Hard Disk Won't Boot? Try Putting It In The Freezer!

I was just reading a post this evening over in the lockergnome.com forum (see post here), which reminded me about an old tech trick that may help someone who has a hard drive that will not boot. Over the years I have had some success in getting a hard drive to boot just long enough to retrieve valuable information that might otherwise be lost.

And this also jogged my memory to an incident that happened to me about six years ago. I got up one Sunday morning and was going to fire up my PC to check my email. I was greeted with a constant knocking noise coming from the inside of my computer case. Pulling off the side panel on the case, I could hear the noise was coming from the hard disk and I could also feel the knocking through my fingertips.

Though I was fairly faithful in making backups, I hadn’t made a backup of a course outline I had just completed on Saturday and which I had spent considerable time preparing. I tried the freezer trick and was able to get the hard disk to boot long enough to back up the file to a zip disk.

The procedure is as follows:

  • Remove the hard disk from the case.
  • Place the hard disk in a plastic Ziploc freezer bag.
  • Stick the hard disk in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
  • Remove from freezer, take the hard disk out of the freezer bag, and immediately place it back inside the computer.
  • Try to boot and keep your fingers crossed.
  • Have some type of media available: floppy, zip, CD, DVD to create a backup with.
  • Try to complete the backup as quickly as possible.

Some say this is an urban legend, but legend or not, I have personally had some success with this procedure and I know some other techs who have also been successful in retrieving data from failed drives. Your mileage may vary.

[tags]hard disk, freezer, data, recover, backup, media[/tags]

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

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  • http://www.swissarmygeek.com KellyVerge

    The freezer trick has a chance at temporarily reviving dead drive when the culprit is an overheated chip on the circuit board on the drive. This is only one type of many possible types of failure.

    Regardless, if you carefully wrap your drive and minimize condensation, it might be worth the chance as long as the data isn’t too valuable.

    If your dead drive is making a grinding noise, you’ll just cause more damage by doing this. Your best bet is to send it in to a hard drive recovery company.

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Hi KellyVerge,
    Thanks for the comment and info.

  • Simon George

    Actually it is more likely that the failure is due to metal parts getting stuck (read heads) and by putting them in the freezer they contract allowing them to move about just long enough to back up before they expand again.

  • winson

    tried it.. it worked for me.. and my hard drive still seems to be workin fine.. haha

  • Deb

    My cell phone had died and I couldnt get it to recharge or even start up at all. I took the battery out and stuck it in the freezer for half and hour. Left battery out all night and the next morning I put the battery in and it fired right up!

    • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

      Hi Deb,