Dropped Hard Drive Recovery

Some hard drives are more prone to being dropped than others. Laptops are frequently in danger of taking a tumble off your lap and landing on the floor. Your external hard drive can be knocked off the desk by an errant hand, pet cat, or child. And when that happens, no matter the cause, it can land your data–and you–in deep trouble.

There are many points of possible failure when a hard drive is dropped. Sensitive components within the hard drive tend not to play well with gravity and strong impacts, and that spells trouble.

If you are in need of dropped hard drive recovery services, our engineers can help. A dropped hard drive needs care and attention, and usually replacement parts, from skilled and well-equipped data recovery experts. Submit a case to Gillware to put your precious digital data in the best possible hands.

What Happens When I Drop My Hard Drive?

To understand how a dropped hard drive fails, it’s important to understand how a hard drive works. Inside your hard drive are thin, delicate disks with a magnetic coating. These are the drive’s data storage platters. They are like CDs, but smaller and denser. Laptop hard drives, which are the most prone to being dropped, have platters made out of glass. The hard drive’s spindle motor spins these platters at around 5,400 to 7,200 revolutions per minute.

The platters are divided into sectors. These are magnetically-charged pieces of the surface that contain the actual data on the hard drive. Small electrically-charged coils of copper wire mounted on long arms sweep across the radius of the platters as they spin. These are the magnetic read/write heads. These heads are kept away from the platters when the drive is not in use. A ramp guides them into their proper positions above the platters.

Failed read/write heads from a dropped hard drive recovery case
A set of failed read/write heads from a dropped hard drive recovery case

Unlike the needle on a record player, these heads are never supposed to touch the surfaces of the platters. Instead, they hover a tiny distance above the platters on a cushion of air. This distance is about the equivalent of a couple dozen atoms laid end-to-end.

To imagine what the read/write heads are doing, think about a plane flying at top speed a few feet above the ground. The margins for error are razor-thin. It’s unsurprising that the read/write heads are one of the most common failure points for a hard drive.

At the instant you drop your laptop or external hard drive, the device experiences an instantaneous moment of weightlessness. Then gravity does its work. The higher the height your device falls from, the more speed it builds up. And then it hits the ground, and it stops—very quickly.

You may be familiar with Newton’s second law of motion: Force equals mass times acceleration. The faster an object’s velocity changes, the more force is exerted on it. As the saying goes, it’s not the fall that kills you.

If your hard drive is running when your laptop or external drive takes a tumble, the read/write heads could crash onto the surfaces of the platters. This is the one thing they are absolutely not supposed to do.

The platters might only briefly impact with the platters, making some dings and scraping out a few sectors here and there. Or they might make prolonged contact with the platters and gouge huge tracks out of them. This is called rotational scoring. Severe rotational scoring can be devastating.

The heads can also clamp down on the platters and stop them from spinning. This can cause the hard drive spindle motor to seize up.

Manufacturers of both laptop computer and hard drives have come up with ways to mitigate the damage done to a dropped hard drive. Many laptops today have accelerometers inside them. These features, such as Apple’s Sudden Motion Sensor, send signals to the hard drive and warn it to take its heads away from of the platters if the laptop enters free fall. Hard drive manufacturers are also now building free fall sensors into the drives themselves.

This doesn’t stop the drive from failing if it falls hard enough. The heads can become damaged by a fall even if they’ve been tucked away. But it does reduce the chances of the platters containing your precious data becoming damaged.

There are some external hard drive manufacturers who make their enclosures as tough as possible. These products are typically aimed at nature photographers and anyone with rough and adventurous lines of work. These hard drives are much more well-insulated from shocks and drops than your typical external hard drive. But as long as a hard drive has moving parts, dropping your hard drive always carries risks.

How Do Gillware’s Dropped Hard Drive Recovery Services Work?

At Gillware Data Recovery, we offer free evaluations for all dropped hard drive recovery scenarios. We even offer free inbound shipping for anyone living in the continental US.

There’s no way of telling how severe the damage to the drive has been until we’ve brought it to our hard drive recovery cleanroom and had our technicians look at it. A dropped hard drive could need its read/write heads replaced. Its platters might need burnishing to clear debris off of them. The spindle motor may have failed. Our professional hard drive recovery engineers may have to deal with some or all of these failure points in order to get your drive up and running.

Dropped hard drive recovery engineer Charles inspects a drive's platters.
Charles, one of our cleanroom data recovery engineers, inspects the 2.5-inch platters of a dropped laptop hard drive for any signs of rotational scoring.

We take note of the hard drive’s condition and determine the cost and probability of success for dropped hard drive recovery on a case-by-case basis. We then present you with a price quote. We don’t ask for any payment at this point, just acknowledgment of the cost.

If you approve the price quote, our hard drive recovery cleanroom engineers do the work to get your hard drive into shape. This can require one repair to the drive or many repairs. Our in-house data recovery software tool HOMBRE helps our engineers read the drive safely and efficiently. As part of our dropped hard drive recovery services, we salvage as much as we can from the drive. We’ve made our entire data recovery operation as financially risk-free as possible. We only consider our recovery efforts successful if we recover your important data. If necessary, we can work with you and show you our results before you pay, so you can help us determine the success of the recovery. When the recovery is complete and successful, we take your recovered data and put it on a new hard drive and ship it to you.

Why Choose Gillware Data Recovery?

Dropped hard drive recovery is a unique and highly specialized skill. Our cleanroom data recovery engineers have spent years and thousands of hours working on hard drives. Just about every brand and model of hard drive has come into our cleanroom at least once.

Our engineers have solved thousands of dropped hard drive recovery cases in the years we’ve been in business. We stand by our financially risk-free data recovery guarantee. If we can’t get your data back at a price that makes sense to you, you don’t owe us a dime.

Still not convinced? Check out some of these case studies for our dropped hard drive recovery services.

Case Study: Western Digital Passport WD10TMVW-11ZSMS4 not spinning

Recovery Type: External Hard Drive Drive Capacity: 1TB Manufacturer: Western Digital Model Name: Passport Model Number: WD10TMVW-11ZSMS4 Manufacture Date: 28 July ...

Why choose Gillware Data Recovery?

Gillware’s data recovery services are affordably priced, technologically innovative and completely secure.


Best-in-class engineering and software development staff
Gillware employs a full time staff of electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, computer scientists and software developers to handle the most complex data recovery situations and data solutions

Strategic partnerships with leading technology companies
Gillware is proud to be a recommended provider for Dell, Western Digital and other major hardware and software vendors. These partnerships allow us to gain unique insight into recovering from these devices.

RAID Array / NAS / SAN data recovery
Using advanced engineering techniques, we can recover data from large capacity, enterprise grade storage devices such as RAID arrays, network attached storage (NAS) devices and storage area network (SAN) devices.

Virtual machine data recovery
Thanks to special engineering and programming efforts, Gillware is able to recover data from virtualized environments with a high degree of success.


SOC 2 Type II audited
Gillware has been security audited to ensure data safety, meaning all our facilities, networks, policies and practices have been independently reviewed and determined as completely secure.

Facility and staff
Gillware’s facilities meet the SOC 2 Type II audit requirements for security to prevent entry by unauthorized personnel. All staff are pre-screened, background checked and fully instructed in the security protocol of the company.

We are a GSA contract holder.
We meet the criteria to be approved for use by government agencies

GSA Contract No.: GS-35F-0547W

HIPAA compliant
Our entire data recovery process can be handled to meet HIPAA requirements for encryption, transfer and protection of e-PHI.


No obligation, no up-front fees, free inbound shipping and no-cost evaluations.
Gillware’s data recovery process is 100% financially risk free. We only charge if the data you want is successfully recovered.

Our pricing is 40-50% less than our competition.
By using cutting edge engineering techniques, we are able to control costs and keep data recovery prices low.

Instant online estimates.
By providing us with some basic information about your case, we can give you an idea of how much it will cost before you proceed with the recovery.

We only charge for successful data recovery efforts.
We work with you to define clear data recovery goals for our technicians, and only charge you upon successfully meeting these goals and recovering the data that is most important to you.

Gillware is trusted, reviewed and certified

Gillware has the seal of approval from a number of different independent review organizations, including SOC 2 Type II audit status, so our customers can be sure they’re getting the best data recovery service possible.

Gillware is a proud member of IDEMA and the Apple Consultants Network.

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