How to Recover After a Hard Drive Crash With These Simple Steps

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Although our computer files of work documents and cat pictures may seem intangible, it’s quite easy to lose them overnight. A hard drive crash can occur at a moment’s notice and take years of personal data along with it. Think you’re an exception?

20% of hard drives fail within four years, and the prospect of a catastrophic crash only increases as time goes on. When it comes to data loss, it’s a question of when rather than if. Unfortunately, many computer users fail to plan for the inevitable.

But there’s good news. If you’ve experienced a hard drive crash and lost access to invaluable data, recovery is possible. Here’s how to fix a crashed hard drive and restore your lost files.

1. Diagnosing a Hard Drive Crash

There are two types of crashes: physical and logical. By determining the root cause of your hard drive malfunction, you’ll be in a better position to direct a course of action.

A physical hard drive crash denotes damage to the device itself. This can occur from operating a computer under unsafe conditions, such as within an environment with high temperatures or moisture. Physical damage may also occur if you drop your computer or hard drive, or if the internal mechanisms break from wear and tear.

To diagnose a physical crash, put your ear up to your hard drive while the computer is running. You may be able to hear a constant sharp buzz, indicating hard drive damage. Your computer may also inform you that it doesn’t recognize your drive disk.

Unfortunately, physical crashes rarely allow home users to recover data. You’ll need to rely on the professionals to repair the drive to working order before data recovery. But we’ll talk about that later.

Logical hard drive crashes are more subtle. Some data may vanish without explanation. You may also experience the dreaded blue screen of death or poor performance.

If you believe you’re dealing with a logical crash, you’re in a good position to get everything back in working order.

2. Recovering Data With Another Device

The easiest way to recover lost disk data is also the cheapest. If you have access to another desktop computer, remove the damaged disk drive and mount it in the new device. Once connected, you may be able to copy files onto the other computer.

Only have an extra laptop sitting around? Get your hands on a universal drive adapter. So long as you have a working USB available, you can connect the damaged hard drive without tearing the laptop apart.

Keep in mind that this strategy won’t work for physical crashes. It’s also possible you won’t have access to some data on the hard drive depending on the extent and position of any logical damage.

3. Using a Recovery Application

If you have access to the files on your crashed drive but some are missing, then you’re in luck. Recovery tools are available to help you regain the data that spontaneously disappeared. Some of these applications are tools such as Disk Drill and MiniTool.

Simply download the free trial for the program of your choice. The application will scour your device and determine if it can recover your missing data.

If it can, you’ll then be prompted to purchase the application to go through with the procedure. Some programs are completely free, such as Recuva, whereas others may only recover a specific amount of data unless you pay more.

It’s important to remember that these applications aren’t foolproof. For example, they may only uncover files you had purposely deleted. Read the reviews and terms of service for any recovery application before choosing the one right for your needs and wallet.

4. Relying on the Professionals

Most people consider a data recovery service when things go wrong. You may be considering one yourself if the proposed fixes above haven’t worked out for your specific situation. And why not?

The professionals get the job done. When a disk drive can no longer function, a recovery service will piece it back together to retrieve whatever’s left. There’s one problem: Data recovery is more expensive than you think.

For example, let’s take a look at Best Buy’s hard drive recovery costs. The price starts at $450 and swells to $1,450. You can expect higher prices from smaller, private services.

If the data is truly irreplaceable, it may be worth the cost. Otherwise, give it a second thought.

5. Securing Future Data

Since a hard drive crash is a certainty, it’s best to prepare in advance. Securing data is easier than ever before thanks to cloud services and devices.

Computer users with a trivial amount of important files should consider uploading them on an online cloud service, such as Dropbox. When a hard drive crash occurs, nothing of value is lost.

For small businesses or freelancers, NAS, or Network Attached Storage, is your best bet. NAS is a physical collection of disk drives that you keep in your home.

You can drag and drop important files onto the NAS device from the comfort of your computer. Best of all, it’s possible to access them over the internet like any other cloud service without being limited by space. For more information, check out this look at NAS drives for Mac.

Conquer the Computer Hard Drive Crash

Securing your data is the best way to avoid the worst of a hard drive crash. But if you’re caught unaware, you still have options. Connect the drive to a different computer, try a recovery tool, or contact a professional recovery service.

With any luck, you’ll get everything back in one piece.

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