My Hard Drive Crashed!

The other day I was awaken thanks to my computer making the weirdest noises. It was like a very faint beeping, almost like it was a time bomb, counting down. I had no idea what was going on, but I started to count the number of times it beeped and I looked for it on Google. The search turned up nothing useful.

I then looked at my anti-virus software and I saw that it had found something I should quarantine. So I did. I figured that the beeping came from the anti-virus software, so I disabled the PC speaker -thinking that it was just the speaker making the noise- and went back to bed. I couldn’t stay up all night fixing a bleeping computer, you know ;-).

The next day I heard it again: beep! beep! beep! beep!… this time I counted the beeps. I stopped counting at 50. To see what could be happening I opened SpeedFan to see if maybe the CPU fan was making the sound. Perhaps the CPU or GPU was too hot? I happened to look at the S.M.A.R.T. data for one of my hard drives and I saw that the disk was having a lot of trouble. I tried to access the hard drive without any success. The HDD was unresponsive. The S.M.A.R.T. information from SpeedFan told me that the disk was at the brink of death or dead already.


The weird thing is, the disk is only 2 years old. I have had disks that were 5 years old that was still going strong.

According to the warranty details at Seagate limited warranty. Seagate will not recover any data from their disks. They will only replace the HDD if they can confirm that the HDD was not damaged because of

commercial use, accident, abuse, neglect, shock, electrostatic discharge, degaussing, heat or humidity beyond product specifications, improper installation, operation, maintenance or modification; or (b) any misuse…

This means that I can get a new one from Seagate, how wonderful, what about the data that is lost? I started to look at recovery services in Sweden, but at the end I figured it was just a bit too expensive for me.

After some research, I realised that most probably the disk heads were damaged in some way. This is what happens: the heads are trying to find the files and are forced to start over again and again. This is the reason for the beeping noise. I gather that the motor makes a fast retraction-noise which sounds like a beep. To put it short, the HDD simply cannot locate the data this way. This means that the disk surface is probably OK, which is good news. If the disk surface was damaged it would not be good news.

After some more research I tried a trick. In the event that a head has trouble reading data, try to tilt the HDD in a 45 degree angle. For some reason the head(s) will most probably find the data by doing this. When I first did this the disk copied some data, but very slowly. After letting it copy data during the night, I disconnected the disk and waited to the next day. After several tries I got it working again. In the end, I managed to rescue all the data I needed from the HDD. Whenever I try to copy data the disk works just fine. However, when I try to copy in certain places on the disk, it fails. These segments are what S.M.A.R.T. reported as “unrecoverable sectors”. Fortunately for me, these sectors were not important.

So I copied all the data to a Western Digital NAS disk, which has a high MTTF, which means “Mean Time To Failure”. Well, that sounds good. When I copied the files, I noticed something, (that I have always known) Windows is funny! Here is why: If I copy a folder and it comes across a file it cannot copy, it will stop and not give me any information about how it went. In order to make sure that I only copy the necessary files and copy them correctly I use Totalcommander. It is free and it lets you synchronize folders, it’s great, try it out.
Also, if I copy a lot of files and it asks me if I really want to copy duplicates, I could have been starting a 2TB copying task and when I return I would see this error message that has delayed the whole copying process.

Any last words?

Just to soften the blow a little, I had a backup, but it was a couple of months old, so I really needed to get the data from the drive if I wanted to keep my photos and clips.

If you are in a similar situation, check out GetDataBack. I used it a couple of years ago when I accidentally formatted a drive and got the data back. I learn from research (and mistakes) ;-).

Additionally, if you need a solution to sync data in a efficient way, use SyncNow! It can be scheduled so it checks which files were updated and just copies those files, each day for instance. It even has byte-to-byte comparison and it is very fast.

Software mentioned

Total Commander

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