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What Happens When You Drop a Hard Drive in Water?

March 13, 2024

If you’ve dropped liquid onto a hard drive — or dropped a hard drive into liquid — the prognosis for data recovery is good. That’s despite the fact that every component of a hard drive could be damaged by water (or any other liquid): 

  • Components on the hard drive’s printed circuit board (PCB) will short circuit.
  • Most hard drives aren’t truly airtight, so if a hard drive is submerged, water will almost certainly come into contact with the platters and read/write heads.
  • As the hard drive dries, metal components will corrode.
  • Contaminants in the liquid may come between the platters and read/write heads, causing a head crash. 

Fortunately, all of these issues are correctable, provided that the platters are not permanently damaged. A professional data recovery laboratory can clean the hard drive’s components, replace damaged electronics, and restore your data to a usable state.

With that said, timing is important: If you wait too long to pursue data recovery, your chances of a successful case result will drop considerably. Here’s why.

Water isn’t especially dangerous for hard drives, but corrosion is a huge concern.

Liquids can cause electronics to short, but if your hard drive is unplugged, those electronics aren’t firing. The bad news: Corrosion occurs when metals lose electrons to oxygen, and that can occur fairly quickly as the hard drive dries out. 

That’s one of the reasons that you shouldn’t try to dry off a water-damaged hard drive (or solid-state drive, or any other type of storage device) with forced air. 

So, what should I do if I drop my hard drive in water?

A hard drive with severe flood damage

A hard drive with severe flood damage.

If you need the data from the drive, contact a professional data recovery company as soon as possible. Don’t try to dry out your hard drive, and don’t add water to the drive (we’ve actually seen quite a few people make this mistake). 

Do not try the “rice trick” (burying the hard drive in rice). That’s not effective for hard drives; components will corrode before the rice has time to eliminate the moisture.

You could potentially dry your hard drive with isopropyl alcohol with a purity grade of 95% or higher, but that’s a last resort — the alcohol will address the water saturation, but it won’t remove contaminants from the inside of the hard drive. If a contaminant gets between the read/write heads and platters, it could cause a head crash and permanent data loss.

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Use Rice to Dry Hard Drives (or Anything Else)

How Data Recovery Engineers Treat Water Damage

The process for recovering data from a water-damaged hard drive is fairly straightforward:

  1. The hard drive is cleaned in a certified cleanroom. Engineers use isopropyl alcohol and (if necessary) special tools that maintain the spacing of the hard drive’s platters.
  2. The electronics are replaced. Professional data recovery laboratories have parts inventories to make this process easier; read about’s parts inventory.
  3. The hard drive’s firmware is adjusted for the new printed circuit board (PCB). 
  4. The hard drive is cloned. If necessary, logical processes are performed on the clone to complete the data recovery.

If you’ve lost data due to a fire, a flood, or for any other reason, we’re here to help. provides risk-free evaluations, and we support all of our services with our no data, no charge guarantee.

To get started, call 1-800-237-4200 or set up a case online.