Cold Storage – hard drive update

Computers & Mobile Science

Here we have an update from Pete, a hockey loving MAKE Online loving, storage professional and his experiment to freeze a hard drive in his backyard ice rink for 100 days. This one has a couple of adventures, chainsaw, time lapse photography and the video of the big moment.

How would you recover Pete’s family photos and financial records? What were your cabin fever projects this year? What are your kids doing for their science fair projects? Share your ideas in the comments, and contribute your photos and video to the MAKE Flickr pool.

18 thoughts on “Cold Storage – hard drive update

  1. says:

    Well, the best hope us that he killed the circuit board in the external enclosure. In which case, drop the drive in a new enclosure & you’re up & running.

    If that doesn’t work, pray that it’s the circuit board on the hard drive. Try to get your hands on another drive of the same version/manufacturing batch (Match up the firmware versions, PCB versions, release dates as close as possible). Then swap out the boards & cross your fingers.

    If that doesn’t work, you’ve probably jacked up some of the mechanical parts inside the drive. You have little hope of actually recovering data in this case.

    You can always try swapping parts from the “matched drive” if you can swap the read-heads, or something, but DO NOT try swapping the platters (especially if there are multiple platters). They must stay in exact alignment to each other.

    Good luck & I hope you have another copy of your data! (Which in this case he says he does.)

  2. Calvin says:

    Should try to run SpinRite on the HD before declaring dead?

    1. selfSilent says:

      thanks for that, and I was just about to go and store all my hard drives in ice for 100 days as well.
      Even if it had have worked, what would it have proved?

  3. says:

    I’d think the only things that could possibly hurt it are:
    1) Thermal shock warping the platters, or
    2) That hole he cut in the bag where the drive got wet.

    I’d want to open the case up, make sure it’s dry, and plug it into a 2.5″-to-3.5″ hard disk converter, and plug it into a test box so you could run some honest-to-goodness low-level HDD-testing on it.

  4. A says:

    But it seems so much like an ad for Seagate (maybe he works for them). If he truly is a professional in the field, he should be able to take it to a clean room and find out exactly what went wrong (i.e. try a new encolsure, try a new controller board, try this controller board on a different drive, etc.).

    Also, just plugging in a drive and declaring it dead when it doesn’t work isn’t a good idea. I got an old Xbox 1 for $3 because it didn’t work. The case was cracked enough to tell that ether it had been dropped or something heavy fell on it. I took it apart, the optical drive was broken (one of the plastic mounts for the rails the laser unit slides on was broken beyond repair). The hard drive also didn’t work. Since I didn’t particularly need an xbox, I figured why not do whatever I can to fix it. From past experience, I knew that if I could get one file from the hard drive (the password used to lock ad unlock the drive), then I could set up a different hd instead, but without that file, the xbox was worthless short of getting a modchip. I tried gentle taps to fix the drive, but that didn’t work. I had previously had good luck with the freezer trick, so I put the drive in a freezer in a plastic bag for a few hours. Still didn’t work, so I tapped it gently some more, still didn’t work. At this point, I basically gave up, and decided to take the drive apart for the magnets. I pop the top cover off (in a slightly damp basement, but there still was probably plenty of dust and debris in the air), and I decide to hook it up one last time. I noticed the r/w head wasn’t moving properly, so I moved it manually (while the drive was not spinning, which is a horrible idea). After this, I powered it up and it worked. I was able to get the file off the drive and resurrect the xbox using a different hard drive.

    There is really no reason why this guy shouldn’t try everything I tried (except moving the head without the disks spinning, he should do it while they are spinning). Especially if he has access to a clean room, he might be able to save the drive not ust to get files from it, but for even more use.

    1. A says:

      This comment was meant to be a reply to mlange. Somehow it got posted before the other comment though… Strange.

  5. s says:

    If this guy did work for Seagate and if this was a viral advert, the drive would have worked. They would have substituted the drive over. It makes me wonder if he tested it before, found it didn’t work so thought of the “damaged bag” excuse to question the results.

    100 days, longest fail EVER!

  6. Pete Steege says:

    I’m sending the drive in to Seagate’s data recovery lab to figure out what exactly happened.

    I do work for Seagate, but the videos were something I did at home for fun. Storage on the brain, I guess.

  7. Phil says:

    I thought it was worth doing. Assuming it wasn’t water damage or pressure from the ice, I can see drives accidentally being exposed to cold of that ilk.

    I do think he should have declared the *potential* interest that he has in Seagate, though, if this is the unhappy ending it seems to be at the moment, it’s more likely not to endear him to his bosses!

    Anyhow, I do concur that I would have taken the enclosure apart to check for trapped water or other debris, before turning it on. I once worked for a company fixing smoke-damaged computers, and these got washed, in water, before being dried out, and from a batch of a hundred or so, all of them booted up after this treatment. But the drying was very thorough. And yes, at least remove the usb-sata/ide components from the equation before sending it off.

    Thanks for the sacrifice Pete, let us know what they find out.

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