How to Recover Data from a Hard Drive that is not powering up

This article covers the basics of hard disk drive failure and the steps to take to identify the problem and bring your computer to a technician for file recovery.

There are many causes of hard disk drive failure: age plus normal wear and tear; impacts and falls; water damage; fire damage; even software viruses. You risk losing your computer warranty if you open your computer to remove the hard disk drive to attempt repairing it. Computer manufacturers cover hard disk repair as long as the disk isn’t damaged beyond recovery.

Things You’ll Need

  1. Screwdrivers
  2. Backup Media
  3. Antivirus Software
  4. File Recovery Software

Hard Drive

Recovering Information

  • Determine the cause of the hard drive failure:
  1. Disk Drive Head Malfunction – The drive head can’t read the platters and may be damaging the information. File recovery may be minimal.
  2. Hard Disk Motor Breakdown – The motor spinning the platters do not function. File recovery will be easy.
  3. Hard Disk Actuator Arm Crash – The actuator arm moving the disk drive head may be damaged. File recovery minimal.
  4. BIOS Non-identification – Your computer motherboard can’t identify or find the hard disk. File recovery depends on the underlying cause for BIOS non-identification.
  5. Hard Disk Power Supply Failure – This scenario is possibly a wiring problem or power supply meltdown. File recovery can be easy.
  6. Fire or Water Damage – File recovery is minimal to nil. Bring your computer to a specialist.
  7. Vandalism – Sudden jolts or jarring motion can make the disk drive head and actuator arm hit the platters and scratch the sensitive surfaces.
  • Viruses – Software-based damage can be resolved with anti-virus and file recovery software.
  • Take note of the symptoms immediately before the hard drive crash and inform your technician. The first three scenarios described in step 1 usually makes your hard drive whirr noisily.
  • Do not attempt to restart or power on your computer until you are sure your hard disk drive is stable enough to work. When in doubt, don’t turn on your computer.
  • Use your screwdriver to open the computer casing and remove the hard drive. This procedure is easier with desktop computers. However, if you don’t want to invalidate your warranty, bring your computer to a technician or service center.
  • Ask the technician or service center representative to recover as much as they can of your files before the hard disk is completely ruined.


  • Always back up your files.
  • Never attempt to open your hard disk drive if you are not a licensed technician.
  • If you do get a chance to get your hard disk running, don’t install or add any more programs and files to the hard disk drive until you’ve made a backup.

Filed Under: Computers & Technology


About the Author: Justin Belden is a freelance web & graphic designer with over 15 years' experience. He is also an Avid member of the Design/Development community and a Serial Blogger who loves to help people by sharing interesting and informative tips and trick related to computer and technology.

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