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5 Hard Drive Data Recovery Tips For Media Failure

External hard drives can fail in a number of ways. They may suffer from low power, motor failure, media failure or cable failure. This article deals purely with media failure, the most common problem that hard drives are likely to suffer from. This is when media blocks stored on the hard drive malfunction and the drive controller avoids using them. Here are five tips to help you if your hard drive suffers from media failure.

Tip #1. Identify The Problem

Media failure is the most common problem that hard drives are likely to suffer from. Your first task is to identify that your hard drive is suffering from this issue. Your hard drive may be suffering from a low power issue, motor failure or even cable failure. All four issues may cause a drive to fail to boot. If your drive un-mounts spontaneously or generates clicking noises, this indicates that media failure is not the sole cause and there are other factors at play.

Tip #2. Don’t Use File System Recovery If You Think There Is A Hardware Problem

You must proceed cautiously when attempting to recover data from an external hard drive. If there is an audible clicking sound and you believe that the hardware such as the disk or disk head may have an issue, you should not use a file system recovery program or recovery software. This may destroy your data and the hardware. There is the possibility that data on the hardware becomes unrecoverable even if you subsequently take the drive to a specialist data-recovery company.

Tip #3. Cool The Drive

Your hard drive’s hardware controller has an algorithm that looks at data in blocks and checks them against a forward error correction (FEC) checksum. The FEC is used to recover blocks that contain corrupted data. Data recovered in this way is rewritten in another location, thus causing the media failure error where the drive fails to read the data a number of times and the original signal is weak. Professional data recovery experts can acquire the data and reallocate the original block to fix the media failure. Therefore, your best chance of saving the data is to prevent your hard drive from overheating. You should cool your drive to preserve the data before taking it to a recovery specialist.

Tip #4. Back Up What You Can

If you can boot your drive and it operates without any issues, you can usually rule out head motor failure, low power or cable failure. If you have media failure, the best approach is to back up what you can. Secure the data you can access and leave the data that cannot be accessed.

Tip #5. Isolate Which Files Are Causing The Error And See A Specialist

The final tip for recovering data is to try to pinpoint where the media failure is occurring. Type ‘cat filename > /dev/null’ and monitor your console output or system log to see whether the data can be read successfully. The block data should be reallocated and the files should cause no further errors. If they do, you should visit a hard drive recovery expert in Edmonton.


Media failure is the more common hard drive error but problems during recovery can be catastrophic. The wrong approach can make the data unrecoverable so it may be best to consult a professional from the outset.

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