Save A Dead Hard Drive By Sticking It In The Freezer

From the “I would never think to try that” box, I read an interesting post regarding a tip to recover data from a failed hard drive. In some cases, wrapping the drive in freezer bags followed by placing it in the freezer for 12 hours will buy you some life on the drive. You can repeat the process as many times as needed to attempt to recover your data.

Hard drives work sort of like old records, except rather than one record and needle, hard drives have several small platters spinning really fast that are accessed by a read/write head. In theory, I believe, this would work with hard drives with slightly warped platters; unfrozen, your busted drive is grinding the head against the platters as a result. By freezing the hard drive, you’re hopefully shrinking the platters enough that they’re no longer rubbing up against the head—temporarily, at least.

Of course, this is not guaranteed to work, but if you find yourself in a bind (i.e. without a backup) it is worth a try. Hopefully, I will not ever have to try this, but if any of our readers have, how did it work out?


  1. I have tried this freezing of the hard drive several times… and once it did work long enough to get some of the files off of it. So I would say it probably works about 10% of the time. Well worth a try for sure!

  2. I was stuck with a faulty HDD a couple of years ago. Someone (tongue in cheekily) suggested I try this, which I had heard of before.

    I figured that as the HDD was already fried, then I had nothing to lose, so in the freezer it went.

    A couple of hours later I hooked it back up and managed to back up all my data onto an external drive before finally binning ithe frozen one.

    What’s the worst that can happen?

  3. Aaron Fournier says:

    I got to really try this! I had a hard drive fail on me about a couple years ago that had information I hated to lose. For some reason I held on to it in case there was ever a way to get the data off of it. If I ever try it, I’ll report back.

  4. Will Joerger says:

    I work in the IT field and I have done this numerous times and have worked most of the time. It is always a fun joke when I tell my clients what I am going to do.

  5. Wolfheart says:

    I am trying the freezer..Nothing to lose…

  6. I highly recommend against this unless the hard drive has been in a VERY dry environment. Any moisture inside can crystallize, and well, we all know how titanic went, try that at about 90 times a second.

  7. Does this work on hard drives that are physically damaged? I knocked my external hardrive off my desk a while ago and despite the fact that it fell on a blanket, it doesn’t work now. I’ve tried plugging it into a few different computers, the blue LED lights up but the computer detects nothing. I’ve tried different cables too. I heard that you need to move the data as quick as possible as it will stop working as it heats up, just say you don’t retrieve all the data at once, would repeating the freezer method work again?

  8. Did it to a laptop two years ago.
    Got every bit of data off that pup before it died.
    Still makes me smile, thinking about it.

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