Putting a hard drive in the freezer for data recovery

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@bythewell – Which is why everyone should back up as much as they can. If possible, set your computer up so that it periodically saves files to an online server or to an external hard drive. Don’t rely on a single place to back your stuff up. They seem old fashioned now, but I still back up my work onto CDs. As long as you look after them, they will last for a while.

I’ve still got stories I wrote almost 20 years ago by being careful about this. And it gives you piece of mind when working with computers, which are always going to be fickle.


I have lost data over the years when I haven’t backed up carefully enough and the hard drive stopped working. In some cases, it seems like there is nothing anyone can do to fix it, not even the professionals.

So, if you take it to people like that and they can’t fix it, make sure you ask for it back so that you can try things like the freezer trick. They will sometimes keep the drive so that they can recycle it for you, since you’ll only be tossing it out anyway.

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:


Step 3: Cool by Putting Hard Drive in Freezer!

Then when it is all nicely sealed, put hard drive in freezer and leave it for several hours, maybe even overnight. Give plenty of time to completely and uniformly cool down to the freezer temperature.

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.

Why Do People Still Suggest Freezing Your Hard Drive?

The reason why this is still propagated is because it’s an extremely old and outdated technique and many computer repair professionals think it is still relevant.  Years ago (prior to the late 90’s), you could actually take a hard drive that was clicking or not spinning up properly and throw it into the freezer.  There was hit or miss luck with this, because in situations where the spindle bearing was seizing, the cold temperature would contract the metal and allow the bearing to free up enough for the drive to spin again.

You might also have had situations where a drive was clicking because the track alignment was off slightly, and the cold may theoretically change the dimensions of certain components in the drive just enough to allow the tracks to be read.  Again, even back then, there was only hit or miss success.

I know for a fact that this post will have people screaming the praises of how effective it is to put your hard drive in the freezer to recover the data. I also know that many people seem to think companies like ours only condemn this method, because we would rather you spend money to get your data back.  This has nothing to do with our business at all.  This is simply a plea for those that have data that is irreplaceable to avoid using this tactic, regardless of whether they send their drive to us or not.  That cannot be stressed enough here.  We want you to get your data back if it’s something you desperately need, and we take that very seriously.


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