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Do It Yourself Data Recovery: Freezer Method
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

There has been a long running myth about putting your hard drive in the freezer when it crashes in order to revive it just long enough to pull your data off of it. We've run this test for fun on many occasions in different scenarios with junk test drives that we have in our lab. So far we have yet to see this actually produce any positive results. Infact, in one instance we actually began to see the formation of tiny microscopic ice crystals on the platter themselves, which is a definite crash waiting to happen.

See the problem with this theory is, contrary to popular belief, hard drives are not completely sealed. Regardless of what you've heard or read, all hard drives have a tiny breather hole (usually marked with a label that says DO NOT COVER). This hole not only aids in cooling but it also helps to equalize air pressure in the drive when the platters are spinning. On the other side of this hole is a filter which keeps dirt and debris from getting inside the drive. However, this filter does not stop heavy amounts of moisture (epecially in flood situations) or moisture vapor (such as found naturally in the air).

Placing a hard drive in the freezer, even if it is wrapped in ziplock bags, esd bags, taped up, and completely waterproofed, there is still moisture vapor within the air surrounding the drive. When a drive is placed in a freezer, this vapor can settle on the platter and form microscopic ice crystals. When the hard drive is powered up after being removed from the freezer, the read/write head would come in contact with these crystals, which would pretty much resemble an airplane flying into a mountain.

At that point your data for that area of the platter, not to mention the heads themselves are destroyed. While there are stories where this has worked, we get calls from customers every so often where their hard drives failed, and then after a few hours they worked again on reboot. In the case of freezer drives, it's hard to tell if it's a quirk with the drive or if actually freezing the components helped to get the drive functional again. Regardless, if your data is valuable at all, then the freezer method may be one trick you want to steer clear of.

Greg Duffield is the founder of ACS Data Recovery, a premier provider of hard drive data recovery services. You can reach them toll free at 1-877-646-0546 or on the web at

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Posted In Data Recovery. @ 12:34 AM  
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