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Do It Yourself Solution: Hard Drive Crash Recovery

Have you ever booted your computer and gotten the message “No boot device found”? So, you boot the computer again, and get the same message, only this time you notice that the POST does not list your hard drive as one of your boot devices? Where did it go? What happened? It was working yesterday when I shut down, why isn’t working now?

There are several reasons why your hard drive will disappear from the POST list, and the BIOS will refuse to list it. The following is an explanation and a remedy for one of these reasons.

Every hard drive is unique. What I mean by that is every hard drive, even though it may be the same make, model, size etcetera they are unique in reference to performance. As an example, you may have a Seagate 80 Gb hard drive that says it is 7200 RPM.   Well, not every drive will spin at exactly 7200 RPM. In order to make the drives affordable to us the drives are built to a certain set of tolerances.   At the factory the drive is ‘burned in’ and these tolerances, as well as many other pieces of data are saved on a special area of the platter called the system area. This area can only be addressed in an ‘engineering’ mode and is transparent to the end user. Sometimes this system area gets corrupted, and the hard drive will not register itself with the BIOS during POST so that you get the message “No Boot Device Found”. Here is a fast and easy fix for a corrupted system area.

First find an exact duplicate of the hard drive that has crashed. When I say exact, I mean exact.  Make, model, firmware rev, and lot must all match. If you have an older drive you have to find a hard drive clearing house to buy the matching drive.   The clearing house will know why you want the drive, so the pricing of the hard drive may be as high as $500.00 depending upon the size, age, and rarity of the drive.

Second using a switchable power/IDE cable you place both drives on the cable with the power switched onto the good drive. You then boot the system with the BIOS recognizing the good hard drive. Once the hard drive is recognized and you are in the operating system, switch the power on to the hard drive that has crashed. The BIOS and the operating system will not know the difference and will try and address the drive.

Third, once this has been completed, using a piece of drive imaging software to clone the drive from the crashed drive to any other drive that is the same size or larger. This may take several hours depending upon the size of the hard drives.

Lastly, once the hard drive cloning process is complete, shut down the system, take all the drives off except of course for the newly cloned drive and then reboot the system. Using a piece of data recovery software, tree the cloned drive and copy all of your data onto another drive.

There you have it, a drive that has lost its system area recovered and your data saved. Instead of paying $2000.00, for hard drive recovery,  you saved yourself a lot of money and time. Good Luck!

17 Responses to “Do It Yourself Solution: Hard Drive Crash Recovery”

  1. Kevin July 8, 2007 8:33 am #

    Please explain the switchable power/IDE cable. Is this a standard cable? special cable? Do you have a supplier for the cable?

    Thank You Kevin

  2. DTI Data Recovery July 9, 2007 11:13 am #

    Kevin, I was told that they made the cable themselves. I am looking around to see if there is anyone selling it.

  3. DTI Data Recovery July 9, 2007 11:38 am #

    OK, Dick Correa was kind enough to provide the answer to Kevin’s question:

    Okay, this is how it is done.

    1. The board on the good drive is unscrewed from the drive itself but left connected to the drive and this drive is connected to the PC.
    2. The computer is booted registering the good drives system area
    3. A command is issued either through software, or a PC3000 board to spin down the drive but not to power down.
    4. The good drive is disconnected from the board, and the bad drive is connected in its place.
    5. A command is sent to the drive to spin up the drive using software or a PC3000 board.

    So, you now have a drive mounted with a good system area. The problem with this fix is that the Permanent Defect List, and the Growth, or Hot Defect List are tied to the good drive and not the bad drive. So you have a tendency to get bad sectors. The only way to eliminate the bad sectors is to wipe the system area with software, or a PC3000 board. Then you clone the drive taking all the sectors on the drive that have not been remapped. Finally, you use a piece of software to align the file system and then you can start pulling your data off.

    The alignment software only works for FAT32 and comes with the PC3000 board. You can however align it yourself using WinHex, and the file entry table using the FAT as a guide. You can also do it with NTFS but you would have to do it by hand. If you only need a few files then this is a viable alternative, however for many files this is a real headache.

  4. Anonymous August 15, 2009 11:56 pm #

    my laptop crashed and when I use the Recovery & System disks I get the following : Fail to Restore.dat files.

    I called Acer in regards to this matter and they sent out new recovery CD’s, but still the same message appears. Was running Windows Vista.

    Please advise as to what the problem maybe.

    thank you

  5. W130SN December 31, 2009 9:34 pm #

    Can the same thing be done with Sata drives?

    My son’s computer crashed/froze so he did a hard reset i.e powered off without shutting down through windows vista. Now hard drive is not recognized in the BIOS. After POST it displays “Reboot and select proper boot device or insert boot media in selected boot device and press a key” (or something very similar). Is there anyway to save this drive ? It is under a year old.

    I have another system with the same model drive , both are SATA , what would you suggest I do next ?




  6. Todd June 2, 2010 4:03 pm #

    OK – I know this is an old thread, but this may be valuable to somebody desperately searching ‘hd data recovery’.

    As this site states, that ‘kerlunk… kerlunk’ ‘CLICK OF DEATH’ sound is not necessarily physical ‘head’ damage. It may also be simply a transistor or chip going out on the green circuit board that is part of the hard drive. I had the same problem (kerlunk…kerlunk…kerlunk – computer not recognizing WD400 hard drive). The freezer trick wouldn’t work, and numerous inquiries to ‘data recovery’ specialists quoted me anywhere from $1800 to $2400 (US) to recover the data. Swallowing hard, I figured the digital photos still on the hard drive (yeah, I know it was stoooopid for not backing up the last couple years of data) were worth saving up to get them recovered. But I sure didn’t have the bucks on hand to do it immediately, and from what I could tell none of the ‘data recovery’ experts could say with certainty that they could recover anything.

    I started searched high and wide on the internet and eventually found the same hard drive on eBay. It had the same MDL number, same DCM number, and same number printed on the circuit board! It was like a needle in the haystack from the number of close but not exact hard drives I saw on numerous other sites. IT IS POSSIBLE TO FIND AN EXACT MATCH! I bought the hard drive immediately for $55 (US – shipping included), and when I received it 4 days later I undid the 4 torx screws on my defunct HD’s circuit board and switched it with the circuit board from the HD I just purchased off eBay. 4 torx screws later, popping the drive in an external HD enclosure, powering up and plugging the USB into a laptop and WAH-LAH!! My hard drive was working again and I IMMEDIATELY backed up all my digital photographs to the laptop.

    Not saying that this is the norm – I don’t know, all I know is it saved me at least $1,745 and a LOT of stress. I can’t remember yelling as loud or celebrating as loudly as I did when that HD spun up and showed up on Windows Explorer. I was celebrating like I had won the mega-lottery when that WD hard drive spun up and was recognized….. Hopefully this works for somebody else someday. I’ve learned my BACKUP lesson well and thankfully it didn’t cost me upwards of $2000 US to learn it.

    • DTI Data Recovery June 3, 2010 11:39 am #

      Todd, I am happy to hear you were able to change out the board and recover your data! We see a lot of PCB board problems and always look there first before opening a hard drive. You were very smart to match up revision numbers, because many newer models may have the same numbers, but not the same firmware. While changing a board will rarely cause more damage, it is a stroke of luck when it works. We fix the boards, rather than trying to find parts.

  7. Michael Perris August 20, 2010 4:37 am #

    I have a Dell Dimension9200 running XP Pro. I had to shut down the computer with the on/off button because it had locked up and would not switch off in the normal way. On booting the computer all was good up to the XP screen and the scroll bar scrolling – then that was it, it would not go beyond this point. I did try several times to re boot but got the same.
    I removed the hard drive and replaced it with a spare and all was well, so I think the comuter is OK and it’s a hard drive problem?
    Any help would be appreciated. Mike

    • Jacqui Best August 20, 2010 11:51 am #


      It could be that whatever locked up the PC is what is causing it not to boot. From a data recovery stand point that could be bad sectors. From a stand point that could be anything from a virus to a bad windows update. Can you access the drive if you slave it to another PC?

  8. penzi December 28, 2010 10:38 am #

    my HDD drive shows that i need to format it when trying to access it but i cant format it because i really need the data in it please help

    • Jacqui Best January 10, 2011 3:19 pm #


      You can either try the Recover It All software, or I can remote in to your computer and try to fix the problem.

      • Freed March 25, 2012 7:36 pm #

        Hi Jacqui,

        might be interested in having you remote in to help me with a crashed hard drive.

  9. julius kyei May 9, 2013 11:34 am #

    Hello I once hibrinated my laptop for a night and in the morning we i tried to turn it on, it suddenly said boot manger is comprssed press crtl, alt and del to restart

  10. gilbert June 5, 2013 9:43 pm #

    What if am using sata HDD,is it also possible?

  11. gilbert June 5, 2013 9:44 pm #

    I am also experiencing that kind of problem..


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