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Spinning and freezing is not a good sign for this hard drive. There is usually only one easy way to get on with your life in a case like this.

My hard drive froze during an operation and now it's not recognized by any computer I've turned it on and it doesn't stay on for long when I plug it in. It spins up, making a repetitive spin up sound and goes to sleep and shuts off after a couple of seconds. What's wrong with it? Thank you very much!

In this excerpt from Answercast #19, I look at another hard drive that suddenly stopped working. There may be only one good solution.

Frozen hard drive

It's broken.

There's really not much more I can say about it. When you get that kind of a clear indication, where the drive can't keep itself spinning, then there is something definitely wrong with the drive itself.

Hardware can break. It's just the nature of the beast. Hard drives in particular are perhaps one of the most common (or at least the most serious) breakages that can happen.


So, in a case like this... this is why we back up. This is why we have backups.

  • In a case like this, replace the drive. Restore from your most recent backup and get on with your life.

Now, of course, unfortunately what that really means is that many people don't have the backup to restore to. Obviously, I'm not trying to be particularly mean here, but I hope you'll learn from that lesson and start backing up because this will happen again.

This is one of those valuable, valuable educational points.

Data recovery

If the data on that hard drive is only on that hard drive (in other words, it's not been backed up anywhere and it's valuable enough), don't do anything more with the hard drive!

  • Locate a data recovery service in your area or perhaps a data recovery service that you can send this disk off to.

I will warn you that they will not be cheap. We're talking thousands of dollars here, last I heard, to do the kind of data recovery that may be required to extract the data from that hard drive, given the symptoms that you've just described.


  • Hopefully, you've got a backup you can go back to.

  • If not, hopefully, the data is replaceable.

  • If not, I think you're looking at a fairly expensive data recovery operation.

Article C5366 - May 21, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

May 22, 2012 11:12 AM

One thing you could try - to see if you can get data off your system: Put it in the freezer (in a ziplock bag) for an hour or two (I know some people that leave it in over-night). Once you get your new drive, and windows installed, you can hook up your frozen drive, and it might just work - for a short time - but maybe long enough to restore the data you need. I haven't used it (since I never have needed to do that), but our IT department has, and it works a good percent of the time. Look it up on the internet - it will give better instructions and explain why such a silly sounding idea really works.

May 22, 2012 7:33 PM

Not sure why Leo doesn't push Spinrite anymore but he used to always recommend that for drives with corruption. Anyway, google it. It works.

I've never stopped "pushing" it. Heck, I mentioned it in my newsletter just recently. Don't Google, just go to my article: SpinRite - Repair hard disk failures and recover your data. I didn't mention it here because the description sounds like a physical failure in the drive which Spinrite wouldn't be able to fix. But as they have a great refund policy it couldn't hurt to try, I suppose.

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