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1.5 TB Seagate SATA HDD - no response - should I send it in for professional help?

Posted on 2013-01-31
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Last Modified: 2013-02-14
My ~2-year-old 1.5 TB SATA HDD seems to have died on me.

- It's still detectable in BIOS

- Windows XP starts up extremely slowly in comparison to without the HDD connected. Windows Explorer refuses to open when the problem HDD is connected.

- Using the Win XP CD, the Recovery Console can't seem to detect it.

- Using an external HDD dock, it generally still can't be detected. When it does, it says something like "the HDD needs to be formatted, do it now? (Y/N)"

- I believe I heard the click-click sound a few times before it died on me.

- What are the chances of recovery by a professional company? Anyone can give a rough estimate before I waste my time sending it in only to be told it's not possible?
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Question by:Keyven
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nobus earned 200 total points
ID: 38838756
>>  chances of recovery by a professional company  <<  near 100 %

but check first if the free trial of HDDRegenerator sees it : http://www.dposoft.net/hdd.html      

here some links for recovery services :
http://www.lowcostrecovery.com/index.html                        data recovery Company
http://www.gillware.com/                                 "           "                   "
http://www.drivesavers.com/services/estimates.html                     "           "                   "

contact them - and &sk for their policy and fee
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by:dlethe
ID: 38838772
Major cities have local HDD recovery services, that almost always have 24x7 walk-in service and free estimates.  I would go down that path if you are in a major city.  At the very least, you save on risk of it getting lost or damaged in shipment .. plus you save on shipping fees.
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by:rindi
rindi earned 30 total points
ID: 38838864
It depends. In my opinion you should first check if it still has warranty (disks, as long as they aren't OEM, often have 3 or 5 years warranty on them). Going to the seagate site you should be able to enter it's serial number and then you should see whether it has warranty or not. If it does use the form you get there to RMA it, or bring it to your vendor to have it replaced. Often the manufacturer also tells you to run it's diagnostic utility on it and then provide them with the error code it generates. If that is the case you'll find that utility on the UBCD:

http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/

http://ubcd.mirror.fusa.be/ubcd511.iso

After that install the new HD and restore the data you had on the bad disk from your backups.

Recovery is usually expensive and not worth it as you have backups (apart from that they don't repair the disk, they just recover it's data).
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by:George-
ID: 38839028
I have got data back using a free download called "Recuva".
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by:nobus
ID: 38839102
rindi - afaik manufacturers replace the drive, but dont restore the data
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by:rindi
ID: 38839206
Of course. But restoring the data isn't necessary as you can restore that yourself from your backups. Data recovery would only be needed if the asker was really careless and didn't check his backups properly (and if that were the case I don't think the data would be "worth" enough to consider the cost of a recovery agency anyway).

Mainly I'm trying to point out on how important backups are...
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by:Keyven
ID: 38839347
Thanks for all the replies, but you're right, those files were important but on a personal level. I never did back them up regularly so right now I'm teetering between spending a few hundred (not much more than that) to get them back, or just letting them go for good. I'm aware the manufacturers don't recover data - they merely replace the HDD.

The problem remains that I can't even access the HDD at all now. It only appears in BIOs, but accessing it is impossible as the computer seems to have problems detecting it in the Windows environment.
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by:dlethe
ID: 38839447
If your budget is only a few hundred dollars, then you can forget professional recovery.  Those pretty much start at $500.   Try spin rite or recuva.  These programs  work by read, reread, reread ... for what could be days.  

A really sick HDD can't be recovered and you'll pretty much nuke any chance of professional recovery if a drive doesn't survive these brute force programs.  But since you can't justify a lab recovery (which almost always yields 100% recovery) then paying $40 or so on one of these software-based recoveries is your best option.
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by:pgm554
ID: 38839775
Usually the click of death is a bad head on the HDA.
No program is going to fix that.
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by:nobus
ID: 38839881
i have read (no personal experience) that some in cases putting the drive for a couple of hours in a zip bag in the freezer returned the drive to a working satus long enough for recovery
so if you want  to try it, have everything ready
note : one guy had  the drive in the freezer during recovery -  with a long cable
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by:dlethe
ID: 38840362
You can mine EE databases and look for the number of times the freezer trick works.  It is high risk of making it worse (which means since you don't have the $ to pay $500+ then what the heck) .. still you have better luck with no freezer and using spinrite or recuva software.

But unless you run the HDD in maybe 40 degrees C for the entire time, then the drive won't stay cold long enough to be of much use. Certainly you need to boot another HDD while you do this as well.
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by:pgm554
ID: 38840428
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by:nobus
ID: 38840441
dlethe - i agree with you, but i've just had a guy with no money for professional services - and this method wxorked for him

so  - if you have not the money, and want to try evrything to get the data - it is a POSSIBLE solution - no guarantees !!
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by:pgm554
ID: 38840492
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by:dlethe
ID: 38840546
Nobus - Agreed,  in any case when you have nothing to lose, then you have nothing to lose, but it still borders on urban legend the statistical probability that this technique will work and it is a one-way street.  Better to not use the freezer first and go with one of the two software products I mentioned that will gently and recursively try to recover.  

(By running diagnostics one can determine whether or not the HDD is in the specific type of stress that has even a chance of recovery via lowering temperature .. but those diagnostics aren't free and cost more than the price of professional recovery)
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by:garycase
garycase earned 30 total points
ID: 38841924
Since the drive isn't reliably detected, it's not very likely that do-it-yourself data recovery will work .. but it won't hurt to try it as long as you use a "safe" recovery utility that will NOT write anything to the disk [Note the #1 rule of data recovery is STOP -- do NOTHING that will cause any write activity to the disk.]

If you want to try that first, then download the free trial of GetDataBack;  install it; and let it analyze the disk.    It will show you what it can recover from the drive -- and if it looks good, you can then buy a license and recover it.    http://www.runtime.org/data-recovery-software.htm

If that doesn't work, or if you just want to go directly to professional recovery, I'd recommend sending the drive off to Gillware.   http://www.gillware.com/      They are very good; and have a "no recovery, no fee" policy -- so it costs you nothing except the cost to send them the drive to see if the data is recoverable.    While I certainly don't agree with nobus' assessment of a "near 100%" likelihood of recovery, I do agree that there's a very good chance they'll be able to recovery at least most of your data.    By data recovery standards, Gillware has very reasonable pricing (typically ~ $400).

BTW:   r.e. the "freezer trick" ==>  Definitely NOT recommended unless you're going to trash the drive if it doesn't work.    It's far more likely to REDUCE the odds of a professional recovery than it is to actually recover your data.    But it CAN help provide a few minutes of access as long as you are VERY careful to fully seal the drive before freezing so absolutely no condensation gets into the unit.    But if your plan is to send the drive off for professional recovery, do NOT use this technique.
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by:dlethe
ID: 38841953
I disagree, gary.  GetDataBack stresses the drive and is NOT a data recovery solution. It is a filesystem recovery solution.  You use it if partitions are lost, have corruption, you reformat a NTFS .. and it is a great product for that.

But this is a HDD in stress and the corruption is a symptom of the root problem.  Running getdataback will only compound the problem by creating more data loss.
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by:garycase
ID: 38842262
While I agree GetDataBack isn't likely to help, I don't agree it will "... compound the problem by creating more data loss."    It's a "data safe" utility -- it does NO write activity to the drive;  and attempted but unsuccessful reads aren't going to harm the platters.     Both GetDataBack and OnTrack's Easy Recovery Pro ARE "data recovery" solutions -- they're NOT file system recovery utilities like Active Partition Recovery or PC Inspector File Recovery.     They DO analyze the disk to see if a file system can be restored;  but they also look for raw file data and can recover files independent of the file system.   Note that even if they find recoverable data, these utilities will NOT write it to the disk being analyzed -- you have to provide an alternate storage location for any recovered data.    

However -- as I implied above, sending the drive off for professional recovery is by far the best choice if the data is important.
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by:dlethe
ID: 38842343
When a HDD is in stress READS can and will result in unrecoverable data loss.  Example, if you have ECC errors.  There is a threshold where you read a block and it becomes marked bad.  A program that reads the data and the ECC separately (using low-level commands) can usually figure out that a marginal block can be made good again and rewritten in place.   Spinrite will do that.   GetDataBack will not.

By the way, no such thing as a windows-based program that is READ-ONLY.  Why? the O/S does not support a read-only mount of a NTFS partition.   It is impossible not to write to a mounted device.  Windows will update the last-access fields in the file system for any file that is opened.  There are internal counters in the file system that are constantly updated.

This is why I have stated in threads if you want to do something to a "windows" HDD, then use LINUX to mount the volume. Linux will NOT write any data to the volume unless you go out of your way to modify the kernel to do so.

A sick hdd should be cloned on something other than windows.
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by:Keyven
ID: 38848040
Thank you for all the useful comments. I agree with the freezer trick and it may be my only hope IF i'm not looking for professional recovery.

Can I ask one final but simple question? Would recovering about 1.0 TB of data cost a lot more than, let's say, 100 GB? From my description of the problem, would it realistically cost about US$500 to recover most/all of it?
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by:dlethe
dlethe earned 40 total points
ID: 38848054
Everybody quotes differently, and it depends on what is wrong. But most recovery firms give free estimates.  I suggest you see if one is in the town where you live.  I know there are a few near me and they are 24x7x365 shops where you can drop it off and they'll give free estimates.

Then you save expense of shipping both ways, and risk that it will get lost or dropped by some clumsy shipper.

You are not paying for the amount of data, you are paying for the billable hours plus a base fee.  So expense is a function of what is wrong, amount of damage, and time it takes to recover.  Sure, if exactly same thing is wrong with a 100GB and 3TB disk, then higher capacity drive will cost more, only because after they spend 2 hours opening it up and running their diagnostic suites, you then pay the extra hour for the time it takes to crunch 30X more data.
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by:nobus
ID: 38848101
in my first post i suggested what to do : contact them, and ask for their policy and fee !
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by:garycase
ID: 38848146
In general the fee is based on the size of the drive -- not the actual amount of data that's recovered.    But as noted several times above by many of us, the more reputable firms will provide an estimate without charge.    I think $500 is a reasonable expectation UNLESS the drive requires extensive cleanroom work ... but you'll know that BEFORE you commit to any expense at all if you use a good company (the one I recommended is excellent).

The basis process of recovery is the same no matter what size the drive is => a professional firm will install a special set of firmware that allows more detailed control of the platters; and then run some specialized recovery software to recover the data.    IF the electronics on the drive have failed, they can replace the control board;  but if the platters are physically damaged, they have to be removed a Cleanroom and attached to specialized equipment to read the data -- THAT process can be VERY expensive ... probably more than you want to pay.     The primary variable with larger drives is that the recovery software runs longer;  and it requires a larger drive to write the recovered data to.
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by:Keyven
ID: 38889141
Thank you for all the help. Much appreciated.
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by:nobus
ID: 38889293
what was your decision, or solution?
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