What is a corrupted hard drive and how can I recover data from it?

Thursday, 7 April 2022 by Ontrack Team

What is a corrupted hard drive and what are the symptoms?

Data corruption is a state where the data within a file or storage device is altered from its original state, causing it to behave differently or become completely inaccessible.

Common symptoms of hard drive corruption include:

corrupt data

Image showing "Blue screen of death"


What can cause hard drive corruption?

Age: In many cases, hard drive corruption occurs as a storage device ages. The data within it degrades over time (during operation or even when the hard drive is not in use) to the point where files become unreadable.

Malware/viruses: A virus infection cannot cause physical damage to your hard drive, regardless of what you might read in a ransomware email, but it can damage the data enough to make it unreadable to your computer.

Interruption during writing: Anything that interrupts the writing process (saving, copying files etc.) can also cause data to be incomplete and therefore inaccessible, so consider whether your storage device has experienced any of the following:

Can I recover the data myself?

Most operating systems have basic measures to prevent or fix hard drive corruption. Windows has CHKDSK and Mac has Disk Utility. While these built-in tools can be helpful in some cases for regular maintenance, they often cause more harm than good to corrupted hard drives and can prevent data from being recovered.

Instead, we recommend looking into specialist third-party data recovery software. Sometimes these tools can find fragmented parts of damaged files on other sectors of your hard drive and rebuild them.

Even when using the best tools, DIY data recovery will always carry significant risks. It is also important to note that DIY software is only a good option if the corruption is purely logical in nature. If you suspect that the device may be suffering from any physical issues - particularly if it has suffered a bump, drop, fire or water damage - then software may not be a good option. Sending your device in to a specialist Data Recovery company is the safer option.

If you choose to use data recovery software, be sure to use it on a copy or image of your corrupted hard drive so that you’ll always have the untouched original if something goes wrong.

You can make a sector-level image of the corrupted drive with our simple-to-use DIY data recovery software, Ontrack EasyRecovery.

Try Ontrack EasyRecovery for Free


Should I contact a data recovery company?

Unfortunately, most hard drive manufacturers do not have the specialist skills required to recover data from a failed device. Seeking help from a specialist data recovery company will give you the best chance to recover your critical data.

A professional will assess your situation properly to determine the best course of action for recovery. They’ll look at factors that could affect the repair process, including:

  • The type of hard drive
  • The hard drive’s manufacturer
  • Reasons for failure
  • Signs of physical damage

At Ontrack, we specialise in hard drive recovery. We have over 35 years of data recovery experience, helping both individuals and businesses recover data from corrupted hard drives. Furthermore, we have tight relationships with major hardware and software companies and are always up to date with the latest technology used.

For more details about our pricing and process, feel free to call us.

Phone : 1800 316 658

Alternatively, contact us by submitting a form:

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Hard drive being repaired