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Posted By Peter Bentley
Life can be ironic sometimes. Having written The Undercover Scientist, Investigating Everyday Mishaps which includes a whole section on how hard disks fail, and how you should ensure they are always backed up... my hard disk failed and it wasn't backed up recently.

It did give me a chance to test the remedies I gave in the book first hand. In the book I reported the suggestions of others in this situation - lightly hitting with a hammer, cooling in freezer... but would any of these work for me? My disk had died so thoroughly it even prevented the computer from booting up when connected normally. Instead I removed it, created a fresh operating system install on a new disk, then linked the dead one to the computer via a USB interface. It took a tap with a screwdriver to unstick the heads and make it seek again. Using Data Rescue II software I was able to trawl the surface of the disk and see my data. But only sometimes - if the disk got too hot, it failed again. This was a problem because the software needed to try and access the disk continuously for many hours, which makes it hot. I had no fans, but if I put something frozen right next to it, then it became too cold and also failed again. Through trial and error, I discovered that putting the hard disk on a steel electrical socket installation box provided a good heat sink and air gap, then placing the box onto a slice of frozen pineapple (wrapped in clingfilm) provided the perfect natural cooling. Each slice lasted about 2 hours. Half a pineapple later and all my data was successfully retrieved.


 
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