Dropped Hard Drive

I Dropped My Hard Drive – What Do I Do?


For most computer users, your hard drive contains a large part of your life. You insure yourself, but what about your computer? Whether we want to admit it or not, we may not always be as careful as we’d like with our hard drives. Though physically small, all your photos, music, documents and more live there. If you’ve ever experienced the trauma of dropping your computer or even an external hard drive, you know exactly how horrible the experience really is.

One of the most common problems our customers have is a dropped hard drive. The moment you try to get your data off the drive, you discover you can no longer access it. Far too many of our customers never think about backing up their data until it’s too late, leaving them without access to beloved photographs, important documents and much more. Of course, the immediate question is whether or not files can be recovered. First, let’s take a look at what happens when a hard drive is dropped.

Contamination and Failed Heads


Whether it’s a few inches or a few feet, any impact is hazardous to a hard drive’s health. If the drive is spinning at the time of impact, the damage could be even worse. To put it into perspective, disks within the hard drive spin anywhere from 5400 to over 10000 RPM, performing vital read/write tasks. The heads that actually read and write data are only three nanometers above the disk’s surface which leaves no room for any type of shock.

As you can see, the slightest impact could send vibrations through the drive that quickly eliminate those nanometers, slamming the heads against the disk platters. The vibrations damage not only the entire hard drive assembly, but as the heads scrape across the platters, the heads are further damaged leading to a contaminated drive or immediate failure. Obviously, if the scrape is bad enough, the platters themselves could be ruined.

Any contamination or head failure drastically affects how well a hard drive functions. Your first sign that the hard drive is damaged is a clicking sound immediately after impact. If the drive is running and clicking, your data is at risk. Turn off the drive immediately and seek professional help to recover your data. The longer the drive remains on, the more data you could lose. Turning it off helps save your data from being corrupted or destroyed.

The drive may be recoverable, at least for temporary use. A head replacement can help save your data. However, a clean room is required for the repair. Once repaired, a technician extracts your data and transfers it to a new hard drive. However, the dropped drive shouldn’t be used past this point.

Stuck Heads – Sticktion

If you dropped your hard drive while it wasn’t running, the most common damage is stuck heads. When you turn on your computer or connect the drive, you’ll hear a beeping sound and the drive won’t spin as usual. Most often, you’ll experience this with 2.5’” laptop and external drives, though it can happen to 3.5” drives as well.

When powered off, the heads remain parked in specific areas. These areas help protect them as much as possible from any physical impacts, but they aren’t invincible. When an impact happens, the heads are once again slammed against the platter surface. However, since there is no rotation, the heads simply stick to the platter instead of scraping against it. When the heads are stuck, the drive can’t spin at all.

Unlike failed heads, a dropped hard drive with stuck heads can be recovered completely. You’ll need to take the drive to a technician as a clean room is necessary to take the drive apart and manually release the heads. Once unstuck and repositioned, the hard drive is ready for use once again.

Seized Spindle

This issue is sometimes a little tricky for the home user to diagnose as it closely resembles stuck heads. Once again, the hard drive will beep and no longer rotate. This problem most often occurs on 3.5” hard drives versus 2.5” drives because of the weight difference. If you have a 3.5” drive, a seized spindle is most likely the problem after an impact. To be even more specific, Seagate drives have this problem more than other manufacturers, especially the Barracuda 7200.10 and 7200.11 series.

When the drive is dropped, the spindle is weakened. The rotating disks add to the stress causing the spindle to actually bend slightly. The moment the spindle isn’t completely straight, the hard drive can no longer rotate, leading to a stalled drive. The bad news is the recovery for this situation is one of the most complicated and even the slightest error could erase all data completely.

Hard drives with a seized spindle require a platter transplant. The complex part is the realignment. If the platter isn’t aligned perfectly, data is immediately destroyed. While there are tools available to help make the process a little easier and less risky, they aren’t cheap. Once again, a clean room is necessary and you should expect the entire process to be very time consuming. You should always ask a professional data recovery service for a free quote before having your drive repaired.

Insure Your Data

Now that you know how serious a dropped hard drive really is, don’t make any more excuses. Invest in a backup plan, whether an external hard drive or a cloud backup service. Consider it your data’s insurance policy. Always have a backup of your data. If it’s extremely important, consider using both cloud services and external drives for extra security.

As you can see, all of the common scenarios require a clean room, specialized tools and data recovery experts to recover your data. While our data recovery lab will be fully prepared to handle all types of hard drive failures, you shouldn’t let this be your own recovery option. However, if you you found yourself in the position where your hard drive in no longer accessible, then can always request a quote by filling out the form below


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Tweel Photography