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An expert tool for recovering lost partitions
Last updated: Jan 26, 2024

How to Recover Files From a Crashed Hard Disk on Your Own

In today's digital age, where precious memories, critical documents, and important work files are stored in electronic format, experiencing a hard disk crash can feel like a heart-stopping moment. The sinking realization that you might have lost invaluable data can be overwhelming. But before you dive into despair, know this: not all hope is lost. With the right tools, patience, and knowledge, there's a chance you can retrieve your treasured files from that daunting abyss. Whether you're a seasoned techie or a computer novice, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of recovering files from a crashed hard disk on your own. Prepare to embark on a digital rescue mission!

How to Tell If a Hard Drive Has Crashed

Identifying a hard drive crash early on can save you from potential data loss and allow you to take immediate steps toward recovery. Here's a breakdown of common signs that indicate a hard drive has crashed or is on the verge of failing:

  • Strange Noises: A hard drive making clicking, grinding, or whirring noises that you haven’t noticed before can be a telltale sign of mechanical failure.
  • Frequent Crashes: If your computer crashes often, especially during the boot-up process, it's a clear sign that your hard drive may be failing.
  • Slow Access Times: While occasional slowdowns can be attributed to various factors, consistent slow performance, frequent freezes, and long access times can be associated with a dying hard drive.
  • Missing Files: If you suddenly can't find files or folders that were previously stored on the disk, or if files are corrupted without any other apparent reason, it could be a sign of hard drive problems.
  • Error Messages: Constant error messages while moving files or attempting to open folders can hint at hard drive problems.
  • S.M.A.R.T. Status: Many modern hard drives have a built-in monitoring system known as Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.). When this system starts showing a "bad status", it's a clear indication of potential drive issues. You can use various software tools to check the S.M.A.R.T. status of your drive.
  • Disk Check Failures: Running a disk check (using tools like "chkdsk" for Windows) and encountering numerous bad sectors or unrepairable errors is a strong indication of a dying or crashed drive.
  • Incorrect Drive Size: If your operating system suddenly shows an incorrect storage capacity for your hard drive, it might be a sign of a drive malfunction.
  • Unrecognized Drive: If your BIOS or UEFI does not recognize the hard drive upon startup, or if the drive does not appear in the operating system's disk management, it could be due to a hard drive crash.
  • Persistent Operating System Errors: Frequent 'blue screens of death' (BSOD) or similar critical errors on other operating systems can sometimes be attributed to hard drive failures.
  • Odd Behaviors: Applications failing to open, frequent system freezes, and random restarts can also be signs of a hard drive issue.
  • Corrupted Data: Files that appear corrupted or unreadable for no apparent reason might indicate hard drive problems.

If you suspect your hard drive has crashed, it's crucial to stop using it immediately to prevent further damage. Seek professional assistance or use trusted software tools for data recovery. Remember, regular backups are your best defense against data loss due to hard drive failures.

Reasons for a Hard Drive Crash

Physical hard drive crash

  • Mechanical Failure: Traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) have spinning platters and moving read/write heads. Over time, these mechanical parts can wear out and eventually fail.
  • Heat: Excessive heat can cause damage to a hard drive. If a computer's cooling system is inadequate, or if the hard drive is continuously under heavy use without proper ventilation, it can overheat and fail.
  • Power Surges: Sudden power surges or fluctuations can damage the electronic components inside a hard drive.
  • Manufacturing Defects: Like any other product, hard drives can sometimes have manufacturing defects that can cause them to fail prematurely.
  • Physical Trauma: Dropping or knocking a computer (especially when it's running) can cause physical damage to the hard drive, leading to a crash.
  • Static Electricity: This can damage the electronic components of a hard drive, especially if it isn't properly grounded.
  • Magnetic Fields: Hard drives store data magnetically. Exposing a hard drive to strong external magnetic fields can erase data or damage the drive.
  • Age: Like all electronic devices, hard drives have a limited lifespan. Even if they're not subjected to any of the above stresses, they can and will eventually fail due to age.

Logical hard drive crash

  • Corrupted Firmware: The firmware is the software that controls the hard drive. If it becomes corrupted, the drive may become inaccessible.
  • Logical Errors: These are non-physical errors. They might occur due to software conflicts, corrupted files, or issues during partitioning.
  • Viruses and Malware: Malicious software can corrupt or delete data on a hard drive, causing it to malfunction.
  • Excessive Bad Sectors: Over time, sectors on the hard drive can go bad. While a few bad sectors are expected and can be marked as unusable, a large number of them indicate a failing drive.
  • Human Errors: Accidentally deleting critical system files or formatting the wrong partition can render a drive inoperable.

How to Recover Data from Crashed HDD

1. DiskInternals - Crashed Hard Drive Data Recovery Software

The first thing to do is to recover the data, and only then proceed to repair the hard disk. If you do the opposite, most likely you will lose some data or the entire contents of the hard disk.

Do you want such an outcome of events? Of course not! Therefore, let's deal with the recovery of information first.

For this, you need good professional software. And the best is DiskInternals Partition Recovery. This software tool works on each hard disk partition separately and can do deep data scanning (due to rebuilding the file system of the disk inside of the program).

The tool supports the following file systems: FAT12, ReFS, UFS, HFS, NTFS, ReiserFS, Reiser4, XFS, Ext2/3/4, etc. With the free preview function, you can be completely sure of the final result.

Download the free trial version of DiskInternals Partition Recovery before you buy a license and see how easy it is to use when the recovery wizard helps you at all stages of the process.

Instructions for recovering data from a hard disk using DiskInternals Partition Recovery:

  1. 1. Download and install DiskInternals Partition Recovery.
Install DiskInternals Partition Recovery on your PC.
  1. 2. The recovery wizard starts automatically. You only need to select the logical disk and the recovery mode: “reader”, “unerase” or “recovery”. It is recommended to choose the recovery mode (full recovery), since that is what you want to do now. Click Next.
Partition Recovery - select the crashed hard drive.
  1. 3. Scan. This process will take some time. Relax for a while, and the goal will be achieved.
Partition recovery wizard - scanning.
  1. 4. Preview. Right-click on the file and select "Preview in New Window." Recovery will occur automatically.
  1. 5. Preservation. To do this, you just need to purchase a license and enter the license key. No rescan and no reinstall required! It is better to save the recovered documents in another safe place to protect yourself from overwriting with new data.

How to fix the crashed hard drive?

There are two in-build tools in Windows for failed/crashed/corrupted logical disk. Both of them will damage your data, so that is why you need to save it first.

The first and the most common is chkdsk. Read Action 5. Fix a corrupted hard drive in Windows 7, 8, or 10.

Another good method includes file system formation. Read Action 6. how to fix a corrupted hard disk with the file system change.

Video tutorial on how to recover files from a crashed hard drive

2. Recover Data using Disk Management Utility

The Disk Management utility in Windows is primarily designed to manage disk partitions, assign drive letters, and handle certain disk-related tasks. It's not inherently a data recovery tool, but it can sometimes help in situations where a drive or partition isn't properly recognized or doesn't have an assigned drive letter, thus making it seem as if the data is "lost."

If you suspect that's the case, follow these steps:

  1. 1. Access Disk Management:

    • Press Win + X and choose Disk Management from the menu.
    • Alternatively, press Win + R, type diskmgmt.msc, and press Enter.
  2. 2. Locate the Unrecognized Drive/Partition:

    • In the Disk Management window, look at the list of drives and partitions. Find any that are labeled as "Unallocated" or any that don't have a drive letter.
  3. 3. Assign a Drive Letter (if missing):

    • If a partition doesn't have a drive letter, it won't appear in File Explorer.
    • To assign a letter, right-click on the partition and select "Change Drive Letter and Paths."
    • Click on "Add" and choose a drive letter, then click "OK."
  4. 4. Reactivate the Volume (if offline):

    • Sometimes, a disk may show as "Offline." If so, right-click on the disk label (e.g., "Disk 1") and choose "Online."
  5. 5. Check for Data:

    • After assigning a drive letter or bringing the disk online, open File Explorer and navigate to the drive. Your files should ideally be accessible.

If the data still isn't accessible or if the drive is showing as "Unallocated":

  1. 1. Avoid Writing New Data: Do not create new partitions or write any new data to the drive, as this could overwrite lost data.

  2. 2. Use Data Recovery Software: DiskInternals Partition Recovery can scan and recover data from unallocated or problematic sectors of a hard drive.

  3. 3. Professional Help: If the data is crucial and the above methods are unsuccessful, consider reaching out to professional data recovery services. They have specialized equipment and expertise to handle more complex recovery scenarios.

Lastly, always remember that regular backups are the most effective way to prevent data loss. It's essential to have a good backup routine in place to mitigate the impact of disk failures or accidental data deletions.

3. Recover Data using the CMD Prompt

Using the Command Prompt, you can attempt to recover files from a problematic drive by utilizing a few built-in commands. One of the most common methods involves using the chkdsk utility, which can find and repair file system errors on the drive.

Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. 1. Open Command Prompt as Administrator:

    • Press Win + S to open the search bar.
    • Type "cmd" or "Command Prompt".
    • Right-click on the Command Prompt from the search results and select "Run as administrator".
  2. 2. Use the chkdsk Command:

    • Let's assume the problematic drive letter is E:. Type the following command:
    chkdsk E: /f /r
    • The /f parameter tells chkdsk to fix any errors it finds.
    • The /r parameter tells it to locate bad sectors and recover any readable information.
    • Wait for the process to complete. It might take some time, especially if the drive is large or has many errors.
  3. 3. Check the Drive:

    • Once the chkdsk process is complete, navigate to the drive in File Explorer and check if you can access your files.
  4. 4. Using attrib Command for Hidden Files:

    • Sometimes files might be hidden due to malware or other reasons. To unhide these files, you can use the attrib command.
    • Navigate to the root directory of your problematic drive by typing E: (assuming E is the drive letter).
    • Then type:
    attrib -h -r -s /s /d *.*
    • This command will unhide files and folders that were set as hidden or system files.
  5. 5. Other Utilities:

    • If you're comfortable using the Command Prompt, there are other third-party command-line utilities designed for data recovery. These tools are often more powerful than built-in Windows utilities but require more expertise to use effectively.

Caution: When using Command Prompt to deal with disk issues, always ensure you type commands correctly. A wrong command can cause more harm than good.

If the data is crucial and none of the methods seem to work, it's advisable to consult with a professional data recovery service. They have specialized tools and techniques to retrieve data from even severely damaged drives.

How to Fix Crashed Hard Drive

What do you do if your hard drive crashes? It is a widespread question and it doesn't matter: PC or a laptop, HDD or SSD. The only matter is: how to fix damaged hard disk? Here is the desired solution! In this article, you will find out how to deal with all these problems.

Method 1: Antivirus Scan

When your hard drive crashes, one of the potential culprits could be a virus or malware. Malicious software can corrupt your files, hinder the performance of your hard drive, and in extreme cases, cause the drive to crash. Performing an antivirus scan can help detect and remove these threats.

  1. 1. Safe Mode Boot:

    • If your system is having trouble starting up normally, boot your computer into Safe Mode. This loads only the essential system drivers, bypassing any malicious software or drivers causing problems.
    • For Windows:
      1. Restart your computer.
      2. As it's booting up, press the F8 key (or Shift + F8 on some systems) multiple times until the Advanced Boot Options menu appears.
      3. Choose 'Safe Mode with Networking' to enable internet connection in Safe Mode.
  2. 2. Install/Update Antivirus Software:

    • If you don’t have antivirus software installed, download one from a reputable source. Since you're in Safe Mode with Networking, you can access the internet to download.
    • If you already have antivirus software, ensure that it's updated to the latest version. Most modern antivirus software update their databases automatically.
  3. 3. Run a Full System Scan:

    • Start the antivirus software and select the option to run a full or deep system scan. This will check all files, folders, and drives for any malicious software.
    • Depending on the size of your hard drive and the number of files, this process might take several hours.
  4. 4. Quarantine/Remove Threats:

    • Once the scan completes, review the results. The software should provide a list of detected threats.
    • Follow the recommended actions, which usually involve quarantining or deleting the threats.
  5. 5. Restart Your Computer:

    • After the scan and removal process, restart your computer normally (without Safe Mode). Check if the hard drive issues are resolved.
  6. 6. Backup Important Data:

    • Once you've resolved the immediate issue, ensure you back up all crucial data to an external drive or cloud storage. This step ensures that, in the event of another crash or issue, your essential files are safe.
  7. 7. Consider a System Restore:

    • If the antivirus scan doesn’t solve the problem, consider restoring your system to a previous point (before the issues started). Note that while this can resolve many problems, there's a risk of losing any files or changes made after that restore point.
  8. 8. Further Steps:

    • If the problem persists, it may not be due to malware or viruses. Other potential causes include physical damage, corrupted sectors, or failing hardware. In such cases, you might need to consult with a professional or consider other methods, such as using disk repair tools or checking the drive's health.

Always remember to regularly update your antivirus software and perform routine scans to keep your computer free of malicious threats.

Method 2: CheckDisk

CheckDisk (often referred to as "chkdsk") is a built-in utility in Windows designed to scan and repair disk errors, including logical file system errors and bad sectors. It can be a useful tool when dealing with a crashed or malfunctioning hard drive. Here's how to use CheckDisk:

  1. 1. Command Prompt:

    • Click on the Start menu or press the Windows key, type "cmd" or "Command Prompt".
    • Right-click on "Command Prompt" from the search results and select "Run as administrator" to run it with elevated privileges.
  2. 2. Enter the CheckDisk Command:

    • In the command prompt, type:
      chkdsk C: /f /r
      • C: is the letter of the drive you want to scan. Replace C with the appropriate drive letter if you're scanning a different drive.
      • /f tells chkdsk to fix errors on the disk.
      • /r locates bad sectors and recovers readable information.
  3. 3. Scan Might Start After Reboot:

    • If you're trying to scan the system drive (typically C:), chkdsk might tell you that it can't run because the volume is in use by another process. You'll be asked if you want to schedule the disk check to occur the next time you restart your computer. Type Y and press Enter. Then, reboot your computer to start the chkdsk process.
  4. 4. Let CheckDisk Run:

    • The process can take several hours, especially if you have a large drive or if there are many errors to fix. Let it complete without interruption. You'll see the progress and status directly in the command prompt window.
  5. 5. Review Results:

    • Once chkdsk completes, it will provide a summary of its findings. Take note of any reported errors or bad sectors.
  6. 6. Restart Your Computer:

    • After chkdsk finishes, it's a good idea to restart your computer to ensure everything loads correctly.
  7. 7. Backup Your Data:

    • If chkdsk reported bad sectors, it's a sign that your hard drive might be failing. Make sure to backup any important data immediately, as the drive's condition could worsen.
  8. 8. Consider Disk Monitoring Tools:

    • If you're concerned about the health of your drive after running chkdsk, consider using third-party disk monitoring tools that provide insights into the health and performance of your hard drive.

Using chkdsk is a straightforward method to address logical errors and some physical issues on your hard drive. However, remember that no tool can repair a severely physically damaged drive. If chkdsk doesn't solve your issue, or if your hard drive shows signs of significant physical damage, consulting with a data recovery specialist or considering a replacement might be necessary.

Method 3: Formatting the Hard Drive

Formatting a hard drive can resolve various issues, especially those related to corruption or system errors. However, it's essential to understand that formatting will erase all data on the drive. Therefore, it's crucial to backup any important data before proceeding.

Here's how to format a hard drive:

  1. 1. Backup Your Data:

    • Ensure that all important files, documents, photos, and other data are backed up to an external drive or cloud storage. Once you format the drive, all the data on it will be lost.
  2. 2. Access Disk Management:

    • Right-click on the Start button or press Windows + X.
    • Choose 'Disk Management' from the menu.
  3. 3. Locate the Drive:

    • In Disk Management, you'll see a list of all storage devices connected to your computer.
    • Locate the hard drive you want to format.
  4. 4. Format the Drive:

    • Right-click on the drive's partition that you wish to format. If the drive doesn't have a partition, you might need to create one.
    • Select 'Format' from the context menu.
    • A new window will pop up. Here, you can choose the file system (e.g., NTFS or FAT32), set a volume label if desired, and select the 'Perform a quick format' option. A quick format is faster but less thorough. If you suspect there are bad sectors or deeper issues, you might want to uncheck this option, though it will take longer.
    • Click 'OK' to proceed.
  5. 5. Confirm the Format:

    • You'll receive a warning that formatting will erase all data on the partition. If you've backed up your data and are sure about proceeding, click 'OK'.
  6. 6. Wait for the Format to Complete:

    • Depending on the size of the drive and whether you chose a quick format or full format, the process might take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
  7. 7. Reinstall Operating System (if you formatted the system drive):

    • If you formatted your primary system drive, you'd need to reinstall your operating system. Ensure you have installation media and a valid license key ready.
  8. 8. Restore Your Data:

    • Once the format is complete and, if necessary, the operating system is reinstalled, you can begin restoring your backed-up data to the drive.

Remember, while formatting can resolve many issues, it doesn't fix physical damage to a drive. If your drive is physically damaged, it's advisable to replace it as it can fail entirely at any time.

Tips to Avoid Data Loss from a Hard Drive

Avoiding data loss is crucial for both individuals and businesses. Here are several tips to prevent data loss from a hard drive:

  1. 1. Regular Backups:

    • Make regular backups of your important data. Consider both local backups (like external hard drives) and off-site backups (like cloud storage or remote servers).
    • Use automatic backup software that periodically saves your data without manual intervention.
  2. 2. Use RAID for Redundancy:

    • In critical systems or servers, consider using RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) configurations that allow for data redundancy. If one drive fails, another in the array can take over, preventing data loss.
  3. 3. Install Antivirus and Anti-malware Software:

    • Keep your computer protected from malware and viruses that can corrupt or steal data. Regularly update and run scans using these tools.
  4. 4. Keep Your Software Updated:

    • Regularly update your operating system and all software, especially any software that interacts directly with your hard drive or file system.
  5. 5. Power Protection:

    • Use an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to protect against sudden power outages, surges, or brownouts. These can corrupt data and damage hard drives.
  6. 6. Regular Health Checks:

    • Periodically run utilities like CheckDisk (on Windows) to detect and repair potential logical issues on the drive.
    • Use SMART monitoring tools to keep an eye on your hard drive's health.
  7. 7. Be Cautious with Downloads:

    • Only download files and software from trusted sources. Malicious software can corrupt or delete your data.
  8. 8. Physical Care:

    • Avoid moving your computer, especially laptops, while they are running, as sudden jolts can damage the hard drive.
    • Ensure proper ventilation around your computer to avoid overheating, which can shorten the lifespan of a hard drive.
  9. 9. Secure Against Threats:

    • Use firewalls and secure your network to protect against unauthorized access and potential threats that can lead to data loss.


  • How do I get files off a hard drive that won't boot?

    Yes, files can often be recovered from a failed hard drive using specialized software or professional recovery services, though success varies based on the nature of the failure.

  • How much does hard drive data recovery cost?

    The cost of hard drive data recovery can vary widely, often ranging from $100 to several thousand dollars, depending on the severity of the failure and the expertise required.

  • How do I revive a damaged hard drive?

    • Physical Inspection: Ensure there's no obvious physical damage, like burnt components, to the drive. Also, make sure that the connections and cables are in good shape.
    • Different Computer/Connection: Try connecting the hard drive to another computer or using a different USB or SATA port. Sometimes, the issue may be with the computer or port, not the drive.
    • External Enclosure: If you're dealing with an internal hard drive, consider removing it and connecting it to another computer using an external hard drive enclosure.
    • BIOS/UEFI Check: Boot into the computer's BIOS or UEFI and check if the drive is detected there. If not, the drive or its connection might be the issue.
    • Check Power: If the drive doesn't spin up or make any noise, it might be a power issue. Ensure the power connections are secure.
    • Listen for Sounds: If the hard drive makes clicking or grinding noises, it's often a sign of a mechanical failure, which is harder to fix on your own.
    • Software Tools: Use hard drive diagnostic tools to assess the health of the drive. Software like CrystalDiskInfo or HDDScan can provide insights into the drive's health.
    • Data Recovery Software: If the drive is detected but you can't access your files, consider using data recovery software.
    • Freeze the Drive: As a last resort (and a somewhat controversial method), you can place the hard drive in a sealed plastic bag and put it in the freezer for a few hours. This might temporarily make it functional enough to recover data, especially if there are issues with the drive's platters. However, this method is not guaranteed and should be approached with caution.
    • Professional Help: If none of the above steps work, or if the data is extremely important, consider seeking help from professional data recovery services. They have specialized tools and cleanroom environments to deal with more complex issues.
  • How do you fix a hard drive failure?

    1. Software Issues:

      • Use built-in tools like "CHKDSK" on Windows or "Disk Utility" on macOS to scan and repair file system errors.
      • Try data recovery software to retrieve inaccessible data.
    2. Electrical Issues:

      • Replace the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) of the hard drive. Ensure you use an identical or very similar PCB to replace it.
    3. Firmware Issues:

      • Some specialized software or service providers can reflash or correct firmware issues.
    4. Mechanical Issues:

      • These are tricky. Clicking or grinding noises indicate mechanical issues. Avoid powering on the drive, as it might cause further damage.
      • Professional data recovery services are often needed.
    5. Physical Connection:

      • Ensure cables and connectors are intact. Try connecting the drive to another port or computer.
    6. Drive Health:

      • Monitor using tools like CrystalDiskInfo or HDDScan. If health is declining, backup data immediately.
    7. Professional Assistance:

      • For severe failures or invaluable data, consider consulting a professional data recovery service.
  • What happens if your hard drive crashes?

    If your hard drive crashes, you may lose access to your data and the device may become non-functional or unreliable.

  • Can you get files off a dead computer?

    Yes, you can often retrieve files from a dead computer by removing its hard drive and connecting it to a working computer using an external enclosure or adapter.

  • How can I recover my corrupted hard drive for free?

    • Safe Mode: Boot your computer in Safe Mode to access files without loading problematic drivers or software.
    • CHKDSK: Use the built-in Windows tool "CHKDSK" to scan and fix file system errors. Command: chkdsk /f X: (replace X with the drive letter).
    • Data Recovery Software: There are free versions of data recovery software like Recuva, TestDisk, or PhotoRec that can help retrieve files.
    • Live Linux Boot: Boot your computer using a live Linux USB or CD/DVD. This might allow you to access and copy files from the corrupted drive.
    • Backup: Always keep regular backups to avoid data loss scenarios.

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