Save A Failed Hard Drive In Your Freezer, Redux

Save A Failed Hard Drive In Your Freezer, Redux

Years ago we suggested sticking a borked hard drive in your freezer for a chance at recovering your data before the drive goes completely kaput. Developer site Server Zone highlights the same tip, with more detailed instructions for saving your freezer drive.

  1. Remove the hard drive from the computer.
  2. Place the hard drive inside of a zip top freezer bag. (don’t buy a

    cheap bag.)

  3. Place the wrapped hard drive inside of ANOTHER zip top freezer bag.

    (yes, you need to do this)

  4. Place the double wrapped hard drive in the coldest part of your


  5. Leave the hard drive in the freezer for 12 hours at least. You want

    it good and cold! (see figure 2 below)

  6. Once very chilled, install the hard drive in your computer and

    start pulling off data. Begin with the most valuable data.

  7. At some point, the hard drive will fail again. When it does, mark

    the last successfully copied data, pull out the hard drive, double wrap

    it again and stick it in the Chill Chest for another 12 hours.

  8. You may need to do this a number of times to get all the data you

    want, or until the hard drive stops working completely.

Hard drives work sort of like old records, except rather than one record and needle, hard drives have several small platters spinning really fast that are accessed by a read/write head. In theory, I believe, this would work with hard drives with slightly warped platters; unfrozen, your busted drive is grinding the head against the platters as a result. By freezing the hard drive, you’re hopefully shrinking the platters enough that they’re no longer rubbing up against the head — temporarily, at least. Keep in mind that it’s not always a sure thing, but if you’re desperate, it’s worth a try.

Know more about the reason this works than I do? Tried this with success before? Let’s hear it in the comments.

What To Do When A Hard Drive Fails [Server Zone]


  • I tried this unsuccessfully on my second hard drive where I kept all my data and my backup drive which failed at the moment it was to become a hero.

    I didn’t know to use two freezer bags so they were just swaddled in plastic. Neither drive recovered at all so do it RIGHT. I only left it about 4 hours as well so it didn’t have a hope.

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