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How To Tell If Hard Drive Has Physical Damage

Does my drive have Physical Damage?

I get asked this question a ton. The answer is not always as easy to answer as you would think. In many cases identification is easy. For example, if the drive is clicking, or smoke is coming out of it, there are pretty definitive signs of physical damage.

On the other side of the obvious we run in to drives that are still booting and functioning almost the way it always have. Maybe it is a little slow, something you might over look. Maybe the machine just reboots on its own sometimes, or shuts off completely. In these situations it is very likely that this drive may have bad sectors. Now how exactly these bad sectors occur is a plethora of reasons. One of the reasons would be a highly fragmented hard drive, since the heads need to move back and forth across the platters a lot more there is a lot more chance for them to come closer then they are supposed to. Anther big reason hard drives get bad sectors is heat, as I have discussed before, hard drives a extremely heat sensitive and even the most minor warping of a platter could cause bad sectors.

What you must understand is when you have a bad sector, is that these things tend to propagate themselves. The reason for this is that when Windows comes across a bad sector it is going to continue to retry that sector, and by retry that means the head resetting every time for another go at the sector. As this abuse to the hard drive continues, there is a high likelihood of more bad sectors in that area.

So I am sure you are thinking, how do I know if it is bad sectors? There is a really easy way to tell, download the Recover It All Professional DEMO. Set the software up to do a “slow logical scan” and then wait to see if you get any RD ERR, you will then know you have bad sectors on the hard drive.

physical damage on hard drive

My recommendation at that point is you back off the data you can and get yourself a new hard drive. If this is not feasible then formatting the hard drive should write out the bad areas, but it is highly likely the problem will continue. 

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49 Responses to “How To Tell If Hard Drive Has Physical Damage”

  1. DTI Data Recovery June 6, 2007 6:28 pm #

    What a great article, thanks for the tip!

    • ben September 20, 2012 8:44 am #

      okay thank you

  2. Joey June 16, 2007 3:46 pm #

    I’ve been doing Data recovery and Forensic evidence recovery for quite some time now. And you are very correct about “the answer” to “physically damaged or not?” sometimes not being nearly as simplistic as it would seem. Sometimes even to the most brilliant of professionals, it can be a puzzle.

    Especially if you are seeking evidence, where “seemingly” even the very slightest of mistakes or presumptions could outright destroy a court case for a D.A. or lawyer. So I tend to look somewhat “goofy” to “some” of the professional-tech’s as customers as I “can” seem to sort of just stop and stare like a frozen statue at a ciruit board or, worse yet, just a top of a HD for sometimes 3-5 minutes straight in front of customers…hehe…..Even had one just wave his hands infront of my face to see if “I” was still in the same universe!…lol..commoneting with “Hello?….Anyone home?….you there?” till I’d come out of a seeming trance, because I get nervous about just tearing something apart when there is ANY chance of simpler solution. Especially if it involves evidence…

    Don’t take me wrong, I don’t hate lawyers, etc. However, The customers I have the least pride in even daring to ever “confess” in front of friends, to doing recoveries for are those occasionally yuppy-“istic” divorce lawyers looking for the dirt on the EX’s!!….They just take EVERY piece of info, including sometimes unwanted pop-ups caused by mere infections and I’ve seen court-logs quoting them using this stuff abusively against people in suits and custody cases….hehe….(Most are pretty honest and human, but I’ve seen a few of the more questionables, and despise even setting up the chamber, much less doing the recoveries after seeing what a couple have done!…hehe..

    But it’s obviously not my choice, so I have to grin and bear it. But it does make it difficult on broken & Cracked CD/DVD disks )in sandwich bags of soil/gravel and pieces) to really care, where you’d do everything you could in a missing child case or worse. But the divorce cases make it difficult to be more than a “barely-passing” student….hehe

    Noone I know of got into data, much less forensic recovery from the start. It starts with trouble for the few I know of, who’ve spent pre-teen and teen yrs as atleast “wanna-be” hackers, or were just doing tech-work and got heavily challenged with that “one” recovery that was NOT gonna come up with any retail softwarez. No EZRecoer Pro, No Tiramisu, RecoverMyFils softwares, etc. and found themselves too stubborn to give up, and went into a closet-lifestyle environmennt for quite a while of experimenting…..Mine came from mega-hardcore programerz and nerd-hoplesses, passionate to Linux(debian ruled back then), who cutom-built, gutted and restored systems from High School thru College, with very, very little sanity or social-skills, whatsoever….lol

    Some people wanted a new car or a scooter for christmas……and my crowd of socially inept goons wanted boxes of broken, damaged HD’s collected from local dumpsters, or often donated in pieces by local tech shops too experiment with, or ancient UNISYS RAID STACK units to abnormally configure and NETWORK with home PC’s….Near anorexic nerds and goggle-face-goons with Bedrooms in late 1980’s that looked like set’s for “Lost in Space” and having no social hope whatsoever…..Collections of White papers that filled entire walls of old Raid-set stacks, up til 4 and 5 AM, fooling with drives and IM Debating what industry people held like some sort of CIA secrets for NO GOOD reasons….

    But You are absolutely right, I should send you PICs of some of these bedrooms of old, along with my own hiding cave (THAANK GOD my only clients are local TECH Shops and field techs! ..or No Normal person would handle walking into this strange of a place, much less talking to anyone here if it weren’t for references.

    People often expect a rapid assessment, and physical damage can be sometimes found in mere head alignments given rare instances of “just the exact right” impact angles.

    The most extreme part is that one has to recover the data/evidence without risk of “damaging” it!…often just a matter of “doing it by-the-book,” but at some rare times it can get pretty scary, and that staring-like-a-frozen-goon complex returns….hehe…

    Joey

    • Chris October 25, 2010 3:32 am #

      Joey, need your expert help…some “hacker” found a way to execute a program on my system. Corrupted the MBR and now the arm is wanting to just repeat looking for the same sector. I have data on here that is so sensatvie and I MUCH retrieve it. Please….we can work something out…

      THanks in advance.

      Chris

  3. gutie August 13, 2007 4:58 am #

    I did not know that fragmented drives can lead to data loss in the event of disk crashes. I had been under the impression that this is not a serious maintenance issue. It afflicted my drives, i think there was heat issue too, the drive killed itself on me. Lost all the data:(

  4. Jacqui Best December 7, 2007 11:50 am #

    Gutie-
    Defragging regularly is very important. Fragmented file systems will 99% of the time lead to crashes, as well as hindering performance. I always tell my customer with deleted files this “Windows likes to use areas of the drive it has used before first” and the reason for this is an effort to keep the file system contiguous. Microsoft knows that we as a Windows using whole do not defrag the way they would like us to, and thus try to do it them selves by using up deleted areas of the drive.

    • Layrouns Andoh March 16, 2011 1:17 pm #

      i will be much grateful if i can get intouch with you on skype or any other site where we can have one on one chat and enable me to learn from your teachings. thank you. am Layrouns Charles Andoh from Ghana. 24 years old.

      • Jacqui Best March 16, 2011 3:49 pm #

        Layrons,

        This is a very confusing message. Why would I skype with you?

        • Nathan derr January 19, 2012 4:15 pm #

          Do you do any “over the phone” technical support?

          • Jacqui Best January 24, 2012 4:58 pm
            #

            Nathan,
            I do 90 percent of all the over the phone support, just give us a call 727.345.9665. Thanks

  5. adil May 24, 2008 8:27 am #

    hi there, i am no it expert so ive just come here to ask for help. i have a relatively new hard drive that ive removed from a pc and put into a caddy, and it does not appear when connected to a computer via usb. it also does not function when it is within the computer. could there be some physical damage to the hdd? if so, would it be possible to recover any of the data from it, considering that it is not appearing when inside a caddy? many thanks, please email me on adilghanty@hotmail.co.uk if anyone is willing to help.

  6. Frank December 14, 2008 9:07 am #

    I need to know . If I had a hard drive that will not format what do I do? I tried to format the sata based hard drive, my PC will not reconize that there is a hard drive in the system. I’ve sense replaced the HD with another 80 G HD. I have run out of space and want to install the previous one I mented . Can I just install the hard drive .slave it and go from there. If anyone has any suggestions please answer. Thank you so much.

  7. DTI Data Recovery December 15, 2008 3:55 pm #

    Frank,

    What operating system are you using? this will help us get you the answers you need. Do you have an external enclosure for your SATA drive?

  8. Christoph December 25, 2008 7:21 am #

    Last night I managed to pull my external hard drive off the desk, causing it to fall about 70cm to the floor. I switched it off immediately and haven’t activated it since, because I know that physical damage would be worsened during operation.

    Now I would like to find out if anything is actually wrong with the disk, and whether (and how) I can recover the data. What should I do, and what should I avoid doing under any circumstances? Thanks…

  9. shakier February 24, 2009 9:19 pm #

    I remove my hard drive and shake it and it sounds like something is loose,is dat normal for a little looseness? Its a fujitsu

  10. Anil kumar April 14, 2009 12:14 pm #

    Hai gyes.my name is anil.i bought a pc in may13th 2006.while i was purchasing they said that i wil b given 3years warrenty.now i want to change my processer,mother board and hard disc.i should show to the company that they are spoiled.so that they will replace it free of cost.but the damage should not b physical.can any one help me in this matter.pls mail me if u can help.

    Thanks.

  11. Joe Whitehead April 19, 2009 4:18 pm #

    1) Does it make no noise at all? Not even a little vibration? I can’t work miracles, man!
    2) Does it make a click-clack sound over and over as if it’s trying to read the disk but can’t even spin up? It’s dead, Jim!
    3) Does it have obvious water damage or mud on it? Abandon ship!

    ;)

  12. Joe Whitehead April 19, 2009 4:27 pm #

    Most of the problems with fragmented hard drives comes AFTER you need to repair it. Imagine trying to glue pieces of confetti together! Yeah, it’s not exactly fun or even feasible on a filesystem, either. If you drive is defragmented, even if the first 20% of the drive is overwritten, you can just search for the files using signatures. (EXE:MZ, ZIP:PK!, HTML:, etc.) This is trivial with a damaged filesystem if it’s defragmented and you can actually read the sectors.

  13. Rayan June 13, 2009 7:59 am #

    I wana know if my harddrive is damaged or not

    I’ve found RD err=1.908

  14. Nicky September 10, 2009 1:35 pm #

    Hi all, I’ve got a Maxtor SATA Hard Drive (200Gb) which I was using as an external drive via USB in order to retreived some data.

    Unfortunately once, I connected the power cable incorrectly (inverted it – probably polarity or something) and after a few secs I could see a whisp of moke coming out. Afterwards i could visibly notice 1 or 2 melted components.

    I haven’t switched on/ connected this HD to any PC, but I really want to retreive the data stored in it.
    Should I try connecting it to my PC? Or should I seek help in repairing (physically) the HD, & then recover it? Any hints?

    THANKS A LOT IN ADVANCE!
    ..Nicky

  15. subbarayan sabhanayakam October 12, 2009 1:42 am #

    My laptop’s hardware was damaged and I had to replace it with a new one. Is it due to the playing of games through internet, or due to putting it to hybernate for four days, without shutting down in an improper manner and starting it after the battery was completely exhausted. Some say that playing computer games for many hours might have damaged the hard disc as there may be virus infection. Please enlighten, so that I can be careful in future. Thanks.

  16. Nisam May 13, 2010 7:30 am #

    I salute u for this very much valuable information

  17. Mise November 21, 2010 1:48 pm #

    Mine is a 1TB external WD and it’s making a clicking sound =(
    It kinda fell down, from a table : /
    Any help ?
    email me if so…

  18. Kellie December 1, 2010 8:06 pm #

    I was wondering if you could damage a hard drive by having an electrition turn off your electricy for a few minutes? Please let me know as soon as possible

    • DTI Data Recovery December 3, 2010 12:29 pm #

      Kellie, A sudden stop of the drive can cause the heads to impact on the platters. The other thing that can happen is the electronics can fail. Call us at 727-345-9665 if you need help.

  19. Rian Oliveros December 9, 2010 10:56 am #

    The internal hard drive (Hitachi Model HTS541616J9SA00, 160GB, 2.5-inch) of my Lenovo laptop suddenly can’t be recognized no matter what I do with the BIOS set-up. I bought an external SATA casing and tried using it as an external drive, at least, to get my important work files but to no avail. Can you please advise what to do?

    • DTI Data Recovery December 14, 2010 2:40 pm #

      Rian, the best thing to do is call us at 727-345-9665 and speak to an expert, we can help, this is a very common situation.

  20. Aniket February 26, 2011 10:39 pm #

    Hi guids,
    My problem is,
    When we start pc, a error msg comes on with black screen ‘error loading operating system’.
    after this msg I had loaded os with xp but it could not complited and again comes another error msg that
    ‘THE Problem seems to be caused by the following file: partmgr.sys’ .
    Plz send solution that what will I do…
    And what’s the problem in my pc that means damage HDD or other problems.

    Technical information: 0X000000 (0XF7999667,0X00000000,0XF7999667,0X00000000) partmgr.sys

    Plz send solution in my email…aniketchintu25@gmail.com

    ‘Lots of thanks in advance’.

    • Jacqui Best March 2, 2011 10:17 am #

      Aniket,

      The tell tale sign here of “some” kind of hard ware failure is that Windows will not load to completion. My guess would be bad sectors on the hard disk. I would try cloning off to another drive and then running the Windows installer to correct the OS problems.

  21. S NARAYAN July 2, 2011 8:47 am #

    how to do the data recovery from bada sectors hard drive please let me no

    • Jacqui Best August 16, 2011 2:51 pm #

      S. Narayan
      You can not save data from bad sectors.

  22. Asad g October 23, 2011 12:24 pm #

    The tell tale sign here of “some” kind of hard ware failure is that Windows will not load to completion. My guess would be bad sectors on the hard disk. I would try cloning off to another drive and then running the Windows installer to correct the OS problems.

  23. shree chand November 21, 2011 9:04 pm #

    my computer show something like (SELECT BOOT MEDIA OR INSERT BOOT MEDIA IN SELECTED DEVICE) is my hard disk has physical damage? How to fix this problem?

    • Jacqui Best February 13, 2012 10:54 am #

      Shree,

      I would say based on the error that either the hard drive has a serious problem or the motherboard has a problem with out further diagnostics it would be hard to know for sure.

  24. Tavi November 29, 2011 5:26 pm #

    Have a WD EIDE HD I used as external – USB- HD. Dropped about 8″ from a printer stand to a hard floor. I was not using it at the time. Pulled on the USB cord with my chair. Next day I tried to use it and got these clicking sounds, (in series of about 10 at a time) spin and stop. Now it won’t start at all. I have 1000s of files on it, some more important than others and of course I would like to recover them. Any suggestion? Please advise.

  25. rajiv.tripathi December 1, 2011 5:47 am #

    Hello
    I have a 160gb western digital hard disk,a week ago it was working fine but i was well aware of having lots of viruses,i was thinking of backup all my valuable data. . .one day my hard disk stops to boot windows,i tried to fomat with a windows xp disk bt still it wasnt working so i tried it on an anothr pc. . . I found it working.
    I again plugged it to my pc and installed new window and made 4 partitions of 40gb each. . .it worked a couple of sessions with periodic freezing(hanging).finally on an another startup it stoped working,now even BIOS cant detect the hard disk,i tried to clean the pata terminal n shake the drive a little found no positive result. . .then i brown air by mouth inside the disk by removing the sticker of the opening then it worked once and again failed to respond. . .i would like to add its spining fine n there is jerking nt nt constant

    Will it ever work again. . . .if ye then what else should i do to get my disk work again. . . .

    thanks

    • Jacqui Best February 10, 2012 3:41 pm #

      Rajiv,

      I really dont know where to start other than no the drive will not work.

  26. Nathan derr January 19, 2012 4:27 pm #

    I’ve got a toshiba laptop that gave me the KSOD ( Black Screen of death). Tried the multiple F8 options with my boot cd and others that failed to work. I removed the Sata HDD and stuck it in an exsternal case and tryed connecting it to my Destop computer without much luck. The drive shows up but wont open, slows the computer down, etc. After a few minutes it shows up with a need to format HDD.
    Thank you

    • Jacqui Best January 24, 2012 4:58 pm #

      Nathan,

      The slow down of the machine is the tell tale sign of the problem here. It is either bad sectors in a very important place like the Boot Sector (OS boot record) or it is a degrading head. In either situation you are going to want to try and clone the drive off if it is not a mission critical situation. If you can not live with out the data I would say it would be best to call a data recovery company like DTIData before you end up with a head crash and the data becomes unrecoverable.

  27. d.j. March 15, 2012 8:47 pm #

    is there any other info

    • Jacqui Best March 16, 2012 1:49 pm #

      Is there a specific data recovery scenario you have, maybe I can help?

  28. John Poehls May 21, 2012 6:26 am #

    How does one specifically – as you’ve repeated above – “clone a drive” and particularly when the OS cannot even load (due to bad? sectors)?

    I’ve used OEM cloning s/w before for fully-working hard-drives.

    THX!

    • David Mohyla May 31, 2012 8:59 am #

      John,
      There are several ways. You can use a bootable floppy or CD. You can also make a BART PE disk. You can also make the drives secondary or slave drives under another up and running system.

  29. SUMANTA CHANDA June 20, 2012 1:23 pm #

    how to check my harddisk is failor

  30. Jeffrey March 18, 2013 6:02 am #

    My HD crashed. It was using McAffee End Point Encryption 5.2. At first, It doesn’t perform complete safeboot because of bad cluster error when it starts. So I ran the windows checkdisk and it tried to fix it. However, the error seems incomplete and corrupted the mbr. The window cannot detect it anymore (says 0 raw data). So I ran fixmbr hoping it will fix the MBR error. It did not.

    Is there anyway I can still recover the data here?

    • David Mohyla March 19, 2013 6:46 pm #

      The encryption is the sticking point here. The drive has to boot to enable the encryption key so data can be read. If you have your encryption CD you should be able to decrypt the drive with it. I would suggest performing a sector by sector clone to another drive as it sounds like your drive may have bad sectors. I would then use the encryption CD to decrypt the clone drive. Then you should be able to access your data or use data recovery software to recover it.
      Good luck.

  31. asif May 29, 2013 5:41 am #

    my WD HDD 400GB does not work, it is making clicking sounds, i can see the folders but when i play the video files they get stuck, some of them, I cannot copy these video files also on a new HDD, it starts copying and time increases and i get eroor messages, how to recover the files? note that all are video files

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