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Do-It-Yourself Hard Drive Data Recovery: 4 Factors to Consider

November 18, 2021

opened hard drive internalsWhen your hard drive fails — or you suddenly lose access to important files, and you realize that you don’t have a functional backup — you’ll need to either recreate your work or find a way to recover the data.

Of course, professional data recovery services can be expensive (we’ll note here that this isn’t always the case; many failure scenarios can be treated quickly and affordably in a properly equipped laboratory). Do-it-yourself hard drive data recovery might seem like a great way to save money.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Hard drive repair requires specialized technology, and DIY repairs often cause irreversible damage. Below, we’ll explain some of the potential risks, along with a few tips for dealing with data loss. For more guidance, call our team at 1-800-237-4200 or schedule a free hard drive evaluation here.

Do-it-yourself hard drive data recovery can lead to permanent data loss.

We’ve spoken with many computer users who have successfully restored files from damaged hard drives — but we’ve spoken with a much, much larger number of people who accidentally destroyed important data. Before attempting a do-it-yourself hard drive repair, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

1. Data recovery software can’t address physical hard drive issues.

Many computer users turn to software to address common issues like file corruption, boot errors, and “minor” physical symptoms like clicking or whirring sounds.

All of these issues can indicate a physical hard drive failure, and no software can repair a hardware issue. While some software manufacturers claim that their tools can “restore corrupted volumes” or “access unrecognized hard drives,” those claims are highly suspect — if your hard drive isn’t functioning, components will need to be repaired or replaced.

Running software on a physically damaged hard drive is a bad idea, and unfortunately, there’s no simple way to diagnose a hard drive malfunction without a physical evaluation. If the hard drive’s actuator heads have failed, running the software might put the heads in contact with the platters that store your data, permanently removing the magnetic material. If you’re trying to restore corrupted files, installing the software could overwrite the data — or make corruption much worse.

If you absolutely must install data recovery software, never install it on the target hard drive. Only use data recovery software when you’re 100% sure that the problem is software-related (for instance, if you’ve accidentally deleted files). Understand that by using software, you’re taking a risk: If the data is crucial, a professional data recovery provider will provide a better chance of a successful result.

2. To repair a damaged hard drive, you’ll need specialized equipment.

YouTube is filled with do-it-yourself hard drive repair videos, and many of those creators are able to successfully treat minor issues with basic tools. Of course, you’re only seeing the positive results — a video titled “Watch Me Fail to Repair My Seagate Hard Drive” wouldn’t get many views.

Most hard drive issues can’t be treated with a set of screwdrivers. That’s particularly true with newer devices: After freeing stuck actuator heads or replacing a printed circuit board, data recovery engineers often need to repair firmware or address file corruption. While the hard drive might be able to operate, the user’s files may remain inaccessible — and the purpose of data recovery is to restore the files, not to repair the hard drive.

By opening a hard drive outside of a certified cleanroom, you risk introducing contamination to the platters. Tiny contaminants can wreak havoc on the hard drive’s physical components. Additionally, some ill-advised DIY repairs can offset the spacing of the actuator heads or create conditions for a head crash.

If the platters become damaged, your data is physically removed from the media — at this point, data is completely unrecoverable.

3. Hard drives often fail quickly after DIY repairs.

Most DIY hard drive data recovery tutorials focus on getting the hard drive operating again. While this is logical, the repair doesn’t address the underlying issue that caused the initial failure.

For example, if you’re able to restore your hard drive’s actuator head assembly to an operating condition, the heads may become “stuck” again while you’re transferring data. Again, this can cause permanent platter damage.

In professional data recovery laboratories, engineers use non-destructive methods to ensure that replaced components cannot cause media damage. As soon as the hard drive is operational, engineers create multiple copies (or clones) of the device, then perform logical repairs to restore the data.

4.  Don’t attempt DIY hard drive data recovery if you really need the data.

If you don’t necessarily need the data — you’re simply curious about hard drive functionality and you’re not willing to pay for professional recovery services — forums like the Reddit data recovery community can provide you with guidance. Collect as much information as you can about your hard drive’s failure symptoms and research before attempting any repairs. Make sure you’re willing to lose any possibility of recovering the data; if that’s not the case, look for a professional service with an established reputation.

Ultimately, you’ll need to manage your expectations: Without serious investment in training and equipment, you won’t be able to replicate the results of a multi-million-dollar data recovery laboratory. Still, we understand the appeal of DIY repairs. After all, many of our engineers started their careers by tinkering with damaged hard drives — but none of our experts would attempt to recover important data outside of a dedicated laboratory. offers free evaluations and a no data, no charge guarantee for all hard drive data recovery cases.

Even if you have significant IT experience, do-it-yourself hard drive data recovery carries enormous risks. At, our goal is to provide our customers with affordable, safe services, and we’ve built our excellent reputation within the industry by operating full-service laboratories at each of our locations.

We offer free hard drive evaluations, regardless of failure scenario. After our evaluation, we send a detailed price quote with information about the hard drive’s failure and the necessary steps for recovery.

Except in limited situations, all cases feature our no data, no charge guarantee: If we’re not able to restore your important data, you won’t pay any fees for the attempt. Get started today by filling out our online case form.