Can Freezing a Hard Drive Aid Data Recovery?

There are so many data recovery myths out there, and far from actually aiding with data recovery, many of them can render your data lost forever. The “freezer trick” is one of them.

A quick browse on the internet for phrases like “free data recovery” and “home data recovery” will quickly bring up hundreds of results, and much of the advice you will read will, at best, leave your hard drive or other storage media undamaged and ready for a data recovery specialist to work on it. Alternatively, the advice might lead to your hard drive being nothing more than a collection of parts, with no recoverable data. It’s totally understandable that you might want to try and repair your hard drive or other storage media at home before you pay out money to a professional data recovery expert, but in most circumstances, we’d advise against DIY data recovery. In particular, one

One of the most common data recovery myths out there is that freezing your hard drive can aid in the recovery process. This has its origins in the early days of computing, and back then, it often did work; but now, freezing a hard drive will likely make the problem worse. Older hard drives would sometimes suffer from stiction, where the drive platters would become stuck due to lack of lubrication, meaning data couldn’t be read. The freezer trick involved placing the hard drive into a plastic bag, and placing into the freezer for several hours. The cold temperature would then constrict the metal and free the disks, so the hard drive could then be powered up and the data quickly copied to another device before stiction took effect again. However, modern hard drives use off-platter parking technology which pretty much prevents stiction from occurring. With more common physical hard drive faults like head crashes and spindle motor failures, freezing a hard drive isn’t going to help; in fact, there’s a risk that moisture could get into the chassis, making data recovery by a professional much more difficult.

One potential side effect of the freezer trick is corrosion, which occurs when water vapour within the hard drive freezes and transforms into ice crystals. Upon thawing, these ice crystals will melt and could damage the hard drive’s internal components. And if a hard drive is powered up before the ice has thawed, further damage could occur. Because modern hard drives use platters that hover a few nanometres above the platters, any ice crystals remaining are likely to cause a head crash, risking the likelihood of your data being lost forever.

In short – don’t put your hard drive in the freezer if you want any chance of a successful data recovery!

Data Recovery