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Why DIY Data Recovery Attempts can Hurt Chances of Recovery

Do-it-yourself projects, or DIY projects, are becoming more and more popular, as they can be fun and cost-saving. DIY is becomingso common that there is an entire cable network devoted to it. So DIY projects sound great right? They do if they are the safe and productive DIY projects. DIY data recovery projects are the complete opposite.

These projects fall under the unsafe and counterproductive category. They almost always fail. Not to mention, the more you tinker with your device, the less likely it’ll be that data recovery professionals can save your data, and the more expensive it will be if the data is recovered.

There are many unproven and inconsistent DIY data recovery techniques that you can read about. It is important to stay away from these. At Gillware, we hear about these wacky techniques all the time, and usually it’s because the device ends up in our lab after someone attempts them. Here are some of the more common DIY data recovery methods that should not be attempted nor adapted upon.

  • Freezer or Oven Trick. Placing a hard drive in a freezer and then powering it up can short out the electronics or cause irreparable platter damage due to moisture condensing on the platters. Hard drives are designed to operate within certain environmental conditions. Extreme temperatures place the drive outside of its design specifications and can lead to rotational scoring.
  • Control Board Swaps. Control boards can look identical from one drive to another, but looks can be deceiving. Placing a non-compatible control board on a drive can turn a simple non-invasive electrical recovery into a much more complicated and expensive cleanroom recovery, or render the data unrecoverable.
  • Installing Software. Never install data recovery software on the device that you are trying to recover data from. The first rule in professional data recovery is to never alter the data on the drive from which you are attempting to recover data.
  • Caveman Approach. Never tap or hit a hard drive in order to get it running again. Doing so can lead to irreparable platter damage, which makes the hard drive completely unrecoverable. This Neanderthal tactic to data recovery never works.
  • At Home Cleanrooms. Cleanrooms are meant to be clean. There are certain procedures that need to happen for cleanrooms to be considered a cleanroom, and no matter how clean you think your home is, it isn’t up to the ISO 5, Class 100 certifications that is necessary for safe and successful data recovery.

At Gillware, when we hear about these DIY data recovery methods, we cringe. Data recovery is something that shouldn’t be experimented with. Our engineers have years of specialized data recovery training, experience and tools to do the work they do. So if your drive is showing any signs of mechanical failure, send it to our data recovery professionals.

The next time you find yourself reading about “the freezer trick,” or “the four foot drop test,” (yes, we’ve actually heard that one) stop what you are doing and call Gillware. You will save yourself time, money and more importantly, data.

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13 Comments

  1. I think my first step would have been the caveman approach. I don’t think many people realize that the hard drive is so sensitive. I would definitely take a big problem like this to a professional. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hi, run into this before I indeed found that the “freezer” method invariably makes things worse on all but the oldest <900MB drives. In fact the only time its ever worked for me I am not even convinced it helped, the problem might have been a stuck actuator in the first place.
    There are rare cases when something related helps, am in the process of getting a patent on the method.

  3. Hi Andre,

    Thank you for leaving your comment. We’ve noticed that on the occasions when the freezer method does “work” it is because the hard drive was only experiencing an intermittent issue (which would have gone away just as easily if the drive were left alone), and the user was simply lucky that putting their drive on ice didn’t just massively over-complicate their situation.

    If you’re interested in reading more of our thoughts on the freezer method, we’ve just recently published a new case study as well as an article exploring the freezer method in greater detail. Spoiler alert: we don’t like it!

    Western Digital Data Recovery Case Study: Winter is Coming

    Hard Drive Freezer Method: Melting the Data Recovery Myth

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