Just as the shoemaker’s children go barefoot, so did my home computer go without a current backup. Recently, I went to turn the computer on, and it would not boot. I tried turning it on and off several times and checked all the connections. I found the recovery CD I had made for the machine, set the boot order to boot off the DVD player first, and it still would not boot. I figured the hard drive controller on the motherboard might have gone bad. I bought an inexpensive SATA to USB adapter cable, took the hard drive out of the crashed computer, and used the adapter cable to connect it to another machine. The drive made a noise like a sick chicken and would not be recognized.
I told my tale of woe to my coworkers, and Allan Robison asked if I had tried “the freezer trick”. I told him that I had not, and that I thought that it was a myth. He said that it was not, and so that night I set the trick in motion. I put the failed drive into a quart zipper freezer bag, then into a gallon zipper freezer bag, and then put it in my freezer. Two nights later, I took the drive out, connected the adapter cable, laid the whole rig onto an ice pack, crossed my fingers and hit the power switch. The drive made a small noise, not quite as sick as before, and then spun up! I was able to access the drive for about an hour and a half before the ice pack melted and the drive warmed up to the point it crashed again, but that was enough time to get all my vital data off.
Obviously, this trick is not a substitute for a good backup program, and it will not work in all cases. For example, it will not work if the hard drive head makes a “jackhammer” noise, and it will not work on the new solid state hard drives. Nevertheless, as a last resort, the freezer trick is worth a try!
Senior Applications Developer