External Hard Drive Keeps Freezing/Freezes Computer #3 Solutions#

Why it’s a Bad Idea

Temperature & Humidity

Because platters on hard drives are super sensitive, changes in humidity and temperature can do irreplaceable damages to the hard drive. Even if you wrap it in a towel or put it in a zip lock bag, like some methods suggest, the humidity in the towel or bag will be impacted, and moisture already in the hard drive will be impacted, which will cause damage to the platters when the read/write head tries to read data from the platters. That’s why data recovery professionals perform their work in Class 100 Cleanrooms, which are temperature and humidity controlled and practically eliminate airborne particles.

It’s Outdated

With earlier drives, freezing a hard drive would only move parts of the hard drive to a very small degree while with today’s hard drives freezing would move parts substantially. Today’s hard drives are built with more specific standards, and freezing can lead to incorrect spacing between the reader head and platter that would leave the hard drive unreadable.

It Doesn’t Last Long

If you are able to get the spindle to start working by freezing, it likely won’t last for long. Freezing is a means to get the hard drive to work long enough to copy the data on it to a new hard drive. Additionally, it’s best to not test and tweak a hard drive when it is making clicking noises. It is best to not try out any DIY software recovery tools or turning the hard drive on as it can lead to permanent data loss.

The Problem May Not Be Physical

In most cases, the cause of hard drive failure is actually a logical issue, and freezing won’t help in any way. To truly diagnose the issue with your hard drive and begin the process to recover your data, you need a data recovery professional to help. Contact us and one of our knowledgeable customer service representatives help you get started.

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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:


Diagnosing the Problem

Diagnosing hard drive problems is generally a process of elimination. There are multiple points of possible failure, and not all of them are in the hard drive itself.

Investigate Your Hardware With Device Manager

The first thing to do is to use Device Manager to check and see whether your controller or motherboard is the source of the problem.

Run a Virus/Malware Scan

The second thing to do is to run a complete virus and malware check, as malicious software can often cause problems such as freezing or file corruption that you could mistake for problems with your drive. There are many good programs available for this; read this TechJunkie article on the best antivirus programs as well as our article on the best anti-malware programs.

Use Windows Diagnostic Tools

Next, use Windows’ own diagnostic software to see if it can detect any problems.

  1. Open File Explorer and click on This PC. Now, right-click on the drive and select Propertie
  2. Now, right-click on the drive and select Properties. Next, navigate to the Tools tab.
  3. Next, navigate to the Tools tab. Then, under Error Checking select the Check button
  4. Then, under Error Checking select the Check button. This will take quite some time, Windows will ident
  5. This will take quite some time, Windows will identify any sectors that have gone bad. This diagnostic procedure actually can fix many minor drive problems by detecting which section of the drive has a problem and not using that part of the drive anymore. However, this should be regarded as a temporary fix, and you should back up your data as soon as possible.

Check Your Hardware

If you suspect your hard drive of failing, you’ll want to inspect and test your hardware.

  1. Start by replacing the SATA or IDE cable for your hard drive and testing it, it’s the quickest and cheapest hardware solution. Reboot the PC and see if the problem persists.
  2. Next, plug your drive with the old cable into a different SATA  or IDE port, if applicable, or use an external disk drive enclosure. Again, reboot the PC and test it.
  3. Create a Windows Recovery Tool on a USB drive and boot into it to scan your drive for errors. The various scans that can be performed at the command line exceed those of Windows Check option for drives.

Use Windows Recovery Tool

  1. Again, you can try and boot into the Windows Recovery Tool to repair the drive or test if it’s being detected.
  2. Enter the Command Prompt under Advanced Options.
  3. Now, start by running “sfc /scannow“, without the quotes, this will scan your drive for errors and attempt to repair it.
  4. After running the scans, attempt to boot into safe mode, download anti-virus software from there, and check the system. The best way to verify is to use a antivirus boot disc to scan and repair your PC. You can burn the bootable software to a CD or even install it on a USB drive (using a different computer). This will let you load the special antivirus environment to check your PC for any problems outside of the Windows environment.

You can also check to see if there are partitions on the drive at all using DiskPart or another third-party disk utility tool. If it doesn’t see any partitions, it’s likely that there was a partition mess up somewhere along the line. Unfortunately, recovering files from a situation like this isn’t always possible, as you’ll need to repartition the drive.

Inspect and Test the Hardware

  1. Check the connections inside the machine to make sure that the hard drive is properly connected to the motherboard. On a modern HDD/SSD this is very simple. For IDE drives, there are some other things to try. Machines made before 2007 or so will often have an IDE controller rather than a modern SATA controller. Check that the red edge of the drive cable is aligned with Pin 1 of the connector on the drive. Pin 1 is closest to the power plug, typically. IDE machines also use a master/slave assignment for the drives, so check that the jumpers are set correctly. Boot again to the BIOS screen and see if it can auto-detect the drive. This will establish that the drive is properly connected, at least.
  2. Remove your failing drive, put it in an external HDD enclosure or SATA to USB cable, and plug it into another PC or use a Live boot USB of Ubuntu, Gparted, Windows Recovery Tool, etc. After booting up, search for the drive and see if it’s being detected.

Attempt to Clone the Failing Drive

There are several options available to clone drives and partitions, we’ll discuss Clonezilla here.

  1. Download Clonezilla and use your USB imager of choice, such as Etcher, to make a bootable flash drive of it.
  2. Obtain a new HDD or SSD, you’ll need another drive of equal or greater size for it to work, and plug it in to your PC via another SATA or IDE port or USB.
  3. Now, plug it in and reboot your device, the failing drive can remain in the PC.
  4. Next, enter the BIOS by typing either F8, F10, F12, or Del at the screen when the computer first loads.
  5. Now, under Boot or Boot Options, set the boot order so that CD/USB boots before HDD/SDD.
  6. Then, click Save & Exit and boot into Clonezilla.
  7. Follow the prompt within Clonezilla until you get to the cloning/restoring options.
  8. Now, you’ll want to choose either, partition-to-partition or device-to-device for the cloning options, if unsure, just clone the whole device.
  9. Now, select your source drive, it’s the one that’s failing.
  10. Next, select your target drive, it’s the new one.
  11. Now, agree to the procedure and let it run. This will take quite a while.
  12. After it’s complete, reboot the PC and remove the flash drive before the boot screen loads.

Note, if you’re ever unsure of what to select in Clonezilla, the default settings work for most people.

What are the symptoms?

A hard drive clicking noise is typical; sometimes the hard drive clicks then stops. It might not boot or only boot occasionally.

A Word on SSDs

It’s worth noting that SSD failure (see our troubleshooting guide here) is essentially a different ball game than HDD failure. SSDs aren’t subject to the same pitfalls of hard disk failure simply because there are no moving parts within the SSD. However, they aren’t immune to failing, as there are a number of things that can still go wrong.

The biggest issue is a pitfall of all types of flash memory. You have a limited number of read/write cycles. But, the good news is that usually only the write portion is affected if you run into a read/write issue. In other words, you’ll be able to recover all of that data still on your SSD and put it somewhere else. While an SSD is less likely to malfunction considering that there are no moving parts, it’s still susceptible to the everyday wear and tear.

A side-by-side comparison of an HDD (left) and SSD

A side-by-side comparison of an HDD (left) and SSD (right). Image Credit: Juxova

You can generally follow all of the steps above to diagnose the problem, though SSDs generally don’t produce noises when they’re going bad. All of the other steps do apply, though.

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.

Quicker way to copy files from/to external hard drives

As you see, to fix the issue that external hard drive freezes when copying files, you should use copy/paste or cut/paste to transfer files, which would be very troublesome for transferring a large number of files. What’s more, enabling/disabling write caching each time you want to copy files from/to external hard drives is also annoying. Is there a more efficient way to transfer data without worrying about frozen hard drives?

AOMEI Backupper Standard, the best file sync software for free, can help you with quick data transfer between two locations.

✦ You are allowed to copy files between your computer and an external hard drive. You can also sync two external drives, USB flash drives, or SD cards, etc.  ✦ If you are using a cloud service like OneDrive and Google Drive, you are able to sync local folders to cloud and vice versa. ✦ All Windows PC operating systems like Windows 11/10/8.1/8/7/Vista/XP are supported.

Learn how to copy files from the computer to an external hard drive via AOMEI Backupper’s Sync feature below. 

1. Connect the external hard drive to the computer and make sure it is detected. Download, install and launch AOMEI Backupper.

Secure Download

2. Click “Sync” and select “Basic Sync”.

3. Name the task so that you can distinguish it from other sync tasks. Click “Add Folder” to select the folder you want to copy.

Tips: To sync more than one folder, you can click the “+” button after adding the first folder.

4. Click the folder shaped button in the second column to select the external hard drive as the destination path.

5. Click on “Start Sync” button to perform the operation. After the operation is finished, safely disconnect your drive.

>> Options: you can write a comment for your sync task so that you can figure out the specific sync contents. You can also enable email notification here. >> Schedule: you can set the sync task to run periodically. There are five modes provided: Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Event triggers, and USB plug in. Please upgrade to AOMEI Backupper Professional to enjoy the last two modes.

How to Recover Data from External Hard Drive Freezes Computer when Plugged in

Preparation: Create a Boot Disk

Since the computer can run normally when the external hard drive is removed from it, you can create a boot disk on your computer directly.

Step 1: After installing and registering the software on the computer, you need to connect a USB disk or CD/DVD to your computer (in this post, we will use a USB disk as the destination disk). Then, you can open the software to enter the software interface.

On the left bottom of the interface, you can see a Bootable Media button on the top menu. You need to click on it to continue.

Step 2: This software will pop out a small window as follows. You need to click on the WinPE-based media with MiniTool plug-in option.

Step 3: Another window will appear. The connected USB flash disk will be detected and shown by this software. You need to click on it and a window generates.

The message on the pop-out window will inform you that “The data on the USB disk will be destroyed.” So, you need to make sure that there are no important files on it. Then, you can click on the Yes button to start the building process.

Step 4: When the building process is finished, you will see the following messages. Please click on Finish button to quit this interface.

Now, the MiniTool Power Data Recovery Boot Disk is prepared.

Then, it’s time for you to use this boot disk to recover data from the external hard drive.

Data Recovery: Use MiniTool to Recover Data from External Hard Drive

Step 1: Just shut down your computer, and then connect the external hard drive to your pc. Next, you need to set your computer to access BIOS. After that, you need to set your computer to boot from the boot disk. Then, you need to press F10 button to save this setting and exit this interface.

Step 2: Your computer will enter the following interface, and then launch MiniTool Power Data Recovery automatically.  

Step 3: You will see the software interface.

All connected hard drives including internal hard drives and external hard drives will be displayed on this interface. The drive letters under WinPE and the drive letters under Windows Explorer may be different. So, you need to identify the target partition you want to recover by its capacity.

Hover over the drive you want to recover data from and click on the Scan button to start the scanning process.

Step 4: This software will take some minutes to finish the scanning process. After that, you will enter the scan result interface. And both deleted and existing files are shown on this interface.

On this interface, the scanned files are classified by the path. You can unfold each path to find the files you want to recover.

You can also click on Type tab to make this software show you the files in type. It can help you to find the target files quickly.

Of course, if you know the name of the file you want to recover, you can click on Find feature and enter its name to locate it directly.

Filter function allows you to make an advanced filter of the scanned files by the Filename/Extension, Size, Date, and more.

Step 5: After checking the files you want to recover, you need to click on Save button. Then, this software will pop out a window. You can choose a proper path on the computer to save these selected files.

After the recovery process, you can remove the external hard drive from your computer, and then open the PC to use the recovered files directly.

My WD passport freezes my computer. Then, I use MiniTool Power Data Recovery Boot Disk to rescue its files easily. Share it with you.Click to tweet

If you are interested in the rest three recovery modules, you can learn them from the Data Recovery Help on the MiniTool official site.

Solution 2. Fix Bad Sectors on a Frozen External Hard Drive

Windows Command Prompt knowledge is required for this fix.

Step 1. Press Windows + X and choose Command Prompt (Admin).

Step 2. In the black window, type the command starting with [drive letter:] + chkdsk /[f/r]. To be specific, let’s assume that the demanded drive letter is E. So, you need to input the command line as follows.

chkdsk /f E: (this is for finding and repairing errors on drive E) chkdsk /r E:(this is for locating bad sectors and recovering readable information)

Step 3. Press Enter. Wait for the command to take effect.

Running chkdsk can hopefully fix the bad sectors, however, it can also result in total data loss. So, perform data recovery in advance, and then continue with the CMD method.

EaseUS CleanGenius is a user-friendly computer fixing tool that is both safe and lightweight. It’s a perfect alternative to CHKDSK command. Use this one-click tool to fix the damaged file system easily.

Step 1. DOWNLOAD EaseUS CleanGenius on your computer and complete the installation.

  Free Download

Step 2. Run the software. Click “Optimization”, and then choose “File Showing” . 

Step 3. Select the drive with a corrupted file sys

Step 3. Select the drive with a corrupted file system. Tick the “Check and fix file system error” option and click “Execute”.

Step 4. Wait the tool performs the repairing task.

Step 4. Wait the tool performs the repairing task. After that, click the “here” button to check the drive.

Hard Drive Freezer Trick: Gillware’s Conclusion

Freezer trick proponents today usually have the presence of mind to at least warn people that the trick is destructive upfront. They say that the hard drive freezer trick should only be used as a method of last resort for getting your data back.

We, of course, disagree. We don’t think it should be used at all. It’s a bad idea and the consequences range from “nothing actually changes as a result” (thankfully) at best to “your hard drive’s condition is dramatically worsened” at worst. Nobody should be putting their hard drive into Ziploc bags and shoving it into a freezer when it starts to click or beep–especially when it starts to click or beep because at that point, the best and only hope for your data is a professional data recovery company.

If your lost data is important to you, your method of last resort should be a professional data recovery company, not your icebox

We have the tools and skills to solve just about any kind of hard drive failure. Our engineers have seen just about every model of hard drive. We’ve got over a hundred thousand successful data recovery cases and counting under our collective belts from all manner of failed data storage devices. Gillware’s data recovery lab offers secure, professional, and world-class services with free inbound shipping, free in-lab evaluations, and a financially risk-free “No Data, No Charge” guarantee.

If your data isn’t important to you, then by all means, stick your failed hard drive in the freezer (not for data recovery, of course—just for fun). Freeze it in a block of ice if you want. Or you can turn it into a clock, or use it as a doorstop or a paperweight. There are plenty of weird and wonderful things you can do with a broken hard drive.

Extra Tips for Resolving Your External Hard Drive Freezing Issue

Virus infection is another catalyst that causes your external hard drive to keep freezing, most commonly Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba, etc. Simply removing bad sectors will not work in this situation. So, try to remove a virus from the hard drive or other storage devices that have a similar issue.

You’ve got two options to start out. Antivirus software like Avast is a good choice, otherwise, you can also use cmd to remove a virus by referring to this link. Both techniques are helpful.

Besides, people also ask the following questions. Read on if interested.

1. Can hard drive failure cause freeze?

When you notice your hard drive freezing, chances are that the hard drive is about to fail. So yes, hard drive failure will largely affect the data, the process of opening programs as well as the file transfer speed, and it can cause your mouse and keyboard to stop working. As a result, the computer freezes a lot when you try to access files stored on a damaged or corrupted area of your hard drive.

2. Does freezing a hard drive work?

Many experienced users suggest that freezing a hard drive (that is, exposing it to low temperatures) would effectively solve the most common hard drive problems, such as slowdown or crashing. However, it does not last long.

3. How do I fix my external hard drive not being recognized?

When a hard drive is not showing up or recognized by Windows, try to change a USB port or connection cable. Sometimes, using antivirus software to scan and remove viruses is helpful. You can take a close look at the advanced solutions to the external hard drives not recognized issue.


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