Are broken hard drives worth anything?

Broken or damaged hard drives are a common problem for many computer users. When a hard drive stops working properly, people often assume it has no value and simply throw it away. However, there are several options for obtaining value from a broken hard drive. Depending on the type and extent of damage, broken hard drives can be sold for parts harvesting, metals reclamation, or even intact drive recycling. There is an entire industry focused on reselling, recycling, and reusing the components and materials from damaged electronics. With the right approach, that broken hard drive sitting in a drawer or closet can still be turned into money.

Why Hard Drives Break

There are several common causes of hard drive failure that can result in a broken hard drive.

Physical damage is one of the most common reasons hard drives fail. Dropping a hard drive, excessive vibration, or shock can damage the internal components and make the data inaccessible (Source). The platters, read/write heads, motor, or other parts can become damaged and prevent the hard drive from spinning up.

Firmware corruption is another issue that can cause errors and make data recovery impossible. The firmware controls the functionality of the hard drive. If it becomes corrupted from a power surge or improper shut down, the drive may not boot properly (Source).

Electrical issues like power surges, unstable power supply, or static electricity can damage the circuitry in a hard drive. This can make the drive unresponsive and result in mechanical issues over time (Source).

Data Recovery

If the hard drive contains important data that needs to be recovered, there are professional data recovery services that may be able to retrieve the data. However, these services can be expensive. According to Hard Drive Recovery Group, depending on the severity of the issue, recovering a hard drive can cost anywhere from $99 to $20001. This is a common range for most data recovery companies. Provendata notes that basic hard drive data recovery costs average between $100 and $700, based on factors like the drive’s condition and the type of data being recovered2. 300 Dollar Data Recovery states that other companies charge around $1 per GB, so a 10TB drive could cost $10,000 for recovery. In contrast, their service charges a flat $500 for a successfully recovered 10TB drive3.

When evaluating professional data recovery options, it’s important to research the company’s reputation, capabilities, and pricing structure. While expensive, these services may retrieve irreplaceable data from a broken hard drive.

Parts Harvesting

One option for broken hard drives is salvaging working components that can be reused or resold. The most valuable parts tend to be the platters, controller board, logic board, and motors [1]. Hard drive platters in particular can be carefully removed and sold online or to recycling companies, with prices ranging from $5-20 each depending on size and density [2]. The actuator arms, spindle, chips, and connectors may also be salvageable if undamaged.

When harvesting parts, proper safety precautions should be taken to avoid injury from the sensitive internal components. The process requires specialized tools and skills, so is best left to experienced IT asset disposition professionals. Nonetheless, selling functioning drive components can offset some of the cost of replacing faulty drives.

Precious Metals

Hard drives contain small amounts of precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, and palladium that can potentially be extracted and recycled (Concept Management, 2022). While the quantities are small, there are some recycling companies that specialize in extracting these metals from computer components like circuit boards and hard drives (Aware Finers, 2022). The gold on circuit boards is typically found in the gold-plated contacts and connectors. Silver is also used in some of the solder and connections. Platinum and palladium are used in the platters inside hard drives.

The feasibility of extracting these metals depends on the costs involved and the total quantities that can be accumulated. For an individual consumer with just a few broken hard drives, it is probably not worthwhile trying to extract the precious metals. However, recycling companies that work in bulk can extract accumulations of these metals at a larger scale to make it cost-effective.

Sell As-Is

One option for non-working hard drives is to sell them as-is on online marketplaces. Sites like eBay and Craigslist allow sellers to list non-functional items that buyers may still find value in. When listing a broken hard drive on these platforms, it’s important to disclose exactly what is wrong with the drive and make clear that it is being sold for parts or repair only. Photos of the damaged drive can help manage buyer expectations. There is demand on eBay for cheap, used drives to harvest for parts or data recovery [1]. Buyers on Craigslist may also be willing to purchase broken drives for DIY repairs or projects. The price for a non-working drive will generally be a fraction of the cost of a functional used drive, but selling as-is still allows the seller to recover some value.

Trade-In Programs

Many electronics manufacturers and retailers offer trade-in or buyback programs where you can get cash or store credit for your old hard drives. Some examples include:

GameStop – Offers trade-in value for used hard drives and storage devices. For example, an external 2TB Seagate Game Drive currently offers up to $9 cash or $11.50 store credit.

Microsoft also offers Xbox 360 hard drive trade-ins at GameStop, with 250GB drives getting around $6.30 cash or $9 store credit.

Check with electronics retailers that sell hard drives to see if they have a trade-in program. The value will depend on the make, model, capacity, and condition of the drive. More recent, higher capacity drives in good condition will get the most trade-in value.

Trading in your old drive is convenient and lets you quickly get some cash or credit towards a new purchase. Just make sure to wipe your drive first to protect your data!

Recycle for Cash

Hard drives contain metals and plastics that can be recycled for cash at scrap yards. The most valuable metals found in hard drives are aluminum, gold, platinum, and palladium. Aluminum makes up the casing and accounts for about 70% of a hard drive’s weight. Gold, platinum, and palladium are used in the circuitry and recording heads. Plastics from the casing and circuit boards can also be recycled.

Scrap yards pay for hard drives by the pound. Prices fluctuate daily based on market rates for scrap metal and plastic. According to Cable Management USA, as of January 2023, scrap yards pay around $0.65 per pound for low and mid-grade circuit boards from electronics.

To get cash for your broken hard drives, remove any readily accessible screws and case panels to cut down the weight before taking them to a certified e-waste recycling facility. Call around to get current rates as prices vary significantly by location and change daily with commodity markets.


Many charities accept donations of old electronics, including broken hard drives. This allows the components to be harvested for reuse or the precious metals to be recycled responsibly. Some popular electronics donation charities include:

Goodwill accepts donations of electronics at many of their retail locations. They evaluate items for reuse or responsible recycling. Visit to find a local donation center.

World Computer Exchange refurbishes donated computers and distributes them to schools, libraries, and nonprofits in developing countries to bridge the digital divide. Find out more at

Computers with Causes will rebuild or recycle your donated equipment, keeping toxic materials out of landfills. Their certified data destruction ensures your information stays secure. Get more details at

Donating broken hard drives and electronics to reputable charities can give your old devices new life. Just make sure to erase personal data first.


In summary, broken hard drives often still have value even though they no longer fully function. Data recovery services may be able to retrieve data off the drive, which can be invaluable if important files are stored on it. Many parts inside a hard drive like the platters, PCB, and magnets can be harvested and sold to repair shops. Precious metals like gold and platinum are used in hard drive production and can be extracted through recycling. Selling the drive as-is, trading it in, or recycling it can provide monetary return. Even donating a broken drive to charity or computer refurbishing organizations can give the device renewed purpose. So before throwing out a broken hard drive, explore the options – you may be surprised at what it’s still worth.