Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bad Data Recovery Ideas: Freezing Your Drive

This perennial piece of bad advice seems to be rearing its ugly head again as we’ve had a few customers recently tell us about this DIY fix…that didn’t work.

We decided to do a little digging on the issue to try to figure out where this information was coming from and why it remains so popular today.

First, a quick look on any search engine will reveal that this bit of wisdom is deeply ingrained in hard drive mythology. You should notice a few things right off the bat. One, all of the experts including us say this is a bad idea. Two, many of the posts espousing this solution are from 4-6 years ago.

The Problem: The rationales mentioned in most posts are not founded in hard drive fact. If and when this works it generally has nothing to do with the fact that it was frozen. Drives which have errors reinitialize, when they are restarted. What this means is that bad sectors which may have been causing a problem for the drive may be temporarily “overlooked” by the drive when it is restarted regardless of whether is was on the counter overnight or in the freezer. Freezing the drive has no effect on this process and can lead to other problems from the freezing itself. Some of these are, condensation from the freezer causing damage to platters or reading heads, increased thermal stress from starting in a cold environment and rapidly gaining heat.

Even the most generous estimates on drive life were about 20 minutes. Let’s say you have 320GB of information on a hard drive with all of your data, and you start backing up your precious files. Using a standard USB 2.0, a good estimation of how much you might be able to transfer is 8GB of information or approximately 2.5% of your drive’s capacity.

Truth be told, there are dozens of reasons why a drive may not recognize/boot properly or click. Freezing the drive could cause other more simple problems to become worse and you will have only succeeded in raising the cost of recovery or permanently losing your data.