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Freezing a Broken Hard Drive Can Make it Work Long Enough to Retrieve Data

Geek Tip: Freezing Your Hard Drive Is Mythbuster Approved!

After a bit of a panic with a seemingly dead hard drive recently, my brother-in-law suggested something I long thought was an urban legend — freezing my hard drive. Yes, he was suggesting I literally put my hard drive into the freezer, next to the frozen bananas and emergency vodka, in hopes that it would come back to life. I was just about to try this trick when my hard drive came back — no cryogenics necessary.

However, I didn't give up on the frozen hard drive theory like that; I went to my favorite urban legend dispellers that I knew I could trust: The Mythbusters! And, of course, they had an answer: Yes, it does work!

How does it work? Just

to see the answer.

Sticking your hard drive in the freezer for a while shrinks the overheated, overexpanded metal parts back into place (you'll know that's the problem if you hear a clicking noise) long enough for you to retrieve your data.

If you want to try this yourself, put the part inside a sealed Ziploc bag and let it sit in there for at least an hour (there are Internet accounts of going for 24 hours to a month, though). What's important to know is that this is your last resort, and that it will only work temporarily. So that means once you've done it, reinstall it, get all the files off and backed up, and then buy yourself a new hard drive.


Join The Conversation
emmjay71 emmjay71 6 years
just tried this like a damn fool, on my WD 500Gb broken, useless hard drive, this is the third HDD that just died with less than a full years use.I don't know who came up with sticking a HDD in the freezer but you're stupid and I guess that makes me just as dumb for trying it. what a loser.
Pegona Pegona 8 years
I tried it several months ago when my external hard drive died (after some clicking). It didn't work, but I'm still a believer!
pennypav pennypav 8 years
I will store that info away on my head drive....
Calimie Calimie 8 years
Mythbusters is wonderful.
Segat1 Segat1 8 years
Cryogenically? Carcogenically = cancerous!
justanerd1975 justanerd1975 8 years
he's going to get carcogenically frozen when he dies....nvr mind lol
justanerd1975 justanerd1975 8 years
so does this mean Michael Jackson will come back to life after they unfreeze him, but only temporarily? lol
vitisva vitisva 8 years
helpful info since my personal computer went down a few days ago
macgirl macgirl 8 years
We use this in our repair shop occasionally. It generally only works on drives that start to work but then fail after a few minutes (basically they fail after they heat up). We don't put them in the freezer we put a ice pack on top of it in an open drive sled with a bunch of plastic bags to keep the condensation at bay. You generally have to be pretty quick about getting your data off as it doesn't always last very long.
Liz4aker Liz4aker 8 years
Wow I will have to remember this for the future. I love mythbusters and this just makes me happier.
Jyramiah Jyramiah 8 years
hkmarks - That's why you put it in the baggy. It really shouldn't be hot enough to fog it up and then condense. If it is, you may need a professional.
ladychaos ladychaos 8 years
Darnit! I lost ALL of my files, music, software from a harddrive crash 2 months ago...if I only knew what I know now, then.
aistea311 aistea311 8 years
Wow, this is so cool (no pun intended)! I have such OCD about my hard drive.
hkmarks hkmarks 8 years
One potential problem is condensation of water on the cold components. I wouldn't try it on a muggy day...
neonjelly neonjelly 8 years
wow, i always thought it was an urban myth. glad to know it works.
Britney-Kayla Britney-Kayla 8 years
Heh, I was so excited I didn't get to read how it does it.
Britney-Kayla Britney-Kayla 8 years
@eicmarie, I'm sorry :(
Britney-Kayla Britney-Kayla 8 years
It really works???!?! Let me go look for my dead hard drive right now! I wonder how freezing your drive brings it back to life?
nitallica nitallica 8 years
My husband is an IT manager and has been using this technique for years. It's saved me tons of frustration and potential temper-tantrums when previous harddrives have acted up on me! :)
BuchaBaby BuchaBaby 8 years
Hm geeky but really a handy tip ;)
chicobo chicobo 8 years
I've been doing this for 10 years and it's hit or miss. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't but it's definitely worth a try! My bf scoffed at me when I told him to do this. I'm glad Mythbusters has my back.
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