Save your data from a soaked hard drive…

It goes without saying that water and electronics don’t mix! With all the recent floods, we have seen an increase in data recovery enquiries whereby client’s hard drives have been soaked. Floods are not only to blame, often it might simply be a split drink that causes the failure. Thankfully, rarely is it disastrous and critical files can normally be saved – but what should the user do?

Well the answer to that question depends on how wet the hard drive actually is. Regardless, users should power down the drive and leave it somewhere to dry. If the drive has been absolutely soaked, chances are that moisture will have penetrated the breather hole and it’s never going to dry unless the chassis is opened. Only a specialist should attempt this. When we say power down, this means pull the power cord completely. The last thing a user should do is go through the shutdown process. If your device doesn’t have a battery, ideally pull the power lead or switch off from the mains. If it has a battery, pull this straight away. Resist the urge to check if it still works.

Once you have isolated the hard drive, delicately towel dry any surface water or moisture. Be careful not to damage the electronics and don’t touch any circuitry. Preferably let the hard drive dry naturally. If you have the time, avoid using hair dryers due to the electrical charge they can attract and severe heat. Desktop fans are much more suitable. Even when you think it is dry, there is likely to be latent moisture within the device.

Desiccant materials such as uncooked rice or better still, silica gel packs absorb moisture. Place your hard drive in an airtight container and cover it with material to absorb the moisture, being careful not to get any debris into the breather hole. How long should it be left like this though? Well there is no right answer, but ideally as long as possible but at least 48 hours.

Some users advocate freezing hard drives to reduce the conductivity of the water. Remember that your hard drive is a mechanical instrument and if the moisture freezes the moving parts, you are likely to cause a major crash!

Once you have attempted to dry out the hard drive and are ready to test it, be very careful. As you power it up, if there is any unusual signs such as clicking, crashing or screeching – immediately pull the power. You certainly do not want to cause any further damage!