So in the last 3 months, my aging hard drives started to fail on me. I actually lost one after the other in about 2 months time, which really got me ticket off (as you can imagine, losing hard drives is NEVER fun! I lost a Seagate 750GB 7200.11 and a Western Digital 750GB drive (in that order).

Currently as I write this, my WD 750GB is sitting in the freezer, and waiting for another round of quick copying (frozen recovery? eh..). Maybe like you, I often wondered if putting your drive in the freezer actually help you with any sort of recovery, and having never tried it before, I thought “what the hell? why not, its pretty much dead anyways!?”.

Some background:

My WD750 hard drive suddenly died and took all my media with it (majority of it, that is personal like photos, music, and documents, I backed up regularly to my basement server), however a bunch of stuff was not backed up, so I was not pleased when the drive just ‘dropped’ out of windows. It wouldn’t show up in Windows 7 management, and most certainly not in ‘My computer’. But I did find that it would show up upon boot in BIOS. So with that shred of hope, I gave Ubuntu a try (to see if Linux would see the drive).

The plan:

With a dead drive, and very little hope, I quickly downloaded Ubuntu 12.10, and set it up on a spare USB drive. Rebooted my machine and tried out Ubuntu’s LIVE feature (basically full OS running off my spare USB pen drive). My plan to see if Linux would mount the drive and ultimately make it accessible.

The outcome:

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that INDEED Ubuntu (even off the live usb) was able to see my drive (as well as my other regular drives). This allowed me to try to get at the ‘failed’ hdd. But alas, I could only pull a couple gigs off the drive before it gave me I/O errors.
I ended up sticking the HDD into a zip-lock bag, and sticking it in the freezer for 20 min or so. After having the drive get ice cold, I would quickly run back to the machine, HOT SWAP it in (its a sata drive after all), and have it re-mount, which allowed me about ~10 min or 30gigs more of data transfer, before it would click or spin wildly (signaling its reheating).

I am not sure if the cold helped ‘harden’ the drives insides, or components, or maybe tighten up its lubrication, and I really don’t care! All I can tell you is that its a stupid thing, sticking your drive in the freezer, BUT it works!

So if you find yourself wishing you backed up that data sooner, and are about to take your anger out on a piece of metal (by tossing it out a window per say), freeze it first! You might just get a few more minutes of life to say “goodbye!”.

Happy recovery!



  • Chun

    Nice tip, I will remember that!