We all know that overheating electronic components can cause irreparable damage to them. So, it’s natural to think that cooling them can help prolong their life or even revive them.
Most of us may have heard that freezing a hard drive can help recover data from it. Apart from this, it is said to resolve the issue of the drive not booting up and the system getting stuck in the middle of the work.
But there are cases where it has caused catastrophic damage to the drive and made the hard drive’s repair impossible.
So, what actually is the truth? Let’s find out.
Why Could Hard Drive Freezing Work?
A hard disk drive consists of a spinning disk with a magnetic coating to store the data. A head runs just over the disk to write the information and retrieve the stored data.
A lot of heat is generated within the drive due to this mechanical movement and continuous power supply. As a result, the components may expand slightly, causing their alignment to change, especially of the head, head stack, and soldered joints.
This can cause the minute gap between the head and the disk to fill, preventing the head from moving. Technically, this issue is called stiction or static friction. In addition to that, the soldered joints may loosen or break due to the expansion.
Now, theoretically, freezing a hard drive can shrink the components and bring them back to their normal size and orientation. This will also cause the head to free up from the disk and rotate normally.
Also, it can prevent the solders from breaking off or can tighten them back due to shrinking. Thus, the hard drive may get repaired.
Does It Actually Work?
Earlier hard drives consisted of components with larger dimensions. Even a slight movement of these parts could cause the moving parts to get stuck. Similarly, the head stack was not quite able to adjust accurately on its own.
To add to this, the circuit board had a number of soldered joints along with several components, making them prone to failure.
So, if the old day’s hard-disk stopped working due to stiction or expansion by heat, then it may be able to revive after freezing. In fact, the people who claim that this method worked for them are the ones using those old hard drives.
However, the time has changed now. The hard drive consists of smaller components calibrated accurately. The servo motor controlling the head is able to self-align itself precisely. In addition, the PCB has less number of components and soldering in them.
Hence, the issue of misalignment by expansion does not quite affect them anymore. Thus, freezing the modern hard drives won’t repair it, and your effort will be spent for nothing.
Even the old drive that gets repaired won’t last long. The basic idea should be to copy all the important data before it fails again.
As a matter of fact, they rarely get revived after freezing. Most successful cases should only have a slight malfunction inside the drive that could have been repaired even without freezing.
We believe it is only a matter of sheer luck that the method works and you do not meet with additional hazards by freezing your hard drive.
Does It Cause More Harm Than Good?
If someone says that the method worked for them, they should be thankful that no other consequences arose.
A hard drive consists of a breather hole to balance the internal and outer pressure. It also helps to release any condensed air and clear dust from the inside. There are also several air pockets that hold air around the corner or empty spaces.
When you freeze the drive, the water vapor in the air inside the drive gets condensed into ice crystals. This will eventually transform into water due to a rise in temperature after removing it from the freezer.
As a result, the water will fry the electronics and can even short-circuit your system. And your hard drive will get permanent damage.
Similarly, the gap between the head and the plate is only a few nanometers. If the crystals come in between the head and the plate, then the head can crash into them. Also, the scratches on the disc by such crystals and water will corrupt all the data, making it irrecoverable.
So, if you have extremely important data, then we recommend you go to a professional data recovery center or hard disk repair station. Following these hacks can further lower the chance of the revival of your hard drive.
How Can I Freeze My Hard Drive?
If you still want to take the chances or just want to try the process for your old, spare, and damaged drive, we have provided the steps for you below.
- Obtain a plastic wrapper and cover your hard drive to make it airtight. Make sure that no empty spaces are left inside where the air could reside.
- Place the wrapped drive into a plastic bag that does not let air inside and tighten it up.
- Keep the drive in your freezer for 20 to 24 hours.
- After it gets frozen, remove it from the freezer, and unwrap it carefully. Make sure that the condensed water vapor does not enter the drive.
- Connect it to your PC (we recommend using a spare PC, if available) and see if it works.
- If the hard drive functions well, copy the required data quickly in a flash drive or an external storage drive.
- If not, we recommend you take it straight to a professional for repair.