Put your hard drive in the freezer to fix it?

When my hard drive died a few weeks ago, a part of me died too? Seriously, I had some important images and files that that I really needed wanted but didn’t have the foresight (or common sense) to backup. What happened was I left my machine on overnight and when I woke to wish my pc a good morning, I heard a strange ticking sound from within the tower and screen read something along the lines of “Corrupt or Invalid boot partition”. I didn’t start panicking until at least the fifth reboot with the same result. Logically I opened the tower to find that the ticking was coming from the drive. To me it sounded like the head was trying to move into position but was stuck. Every time I rebooted, the ticking started and lasted for 10 seconds before giving up and the drive stopped spinning altogether.


So I ran the diagnostics and it came back with an error stating that it can’t find a hard drive to diagnose. Not good.


The next step was to call HP as my machine was still under warranty. I was on the phone with someone in India for an hour pretty much duplicating the tests I had just run.

“Ok, you determined my hard drive is dead*. Ok, so you’ll send me a new drive and when I receive it, I’ll send you the dead one. But what about my data? How do I get all my data back? Oh ok, you have a “data transfer”** service and it’s not guaranteed to get all the data but you’ll charge me $50 if any data is found. That’s not too bad. Wait what’s that? In order to do that, I need to send you the entire tower??? But why? To ensure that the issue is with the drive and now with some other component of the machine? How long will it take to get my machine back? 5 TO 7 WEEKS???!!! Forget it, just send me the replacement drive.”


Now on to what this blog title entailed. The replacement drive was due to arrive in 2 days. Then I had 3 days to return the old drive in order to get it to HP in time and not incur a charge. Before then, I had to get to my data. My first thought was to use a data recovery service. I called around and for a mechanical failure, they charge anywhere $995 to $1500. I’m not sure if I wanted my pictures and files that badly. There must another way. One of my co-workers heard that if you put the drive in the freezer, you’ll be able to get it working just long enough to extract the data. I called BS and did some research on it. To my amazement, there are many articles and forum threads detailing this process. You can find some of them here, here, and here. Some posts even described the same ticking sound I experienced. According to the articles, the cold affects the metallics in the drive allowing for easier transference of electricity and sometimes moving the metals just enough to allow proper movement (in my case, the head). Worth a try right?


That night, I put the drive in two Ziploc bags and tried to remove as much air as possible to reduce condensation. Waited 3 hours and hooked up. Same ticking. Same result. Remembered that a forum post said to tap it gently to try to know the pieces in place. Tried that. Same result. Tapped it more aggressively this time but that didn’t help. Hmmmm. Didn’t I read somewhere that someone left the drive in the freezer for 24 hours and it worked for them. Back in the Ziplocs and back in the freezer the drive goes.


24 hours later, tried again but no joy. Disheartened and feeling stupid with a freezing cold hard drive in my hand, I finally gave up. It was time to let it defrost*** and pack it up to ship to HP. I’m not saying the freezer trick doesn’t work, it just didn’t work for me. Oh well. I learned a hard lesson this time and still feel I lost a part of myself in the process.


And by the way HP, thank you sooooo much for sending me a newly
REFERBISHED drive. I’m going back to Dell for my next pc.


*Wow! Really?!

**Not “data recovery”. So this sounds like they can only get the data if actual drive still works.

***Didn’t want any trace of my activities found when HP got the drive.

UPDATE: In case anyone is wondering what my drive sounded like, go here and click on Head Damage 1.

And if you need a visual…


3 thoughts on “Put your hard drive in the freezer to fix it?

  1. Hi man.
    I feel for you, but sometimes life sucks.

    I used to work for ASUS Technical Support and we always wanted the whole laptop even if the HDD was malfunctioning.

    We did not provide any “data loss services” at all, so from my POV, HP has a nice service. It is also very common that these companies send you refurbished parts. It sucks…

    However, the freeze trick didn’t work for me either, but I have friends who has done it in the past and it worked for them.

    Well, what have we learned? Always make a backup. Just buy a couple of extra HDDs (they are really cheap nowdays).


  2. Know the feeling. Im trying to get data from my old Hard drive now, got pics of friends and things that I really really would like to have as we’ve all gone our seperate ways. my HD is in the freezer as we speak, hopefully I’ll have more luck than you did. at least you got a free HD out of it, I won’t, all I’ll get is justanother one lying around the house :/

  3. Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂

    – Marc Shaw

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