Hi Leo. How can I retrieve some photos on a failed hard drive? The message I
get is “Hard disk failure is imminent.” I can’t get in to save my data even
though it says, “Please back up your disk and have it replaced.” Help!
In this excerpt from
Answercast #55, I look at a failing hard drive and the limited options for
recovering data from it.
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Failing hard drive
So, I need to start with the admonishment that you should have been backing
up before this. If the hard disk failure will cause you to lose data, that means
that data was in only one place – and if data is in only one place, it’s not
So step 1: Learn from this and begin backing up in the future.
Now, getting around this one… Yeah, this disk is definitely on the verge. In
fact, it’s probably over the verge. Clearly, you can’t get your data off of
I have (unfortunately) only two real solutions for you.
Disk recovery program
One is potentially to run SpinRite on it.
Now, SpinRite is not free, but is the kind of a program that can in fact
repair/recover certain types of failures on hard drives. It’s something that
I’ve used and recommended for a long time.
It’s not as seamless as it once was in that SATA drives occasionally give
it a bit of pause. But the good news is that if you can’t get it to run with
your drive (or if it actually doesn’t fix your drive), the folks at SpinRite
have a really liberal return policy and they’ll happily give you your money
Data recovery service
Now the only other alternative I have for you is (if this is important
enough…) SpinRite’s going to cost you $95 right now and hopefully, that’s
small compared to the value of whatever is on that hard drive. On the other
hand, the only other alternative I know of is something like a data recovery
There, you’re going to be spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to
potentially recover the data from that hard drive.
If it’s valuable enough to you then, absolutely, go down that path and see
what they can do for you.
If it’s not, well, then that data is probably going to be lost forever.
It’s unfortunate. It’s one of those things that could have been easily
prevented by having regular backups of that data, but this is kind of where
you’re at right now.
So, those are things I would try. Definitely see about backing up from now
into the future and for this specific drive, give SpinRite a try. Or give a
data recovery service a try, if it’s worth it.