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Hard Disk Drive Data Recovery Using A Freezer Actually Works

February 4, 2015 1 comment

Frozen HDDAfter a Linux kernel upgrade, an old data hard drive in one of my Linux boxes (which I very rarely reboot) failed last night so the box  wouldn’t boot without manually skipping the HDD.  Recovering the Linux box simply meant removing the old data drive, swapping it with another drive I had lying around, updating the drive UUID in /etc/fstab and away the server went again.  Plus the server got a 320GB data drive upgrade in the process 🙂

Loosing the HDD data drive wasn’t a really big issue as the drive was automatically backed up about a week ago and it only stores media files and other transient data so it wasn’t a huge loss if I couldn’t recover it however, it would be much easier if I could get the last week of data off the drive.

Plugging the problem drive into an external HDD case and trying to mount it on another machine was no good.  I could hear the drive spinning up and the hdd heads trying to engage with the disk platters but it just wouldn’t start.  Then, I remembered a very old (but fairly well known trick) which is to put the HDD in the Freezer for an hour or so and then retry accessing the drive.  I’d never had the opportunity (or reason) to try this before and I though it was something worth testing so I put the HDD in a sealed zip lock plastic bag and stuck it in the freezer.

After an hour I removed the HDD from the zip lock, plugged it back into the external HDD case and connected it to my PC.  I fired up a System Rescue Linux VM and attempted to attach the HDD.  I could hear the drive spin up and the heads were now engaging with the disk platters, VMWare reported that the drive was attached and available but the Linux VM wouldn’t read the drive (fdisk -l just hung).  After about 5 minutes and a few restarts the drive it was finally recognised by Linux and I was able to copy the data off the drive.

I must admit, I’d heard the rumour that freezing a hard drive would allow it to work for long enough to copy the data off it many times before but now that I’ve actually tested it myself I can confirm that it does actually work.

Final thoughts, even though I had a backup it was still a week old, make sure you backup your data regularly as you never know when a drive might fail and also ensure you backup any important data BEFORE a server restart.

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