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Hard Drive Recovery Myths Debunked

If you have had a hard drive problem then sure enough you have done some searching on the Internet and seen some startling revelations about hard drive recovery. My personal favorite is :it is safe to put your hard drive in the freezer over night”! Better yet, there are sites that actually recommend putting your hard drive in the freezer. As anyone with a 5th grade education knows, changing temperatures dramatically will cause materials to either contract or expand depending upon whether heat or cold is applied.

Expanding or compressing platters is not a good idea since the heads are programmed to search for the first sector of a hard drive in a particular place. The larger the capacity of the hard drive, the smaller that sector is physically. While it is true that older drives that were prone to get locked up due to heat, could benefit by being cooled down, that is just not the case with hard drives that have been manufactured in the last 5 to 6 years.

Speaking of older hard drives, that brings us to the second most popular myth about hard drive recovery which states that you can easily swap a damaged circuit board from 1 hard drive of the same model to another of the same model. Again that might have been true of Quantum hard drives 10 years ago, but don’t try it now! A good example of why that doesn’t work is just about any popular Western Digital hard drive. You can take any mass produced model number and search for revisions. You will find that the average WD hard drive model has at least 6 or 7 revisions. Each revision speaks a different language! OK maybe language is too strong a word, but dialect isn’t. They just don’t understand each other when you put a board that has one version of firmware on it and have that try to communicate with a head assembly that has another firmware imprinted on its chip sets. Companies that perform hard drive recovery these days must be able to heat boards and work on chips if they are going to have any hope of repairing electronic problems.

The final myth we are going to look at today I like to call hammer logic. One time long ago I was an electrical contractor and my answer to a lot of problems involved a hammer or using my Kliens as a hammer. Older hard drives used to get locked up and have issues with their bearings. A light tap with a baltine hammer could in some cases unlock the bearings and possible get the motor to spin properly and at the right speed. A hard drive’s motor is intrinsic to the system that makes a magnetic media device like a hard drive work at all.

Hard drives spin at a specific RPM which insures that the heads float just barely above the platters so that they can read the sectors according to the predefined sector map and either read or write your data. Either way, the motor must spin at the right RPM or very bad things will happen. We have been able to resolve quite a few issues when it comes to hard drive recovery involving bad bearings, and one of them involve a hammer. In modern hard drives, any deviation of a micro-millimeter can cause the sectors to move and then be unreadable by the heads. This is even more true in large capacity hard drives that employ perpendicular recording, a sector mapping system that upends the sector at a 90 degree angle making the readable surface of a sector microscopic in size. Hitting these sensitive devices with a hammer is a bad idea.

If your hard drive is making clicking noises, whining or has just plain died, the best thing to do is contact a real hard drive recovery company like us!


3 Responses to “Hard Drive Recovery Myths Debunked”

  1. Catherine Burgin May 18, 2009 10:02 pm #

    I am so frustrated. I kept getting the message

    PXE-E61: Media test failure, check cable.

    Reboot and Select proper Boot device
    or insert Boot Media in selected Boot device and press key_

    Well I looked up all the info on the internet about this problem and got software to reboot my computer. The software kept telling me that they could not read my hard drive. I changed the Bio’s to start with the Cdrom first and no change. So I bought a new hard drive and this is what is making me mad.
    My computer is less than two years old and now I have to buy a new hard drive and operating system. Why can’t Acer give me the operating System for my new hard drive?

    I just can’t affort a new OS. Do you know how I can get one for my new hard drive without paying so much?


  2. Joe Whitehead May 24, 2009 12:45 am #

    When you said OS, did you mean Microsoft Windows? It’s strange that an OEM vendor refuses to send you a new recovery CD. If you must have Windows, and want to be legal, you’ll need to get ahold of an OEM disk for your system’s OS somehow. Usually, you can just purchase a (cheap) spare reinstallation CD from the company that sold the system. HP and Dell both quoted me about $25 including shipping for the complete disk sets that came with some laptops the owners misplaced. It’s legal because Microsoft had them make the disks useless on the wrong PC. For example, if you have an HP and try to use the Dell disk, it won’t work. However, if you buy 30 identical laptops all with the same OS, than you really only need to bring out 1 of your CDs to reinstall the OS on any of them, so long as they all had the same OS installed. The OEM disks have an embedded license key that is valid for all of that line of machine. It is NOT the same as the one on the back of your machine! (Check out the RULegit site for more details on OEM BIOS locking)

    If you don’t have the money for a new OS CD and Acer won’t play ball, then you can get Kubuntu or Ubuntu for free that for most users look and work a lot like Windows. They have forums to search for answers or ask new questions on. BTW, if you go this route, make sure that you get 8.10 and not 8.04 – it had some issues that were fixed. For web surfing and office work, these two free OSes come with everything you need. If you must use Microsoft Windows and Office due to some job requirement, then it’s sad but you can’t take advantage of them. I’d still try them out on a spare drive. :)

    Next time you buy a computer from someone like Acer or Dell, make sure to burn the recovery DVDs using their included software, assuming they didn’t come with a physical recovery CD/DVD. Many companies don’t include them and somehow users never get around to creating them themselves. When the hard drive fails, of course the copy stored in the hidden partition becomes useless. D’oh! What’s funny is that you can save the hidden partition to a disk image on a DVD and just change it into a regular 1 to store files on, once you know you won’t need it. The bad part is when you make the recovery disks and than forget to make backups… and they get scratched or lost. Wasn’t there an article on Boot/swap/recovery/diagnostic/media/etc. partitions added by companies like Dell on this site? They often hide the recovery and media player partitions on laptops and then people wonder why a drive lost 40% of it’s capacity. It’s usually near the top of the FAQ. 😉

  3. Mike Stein June 12, 2009 1:30 am #

    Great site! I’ve spent the odd hour or so soaking up info.

    I have a terrific spreadsheet here which I’m pretty sure came from you, listing specs for HDs from manufacturers whose names start with m-n; I was hoping to find a couple more, but although I can find the page listing the manufacturers there don’t seem to be any links ;-(

    Are these spreadsheets still available, and if so, how/where?

    Thanks again, and thanks in advance!


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