That old ‘freezer trick’ to save a hard drive doesn’t work anymore

Could putting a Clicking Hard Drive in a Freezer Really Work?

Yes! This is one method that may allow you to recover files on your own, and it is free! Although I can’t make guarantees in your case.

This does not apply to solid state drives, but I expect it would work with all hard disk drive brands, for example Seagate and WD (Western Digital).

There may be proactive actions you can take with a clicking hard drive in particular. For example with a hard drive not working just some of the time (that is a serious warning sign though).

  • If your drive is clicking abnormally, and it is still working I suggest you take it seriously and copy all the contents to another drive – a clicking hard drive may be near the end of it’s life, even if new.
  • If your drive was clicking but now has stopped working, the method below might help you recover the data quickly and at no cost.

Why might it fix a clicking hard drive if you put it in the freezer?

The word ‘fix’ suggests total recovery to allow ongoing permanent use, but we mean it here as a temporary recovery of operation.

What we’re really hoping for is temporary operation for long enough to recover your data.

Hard disk drive disks and reading heads have incredibly small tolerance (very fine gap between them – they do not normally touch).

To put the hard drive in the freezer will naturally cool the plates and reading head arms.

Cooling the hard drive unit will cause shrinkage in the metal disks and arms inside to a very small degree (pardon the pun!), and it might be sufficient to reduce any warping.

Thus it gives a chance that the physical interference (causing that knocking or abrasion and resulting in the clicking noise) to be avoided while it remains cool.

WARNING: Act to get the data while you still can.

If the drive is still working, immediately copy all your data or back it up. Otherwise you can try this method to put your hard drive in freezer or cold refrigerator (but only after reading all this article first!).

The explanation as to why is further below and warnings above.

This could be a cheap fix and that is what TheTechMentor.com likes to share: methods that save you money.

An alternative action may be to send your drive to a professional hard drive recovery service. Be warned these can cost hundreds of dollars as in the referenced article, but the chances of success are very high.

Note: As stated above, this does not work on solid state drives.

SSDs have no moving components, and so should not ever make a clicking noise.

Here is the hard drive click of death fix:

Video

Why Is It A Bad Idea?

If you haven’t read it already…check out our brief overview of how a hard drive works. In order to squeeze more and more data onto the platter surface, hard drives have extraordinarily small clearances between the heads and platters. In modern drives this clearance is slightly less than 10 nanometers (nm). To put this in perspective, a single strand of DNA at around 2.5nm would barely fit through the gap between the heads and the platters.

When you freeze a hard drive, it doesn’t matter how much you wrap it, it doesn’t matter how airtight you try to make it, the platter surface can and will accumulate microscopic crystals of ice.  The ice crystals are extremely small, but they are still around 15,000 to 30,000 nanometers in height.  The problem becomes clear…there’s no way the ice crystals are going to be able to avoid hitting the heads when the drive powers up.

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