How to revive a dead hard drive

If you are one of a numerous victims of MacBook and MacBook Pro hard drive failures, there is a glimpse of hope that you can still have your data recovered. It involves removing the hard drive from its enclosure, from the computer in this case.

Removing the hard drive from a MacBook is a breeze, it takes good part of a few minutes.  However, MacBook Pro owners will need some bravery, surgical precision and, of course, lots of time. Be aware that opening the MacBook Pro will definitely void your warranty.

Sometimes the drive heads get stuck in a parking bay and consequently your hard drive fails to read or boot. There is no clear indication that would help distinguish between this and the genuinely dead hard drive, but since it’s not working anyway, you can still give it a try. Often this fixes the issue.

Remove the hard drive from your computer and hold it on the palm of one hand. Give it one flat-handed brisk slap on the top of the drive. Just one. Then place it back into your computer and see if it worked.

If it’s still dead then it’s bad news. If it works – you have a decision to make; leave it as it is, and continue with your life like nothing ever happened, or get the data off the drive as soon as possible and get a replacement drive. It’s really up to you.

You’ve also learned about the benefits of backing up, so go on and get that external drive, they’re cheap as chips now, and back-up, back-up, back-up …

12 thoughts on “How to revive a dead hard drive

  1. Amen to backing up – its so easy now days to do it especially with the addition of time machine to all apples. And removable hard drives being extremely cheap.

  2. Great advice. A future post with pics on how to remove the hard drive and replace it would be helpful to those of us who are a little intimidated to do so on our own.

  3. An “oldie-but-goodie” trick to “dead” hard drives: Take the drive and put it in a plastic ziplock, trying to get as much as out of it as possible. Put it in the freezer for about an hour. Take it out, hook it up, and you should have a working hard drive for about 30-45 minutes… long enough typically to get your data off of it. I have never seen a hard drive (that wasn’t physically damaged) NOT boot up using this method.

  4. My iMac G5 is not doing well. A couple of days ago, when I turned on, the only thing I got was the welcome sound….and dark screen (as if the computer was still off)…after a while the fan started spinning like there’s no tomorrow. OK, my questions are: 1. is it a hard drive or 2. did the monitor went bad? The iMac is about 4 years old. I will appreciate any input/ideas. Thanks

  5. Hey Ivo,

    Well if it were the hard drive you would be getting the blinking question mark with folder when booting your computer. Have you installed any third party RAM lately?

    If you think it’s the hard drive then you might want to check this article:
    http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1417

    You might also want to try this other article that explains how to reset the PRAM and the VRAM on your iMac just in case something is wrong there:
    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1379

    Lastly but not least you should try this if the above haven’t resolved anything:
    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1767

    If after all those steps you are still having the same problem, then you might want to boot from your install DVD and check the hard drive using Disk Utility.

    Good luck on this and hope your Mac works well again!

  6. ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION to freeing up your parked heads or non spinning drive.

    You might be able to save yourself some concern about warranty and some time if you try the following to free up a parked head or a non spinning drive.

    Turn off your Mac.
    Close the lid.
    Hold the mac with the Apple logo facing up, with both hands, each at kitty corner to the other. (one at back left and the other at front right.
    To help you do this more correctly, hold the Mac above your head looking up at it.
    What you need to do is quickly turn the Mac clockwise and then snap it back going counter clockwise.
    So carefully, but quickly turn it, as if to snap it using a spinning motion above your head and then back again.
    You don’t want to bend the Mac case in any way or drop it, so be careful, because as with anything your doing this at your own risk and expense!

  7. I have to say…. I just had the internal hard drive fail in my macbook pro mid-2010 model. For a blink, I panicked. Then I realized that I had been keeping my SuperDuper running and scheduled it to duplicate my hard drive in real time. I reconnected the external and restarted the computer and VOILA…. it booted right from the external and I only lost a days work while I had the laptop out with me. Now, in 25 years of hard drives, this is my first failure, but I have witnessed a lot of failures (usually on PC’s) lately. I say there is something wrong with where technology has gone today because hard drives really should not fail so easily as this. 5 more years and we will wonder why we ever bothered with big clunky hard drives. Super Duper I think was pretty cheap and has turned out to be a real life saver. The other options do not seem to actually duplicate the drive, but back up the drive instead. I like that I was able to plug in the cloned drive and just restart and keep right on working. When I get the internal drive (under warranty – it’s only a few months old) replaced, I can just super duper clone the external back onto the new internal.

  8. I just had my MacBook pro 15″ mid 2010 model hdd also fail on me. It will boot up, start a clicking sound as soon as osx loads and lag up, initially I was able to access disk utility before the clicking started and then the clicking began, shorty after my hdd disappeared from the list of drives. I don’t think I need to asked but am I screwed?

  9. Check that. Found my snow leopard disk booted up got disk utility open and repaired disk, found some errors which got fixed. Restarted. Booted up. No more clicking or lagging. Time to get out the good old external. This will teach me to neglect back ups. *wipes sweat off brow while knocking on wood*

  10. @kd thank you! The method of quickly jerking the laptop using a clockwise to counterclockwise motion worked perfectly on the first try. It fixed the flashing question mark folder.

  11. @kd – double thanks! Also tried the laptop spin and it worked! Much thanks! Try this one first folks – you only risk looking weird….unless of course you drop it.

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