive

First of all, forgive me if this sounds a lot like many other threads that have already been started here, but I'm not certain if my problem would be exactly like the problem a previous thread-starter may have asked about.

Here is what happened. I recently started hearing some strange sounds emanating from my Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk 4 TB external hard disk drive (model number STAC4000100) that I purchased in March 2012 and have been using without any problem until now. Incidentally, perhaps it's important to note that I had begun to come close to using up all the space on the drive (there was about 100 GB of free space left just before it failed). I would also note, however, that I have had two previous Seagate external hard drives, and they are both close to capacity and still working without problems (and they are both older than the 4 TB drive that failed).

I'm not sure how to describe the sound, but it was kind of a soft, high-pitched grinding sound that would happen at regular [approximately one-second] intervals. It wouldn't always occur - it would happen for a while (a minute or two, I believe), and then stop for a while (several minutes, I believe), and then start up again. In my inexperience, I didn't realize that this was the sound of an imminent hard drive failure (according to what I've read on-line after doing a quick search on the subject), so I did not immediately stop using the drive and/or transfer the data to another location or an on-line backup site - like I should have.

A while ago, I noticed a message in the System Tray in the lower-right corner of the screen telling me that there was some problem with the hard drive. It recommended that I restart the computer to see if that would solve the problem. I immediately went to Windows Explorer to check out the contents of the drive, and to my dismay I saw that some files and folders were there, but many were not. Thus, I restarted the computer, as the Windows message instructed me to. However, after the computer rebooted, it was no longer even recognizing the hard drive at all.

Later, when I turned off the computer, I noticed another weird thing. The computer would not shut off. It was stuck on the screen where it said "Shutting down..." but it just stayed there for several minutes. I didn't know what to do, but I knew I didn't want to just use the power button to turn it off. Finally, I decided to unplug the faulty hard drive - and what do you know, the computer shut itself down almost immediately. When I turned the computer on again a short while later with the bad drive plugged back in again, the same thing happened. It got stuck on a black screen with a cursor in the top-left corner and just stayed there for several minutes... until I unplugged the faulty hard drive, after which it immediately was able to start up properly.

I apologize for the verbose description, but I wanted to be as detailed as I could, in case any of these little things matter or mean something. I would like to know if there is any way to recover the data on this hard drive. One interesting alternative I frequently saw in my search for answers on this topic involved putting the hard drive in the freezer :) and subsequently retrieving the data immediately before it fails permanently. I've also heard that that can be a dangerous and should only be used as a last resort, however.

If anyone has any suggestions, I would be grateful to hear them.
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  1. Sorry to say, but that drive is probably toast. From your description is sound like a head crash. That's when the heads are physically dragging on the recording surface of the drive and scratching it. When that happens it depends on how badly the disk surface is scratched as to what can be recovered.

    There is nothing you can do via software to remedy the situation and it would take a clean room to disassemble the drive and get anything at all off of those platters. That's very expensive with no guarantees, typically $1000's. At best they might get parts of files and folders and it would be an arduous task to put the pieces of files back together which is why it is so expensive.

    6.6% of drives fail in the first 3 years. Sounds like you got one of those drives.
    How long do hard drives actually live for?
  2. Best answer
    lishaohua said:
    ..... I would like to know if there is any way to recover the data on this hard drive. One interesting alternative I frequently saw in my search for answers on this topic involved putting the hard drive in the freezer :) and subsequently retrieving the data immediately before it fails permanently. I've also heard that that can be a dangerous and should only be used as a last resort, however.

    If anyone has any suggestions, I would be grateful to hear them.


    With that drive's capacity it is not totally recommended that you do the "freezer trick" since it would only cause more damage to the high density platters inside the drive that contains your data. Thus, resulting to a more catastrophic permanent data loss.
    I could not think of any other possible solution with your drive's current condition but to send it to a professional data recovery service if the data is important and irreplaceable. We have used WeRecoverData before and so far with great positive results. Your drive needs to be opened in clean room for proper evaluation and to find out the best possible procedures on how to recover your data.
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