How do I fix a crashed laptop hard drive?

A crashed laptop hard drive can be very frustrating. Your laptop won’t boot up, you can’t access any of your files, and your whole digital life seems lost. But don’t panic! There are several things you can try to recover data from and potentially fix a crashed laptop hard drive.

What Causes a Laptop Hard Drive to Crash?

There are a few common causes of a crashed laptop hard drive:

  • Physical damage – Dropping your laptop, spilling liquid on it, or exposing it to extreme heat can physically damage the hard drive and cause it to crash.
  • Logical damage – Corruption in the file system, corrupted system files, or malware/viruses can damage the logical structure of the hard drive and make data inaccessible.
  • Mechanical failure – Over time, physical components inside the hard drive like the read/write heads can fail and prevent the drive from working properly.
  • Electrical failure – Power surges, electrical shorts, or component failures on the hard drive’s circuit board can cause electrical issues.

How to Diagnose a Crashed Hard Drive

Before attempting to fix a crashed laptop hard drive, it’s important to properly diagnose the problem:

  • Does the laptop turn on at all? If not, the issue may not be the hard drive.
  • Do you hear unusual noises like clicking or grinding sounds from the hard drive? This indicates a mechanical failure.
  • Does the laptop boot to the BIOS/UEFI screen but not the operating system? This points to a software/logical failure.
  • Does the hard drive show up in the BIOS settings? If not, there is likely a hardware/connection issue.
  • Try removing the hard drive and connecting it to another computer with a SATA adapter. Does the other computer recognize the drive? If not, there is probably a serious hardware problem.

Taking the time to correctly diagnose the issue will give you a better idea of the type of crashed hard drive problem you’re dealing with and help determine the best recovery method.

How to Fix a Logically Damaged Hard Drive

If your diagnostic steps indicate the drive has logical/software corruption rather than physical damage, here are some steps you can take to try to fix it:

  1. Try a different SATA cable – Use a known-good cable to make sure that isn’t the problem.
  2. Reseat the hard drive – Remove and reinsert the drive to reestablish a good connection.
  3. Check hard drive in external enclosure – Connect the drive externally to isolate the issue from the laptop.
  4. Run CHKDSK – This built-in Windows utility finds and repairs logical file system errors.
  5. Try data recovery software – Programs like Recuva may be able to restore corrupted files.
  6. Format hard drive – As a last resort, completely reformatting may fix software corruption.

Formatting the drive will wipe all data, so try other options first. If the drive has bad sectors, it may fail formatting too.

Physical Hard Drive Recovery Techniques

If you believe the hard drive has physical damage, here are some things you can try:

  • Data recovery service – Professionals have specialized tools to repair drives and recover data.
  • Swap circuit board – If the circuit board is damaged, replacing it with one from an identical donor drive can work.
  • Freezer trick – Some have luck “freezing” a drive for a few hours then quickly connecting it to copy files.
  • DIY disassembly – Carefully taking apart the drive in a dust-free environment and repairing components like the heads. Very difficult and not recommended.

With physical data recovery methods, it’s important not to further damage the drive. Don’t continue using it if you hear odd noises for example. Seek professional help for the best chance of recovery.

Preventing Hard Drive Failure

While hard drives can unexpectedly fail at any time, there are things you can do to help prevent crashes:

  • Handle laptop carefully – Avoid bumps, drops, liquids. Use a padded case when travelling.
  • Allow drive to rest – Don’t move laptop when drive is active.
  • Eject drives properly – Always use “Safely Remove Hardware” function before disconnecting external drives.
  • Keep laptop cool – Use a cooling pad, make sure vents aren’t blocked.
  • Update drivers & run maintenance – Keep Windows and other software updated and perform regular disk cleanup.
  • Monitor S.M.A.R.T. status – Use a utility to check drive health parameters like reallocated sectors.
  • Backup data – Maintain backups so drive failure isn’t catastrophic.

While you can’t prevent every crashed drive, following best practices will minimize the chances of failure.

Recovering Data from a Crashed Hard Drive

If your attempts to fix the crashed drive are unsuccessful, the most important thing is recovering your important personal data from it. Here are some options:

  • Try data recovery software – Programs like Stellar Data Recovery have tools to extract data from failing drives.
  • Remove drive and use adapter – Connect the drive externally to another PC using a SATA adapter or enclosure.
  • Professional data recovery – For very critical data, specialized companies can physically repair drives in cleanrooms to get data off.
  • Check backup files – Retrieve data from any existing backups you have on other devices or the cloud.

Prioritize recovering personal files like documents, photos, video, music, emails, and financial information. The operating system and programs can be reinstalled if needed.

Choosing a Data Recovery Service

If you decide to use a professional data recovery service, look for:

  • Reputable company with positive reviews and experienced technicians.
  • No upfront fees – Costs quoted after evaluating the drive.
  • Class ISO 4 cleanroom facilities.
  • High recovery success rates.
  • All storage media types supported.
  • Secure handling processes to protect your privacy.

Prices can vary greatly depending on the severity of drive damage and how much data needs to be recovered. Expect anywhere from $300 to $3000+ for professional services.

Replacing a Dead Hard Drive

Once you’ve exhausted your options trying to revive or recover data from the crashed drive, it will likely need to be replaced. Here’s an overview of the laptop hard drive replacement process:

  1. Select replacement drive – Match specs of old drive like form factor, size, connector type, speed.
  2. Create recovery media – Use another computer to create a bootable OS install USB or DVD.
  3. Install new drive – Refer to service manual for steps to physically replace failed drive with new one.
  4. Load operating system – Boot from the recovery media you made to install system software on empty new drive.
  5. Restore data – Transfer restored data from the crashed drive onto the replacement.

For those uncomfortable with opening up a laptop, local repair shops can replace a hard drive affordably. Also consider an upgrade to a faster solid state drive for improved performance and reliability.


While a crashed laptop hard drive can seem like a catastrophe, there are many things you can try on your own to get it working again or recover important data from it. Always make backups of critical files as prevention. With patience and the right tools, you have a good chance of reviving or replacing the drive and getting your laptop back up and running again.