How do I fix an unresponsive Seagate hard drive?

What Causes a Seagate Hard Drive to Become Unresponsive?

There are several potential causes for a Seagate hard drive to stop responding:

Physical damage to the drive enclosure or internal components can lead to the drive becoming undetected by your computer. Dropping or jostling the drive while powered on causes the read/write heads to get thrown off track and damage the platters. Opening up a Seagate portable drive voids the warranty, so attempt repairs at your own risk.

Corrupted system files, firmware problems, or driver conflicts could prevent proper communication between the drive and computer. Trying a different USB port, cable, or PC could isolate the issue. Resetting the drive and updating Seagate Dashboard may resolve firmware problems according to Seagate’s troubleshooting guide.

Electronic components like the controller board, motor, or PCB can fail over time and make a drive unresponsive. If the drive isn’t detected at all, this likely indicates an electronic failure. Data recovery services can sometimes swap these parts to regain limited functionality.

Excessive heat degrades drive components and could lead to bad sectors or read/write head issues. Ensure proper ventilation and do not stack drives as heat buildup causes failure over time. The optimal operating temperature for a Seagate drive is between 10°C and 45°C.

Bad sectors, failed read/write heads, and physical damage to the platters can make portions of the drive inaccessible. The drive may seem to randomly disappear when accessing affected areas. Running SeaTools diagnostics can identify these types of problems.

First Steps for Troubleshooting

Here are the first things you should try if your Seagate external hard drive is not responding:

  • Try using a different USB cable – faulty cables are often the cause of connectivity issues (
  • Plug the drive into another USB port on your computer. Try different ports as some may not provide enough power.
  • Try plugging into a different power outlet if using an externally powered drive. An inconsistent power supply can cause problems.
  • Plug the drive into another computer to see if it works. This helps determine if the issue is with the drive or your computer.
  • Check Disk Management to see if the drive shows up there. This can reveal errors or issues with drive recognition.
  • Update your USB drivers, motherboard drivers, and Seagate software/firmware. Outdated drivers can prevent proper communication (
  • Try formatting the drive to repair any file system errors. This will erase all data, so backup first.

These basic steps should resolve most simple connectivity issues with an unresponsive drive. If the drive still does not work, more advanced troubleshooting may be needed.

Using Data Recovery Software

If the files and data on your Seagate drive are most important, it’s recommended to try data recovery software before attempting any fixes that could potentially overwrite your data. Software like Recoverit is designed to deeply scan drives and restore as much data as possible.

Data recovery software can recover photos, documents, videos, and other file types from Seagate drives that have become unresponsive or inaccessible. The software scans the drive sector-by-sector to find and assemble lost file fragments. It’s important to recover your critical files using data recovery software before trying fixes like formatting that could overwrite your original data.

Recoverit and similar programs provide an easy way to restore your files from an unresponsive Seagate drive. Just connect the drive, scan, preview files, and recover. Using data recovery software early in the troubleshooting process gives you the best chance of recovering your important data before attempting any repairs on the drive.

Running CHKDSK and S.M.A.R.T. Tests

Two common utilities for diagnosing hard drive issues are CHKDSK and S.M.A.R.T. tests. CHKDSK is a built-in Windows tool that scans your drive for errors and bad sectors. To run it, open the Command Prompt as an administrator and type “chkdsk C: /f” (replace C: with your drive letter if needed). CHKDSK will scan and attempt to repair any file system errors it finds (Source).

S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) checks your hard drive’s built-in diagnostics and monitors attributes like temperature and performance. To run a S.M.A.R.T. test, you can use the Windows included tools or a third party utility. In Disk Management, right-click your disk and choose “Properties”, then click “Tools” to access S.M.A.R.T options. Review the test results – a failing drive may show prefail/old age status or high error count (Source).

Running both CHKDSK and S.M.A.R.T. provides a comprehensive check of your drive’s health. If issues are detected, it’s a sign your hard drive may be failing and repairs or replacement may be required.

Fixing Partition and File System Issues

Sometimes an unresponsive Seagate hard drive is caused by corruption in the partition table or file system. This can prevent Windows from detecting or interacting with the drive properly. There are a few things you can try to fix these issues:

Repair the Master Boot Record (MBR) – The MBR contains information about the partitions on the drive. If this gets corrupted, the drive may not mount correctly. You can use the ‘bootrec’ tool in the Windows Recovery Environment to rebuild the MBR. See this guide for steps.

Rebuild the partition table – Sometimes the partition table can become corrupted, causing partitions to go “missing”. Software like AOMEI Partition Assistant can scan the drive and rebuild the partition table to restore access to the partitions.

Convert to a compatible file system – If the drive’s file system is corrupted, converting it to something compatible like FAT32 or NTFS using Windows Disk Management may resolve issues. Just be aware this will erase existing data.

Formatting the drive may be required to fix filesystem issues, but attempt repairs first as formatting will erase data. Be very cautious before reformatting an unresponsive drive.

Opening the Hard Drive Enclosure

If you have determined that the issue likely stems from a hardware malfunction within the hard drive itself, the next step is to open up the external hard drive enclosure to access the internal components. This should be done carefully to avoid any further damage.

Start by identifying the seam along the perimeter of the enclosure and locating any small screws. Refer to the Seagate support article on opening an external hard drive for guidance on the proper way to pry open the case, either using a small flat screwdriver or hard plastic tool [1]. Take care not to dent or bend the enclosure.

Once opened, visually inspect the internal hard drive for any loose or damaged connections. Check that the SATA and power ports are still intact. Also look for scratches, dents, or other signs of physical damage on the drive’s PCB or platters [2]. A loose connection or damaged component within the hard drive could cause it to become unresponsive.

If any internal damage is identified, you may need to replace the damaged part or send the drive off to a professional data recovery service. However if everything appears intact, reassemble the drive enclosure and continue troubleshooting via software or low-level formatting.

Replacing Damaged Components

If you’ve determined that certain hardware components inside the Seagate hard drive are damaged, you may be able to revive the drive by replacing those parts. The most common components that can fail and cause the drive to become unresponsive are the circuit board and the read/write heads.

If the circuit board is visibly damaged – for example, if there are burnt components or the board no longer fits properly into the hard drive case – you can try replacing it with an identical board from another working drive or a replacement part ordered from Seagate. Carefully detach the damaged board and swap in the replacement, being cautious not to damage any connectors.

The read/write heads are very delicate and can be knocked out of alignment if the drive receives a significant physical shock. If the heads are damaged, you will need to replace the head assembly, which involves opening up the hard drive in a professional clean room environment. This is a difficult process requiring specialized tools and skills. Detailed guides can be found online, but we recommend sending your drive to a Seagate data recovery service for this type of repair.

Replacing internal components can potentially get your Seagate drive working again, but keep in mind that this is an advanced procedure with risks. If you are not technically experienced with hardware repairs, it’s safer to turn to a professional rather than risk further damage to the drive.

Low-Level Formatting

Low-level formatting is a last resort option that erases all data on the hard drive by writing zeros to every sector. This can potentially fix issues like bad sectors and corruption that is preventing the drive from working properly. However, this will result in complete data loss.

According to Seagate’s knowledge base article How Do I Low-Level Format a SATA or ATA (IDE) Hard Drive, the only safe way to low-level format a Seagate drive is by using the SeaTools for DOS utility. This will write zeros to the entire drive, reallocating bad sectors in the process.

Before low-level formatting, be absolutely certain you have backups of all important data on the drive, as this process cannot be reversed. Low-level formatting should only be done as a last resort when other options have failed.

Sending to a Data Recovery Service

When DIY recovery options have been exhausted, sending the Seagate hard drive to a professional data recovery service may be the best chance for recovering your data. Data recovery labs provide a controlled, professional environment for attempting data recovery using specialized tools and techniques.

According to Seagate, data recovery services can be costly but offer a high success rate for recovering data from failed drives. Seagate’s own Rescue Data Recovery Services start at $299 for logical recoveries and $499 for more complex physical recoveries.

Third party data recovery services may charge between $300-$400 for logical Seagate data recovery according to FiveStar Data Recovery. Physical recoveries that require opening the drive can cost $1000 or more.

While expensive, using a professional data recovery service gives you the best chance of recovering critical data from an unresponsive Seagate hard drive. Their technical capabilities and clean room facilities surpass what the average user can do at home.

When to Cut Your Losses

There comes a point when trying to recover data from an unresponsive Seagate hard drive is no longer worth the effort and cost. Here are some signs it may be time to cut your losses:

Beyond economical repair – If the repair costs begin exceeding the value of the data on the drive, it likely makes more sense to stop spending time and money on recovery. For example, extensive physical damage often requires an expensive clean room recovery service.

Critical physical damage – Major issues like a failed read-write head, scratched platters, or severe motor problems often indicate the drive is beyond DIY repairs. The cost of professional recovery quickly becomes prohibitive.

Data no longer valuable – If the data on the unresponsive drive has become obsolete, outdated, or no longer needed, it may not be worth the hassle and cost of data recovery. You can simply format the drive and reuse it.

Overall, knowing when to stop trying to revive an unresponsive Seagate hard drive comes down to weighing the value of your data against the time, costs, and feasibility of recovery. If the drive is beyond economical repair, critically damaged, or contains unimportant data, it’s usually best to cut your losses.