How do you access a faulty hard drive without formatting it.

I have a Samsung M3 portable 1TB external hard drive that broke on me years ago. Back then I had no interest in fixing it myself but I kept it knowing how much personal stuff was on it. Hoping that maybe some time in the future by some miracle it might just start working again!

Anyway recently a reason to fix it has arisen and I REALLY wanna get that data back. So I took to the Internet forums and such.

I discovered that the beeping sound it was making when plugged in was due to the heads being stuck on the platter so I took it apart and carefully freed the heads back into the parking location. (Latex gloves, a fan, a filter and a makeshift gazebo were used. I'm not a complete imbecile just a half'a one!)

Plugged it in and it starts whirring away just as it should! Great! I thought... Then came the dreaded error message:

You need to format the disk in drive F: before you can use it. Do you want to format it? [Format disk] [Cancel]

Of course if i format the drive I will lose everything on it. So that's not an option. And just to be clear the hard drive itself can do one once I get the data back. I just need it to open a folder in my computer so I can grab the contents copy it to my desktop or somewhere and then take a rocket launcher to the hard drive Sad I have also checked in disk management and the hard drive is not being read there either.

One of the forums I visited said to use the sea gate data recovery tool to get it back and the guy posting was very confident about its usefulness. So i gave it a try. I downloaded the program and ran it. Which prompted me to burn an image file to a disc. Then instructed me to start the computer with the disc in it. Which brings me to the latest issue. I can't boot from the disc. My computer just won't recognise the disc. Did I burn it wrong?

So in summary I guess my question is. How do I burn the disc properly in order to boot the recovery software I've downloaded? OR do you know any other ways I can access the data on the drive with out formatting it? By the way I rang a recovery specialist who said they'd want £120 just to clean it then a £40 to diagnose it then parts and labour on top and after all that there's no guarantee of actually recovering any data -.-

Any help at all will be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance,

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What about Linux.

Make a Linux DVD or USB stick and use that to access the drive. No installing needed.

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Could you explain further? I have no idea what you mean.

(Sorry noob here!)


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I don't.
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Thanks but,

You only use what to clone it?

I understand I need to to clone the data in order to preserve it so that I can continue to try different methods of data recovery but how would I go about that?

I take it the link you provided is for software that does the same as the software I DL'ed?

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I only use the old HDD to make copies of the old HDD.

There are so many nice clone apps that I never point to just one.

As to the link I provided it provides many recovery apps. Only those that do this the first time think one app will recover them all (Tolkien?)

Since you opened the drive, it's your last chance to get copies of it before it self destructs. There is plenty about that so I move quickly past stuff on the web to get to work.

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Nice reference (and point taken!)

So just to clarify.

You suggest I, above all else, hurry up, but I should download the clone apps you provided links for one by one. Seeing what data they manage to recover if any.

Better get to it I guess!

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The clone apps do not recover data.

I use the clone app to make a copy so I have copies to work with over and over.

This may sound awful but in medical school we operate on cadavers since we are just starting out and don't want to practice on live subjects.

Same here. We clone the HDD to say 2 drives. Now we are safe and can make a copy over and over from the good clone copy. The 2nd clone copy is what we can operate those recovery apps on.

Now there are folk that think this is expensive but data recovery companies run hundreds to thousands of bucks so to me this is a bargain. I picked up a pair of 2TB USB 3.0 HDDs for 75 bucks each. STEAL!

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Right following now!

Ok so after I use the cloning apps to make clones. Which recovery apps should I use to perform the surgery? I just tried using sea tools for dos (it's a sea gate product) in a dummy run but found out it's not for external drives, so then downloaded sea tools for Windows but that doesn't recognise the drive as being plugged in. After a scan it on,y finds the main internal hard drive Sad. So hopefully a different software will read it. But which?

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Sea who?
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Let's talk about "reading"

The usual recovery software does not "read" the drive. It recovers files, folders and the best of them never write back to the drive so we can keep recovering files.

Remember I don't substitute as a tutorial on use of Jane's Data Recovery Pro (an app) but am more of a guide to safe recovery methods.

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Well your certainly doing a good job of pointing me in the right direction so far! Just tried 2 of the ones listed in he link and neither could scan the drive because they couldn't find it. Remember the drive isn't showing up in 'my computer' or disk management. Surely that means I'm screwed from the get go right? None of the clone apps are finding the drive either. It's strange thought because the computer knows it's there since it asks me to format it every time I plug it in.

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For most recovery

The drive must show up in Device Manager. If not it's very far gone.

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Seems the goalposts have changed.


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(NT) What goalposts?
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I meant...

the drive not showing up. I was thinking failed head and maybe data recovery firms.

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Just to clarify

The problematic drive
ISN'T showing up in my computer
ISN'T showing up in disk management
ISN'T showing up in any software I try
BUT IT IS showing up in device manager
(And according to that it's working properly)

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That's pretty bad.

The no-show in disk management is troubling but a badly blown table could cause that. Since it's showing in device manager all that one can do is clone it and try apps and other OSes to see what can be salvaged.

If nothing then it's up to companies like

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It's now showing in disk management but showing as unreadable.

I'll try a few more recovery programs tomorrow thanks for all your help guys I do appreciate it. I'll keep ya posted whether I get it working or decide to take sledge to it.

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Ok so I just checked and it is there in the device manager. Shows up no problem when I plug it in. So why would it not be showing up in the software? Out of the 3 I've tried I really like the UI of RECUVA looks pretty simple to use, any idea how I can get the 2 to communicate?

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Re: formatting

My guess is that - if you say OK to the formatting request - you'll get an error message quite soon. But don't try it before making those first 2 clones.


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Please don't try any of the stuff!!!!

To anyone else out here reading this, every single thing that's been suggested on this thread is the exact opposite of what you should do.

1. Don't ever open a hard drive outside of a clean room unless you have no intention of getting the data back ever. The moment this was done your realistic chance of data recovery went from 75% down to about 10%.
2. After any hardware repairs (like freeing up heads) the drive needs to be immediately imaged. This should be done on a hardware imaging tool like PC-3000 or DeepSpar Disk Imager. At the very least (if you're just a DIY hack) use ddrescue in Linux.
3. No data recovery software (or any other software for that matter) should ever be run against a failing drive. Only the image of the drive after you've obtained it as per #2 above.

We see cases here every week where what would have been an easy recovery and would only cost $300-500 has been made impossible by people who followed the type of bad advice found on this thread.

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Strange. I re-read the above

And no one advised to open the drive up. Maybe I missed it.

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I was more so referring to the advice the OP mentions about running SeaTools on a drive that he had opened, and the obvious Youtube video he watched to get the idea of opening the drive to free up the heads himself. I wasn't so much referring to the responses on this thread as much as the bad advice he already followed.

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Here's what you wrote.

" every single thing that's been suggested on this thread is the exact opposite of what you should do."

It's there. I see great advice here, all following the safest course of action to clone and work on the clones,

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that is the problem

I thought the same as you. maybe he did not know what a clone was Happy

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(NT) Jared, do you need help with cloning drives?
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I see in your profile you run a data recovery service. The OP opened the drive of his own volition. I see no bad advice here, the methods suggested might save a visit to an expensive shop counter.

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Re: hard drive

If the hard drive, after your treatment, isn't recognised in Windows disk management, nor in the Seagate tool, this case is moving in the direction of being hopeless. I'd start looking for a datarecovery company. It won't be free, as you already noticed.

One of our maxims "You only lose what you didn't backup." might be applicable here. How do you backup your current PC/laptop/tablet/phone?


Post was last edited on November 9, 2015 12:59 PM PST

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Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

This hard drive is from way back when. So yeah I was foolish in my teens and never felt a burning desire to be sensible and back up my stuff. Now I use iCloud. Not the best I realise but it's sufficient for my use.

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