Can anything be done to get data out of a dead SATA drive, the drive won't even show up on the list of drives when booting the computer?


The drive was never backed-up. It was an external home-grade MyBook used at an SMB as "storage".

After prying-it open, I tried the freezer trick, and IT WORKS! (you just need to be patient)...

We were able to recover 100% of the data.

  • Can you at least hear it spin up when power is connected?
    – khosrow
    May 31, 2009 at 11:46
  • Have you tried swapping SATA cables and using a different motherboard? Hate to ask, but it's not always the drive.
    – Brent Ozar
    May 31, 2009 at 11:55
  • What file system did the drive have on it? May 31, 2009 at 13:23
  • It doesn't spin-up. Yes. FAT32. May 31, 2009 at 15:31

8 Answers 8


How valuable is the data? If your business depends on it, disconnect it and call a professional recovery service.

If it's not so valuable, this is a pretty good summary of steps you can take yourself.

It includes the controller board changing idea Dentrasi mentioned and also everyone's favourite, the freezer trick.

  • 1
    My initial thought when i read the question title was "put it in the freezer"
    – Ian Boyd
    Jun 2, 2009 at 21:00

if it's 6-12 months year old maxtor/seagate 500GB-1.5TB drive, chances are you hit their firmware bug. if so - they will recover data for free.

  • WD 5000AAJS, WD Caviar SE, used to be in a MyBook. May 31, 2009 at 19:46
  • @Osama ALASSIRY - then it's not the case. if content of drive is important - look for data recovery service, if it's less important - try replacing electronics with one from another this from the same series [ not just model ].
    – pQd
    May 31, 2009 at 20:08

If there drive spins up, then there's a good chance that it's the board on the back that's failed. If you can get an identical drive (ebay is often good), you can try swapping the boards over, which might let you read from then current drive.

If you've got very important data on it, and don't have backups, I'd advise taking it to a professional, trying to do it yourself with no experience will probably just end up destroying any chance of getting your data back.

  • I accidentally, burned a stripe through the controller board of a ATA drive (I.e. there was a burn track in a line, across the chips and traces). I happened to have a matching spare drive, took the controller off, copied the data, and threw away the burned one. Was very lucky.
    – geoffc
    May 31, 2009 at 17:41

Get a SATA-USB adapter. That way you can fiddle with it all you want. Boot into a Linux live-cd first, it will probably give you much more info than Windows -- try "dmesg" to see what the kernel has to say.

  • I believe that USB protocol for drives is at a higher level than ATA. So tools that use lower level direct disk access techniques won't work as well or at all.
    – Knox
    May 31, 2009 at 14:47

There are some software packages that are not free but are worth it you can get to do recovery. They work on the basis that reading some sectors off the drive may still work, so the software is smart enough to know by reading the sectors if its a word doc or an mp3 ect. and put the file back together (although you have to go through the nightmare of re-naming everything as filenames are lost)

They're useful if the drive is from a desktop or laptop & your worried about getting pictures & word documents off there. The two i have used with some success have been ZAR and OnTrack


I've had success with EasyRecovery Pro but this does assume that you can get the hardware up and running as mentioned in other posts. Any drive that I'm asked to look at that's at risk, I image first with Acronis True Image. But once again, assumes the hardware is working.

  1. If the BIOS can't see it, replace the circuit board with one from an identical hard-drive.

  2. If the platters don't spin up, you may have to rotate it quickly about it's axis to break it free of any grease that may have gelled up.

  3. you may be able to get some data off of it by placing it inside of a freezer, and attempt to retrieve data off of the hard-drive, starting with the most important data first.

  4. Run SpinRite on it to attempt to repair any failing sectors.

If you still can't get anything off of it, you probably are going to have to send it off to someplace that specializes in retrieving data off of failing hard-drives, but there is no guarantee that they will be able to get anything off of it either.


Start by trying to recover your backups to a new drive. You do have backups, I hope? ;)

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