Corrupted Hard Drive: How Exactly Does One Deal With It?

07 April 2022 by Ontrack Team

A ‘corrupted hard drive’ error message is enough to panic most people.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that all is lost, however. With the right tools and expertise, you can recover data from a corrupted hard drive (HD).

In this article, we’ll go through the steps you’ll need to take to rescue your files.

Step 1: Identify the cause of corruption

Corruption occurs when 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:

  • The drive is completely inaccessible
  • Sluggish performance
  • Missing files
  • ‘Blue screen of death’ (BSoD) – [this can happen if the drive in question contains operating system files]
  • The first step in repairing or retrieving data from a failing hard drive is to determine what caused the corruption – and there are a few possibilities:

Corrupt hard drive

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:

  • A sudden loss of power
  • Impact damage from a drop
  • Water or fire damage
  • Extreme temperatures

If you can identify the cause of corruption, it might influence which DIY recovery tool is best to use in Step 2 or which process a recovery expert follows in Step 3.

Step 2: Use data recovery software (with great care)

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. If you choose this method, 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

Step 3. Seek help from a professional data recovery service

If you find yourself out of options after exhausting all of the above, or if your hard drive isn’t readable, contact a professional data recovery service provider and explain the situation.

While there are plenty of DIY data recovery tools out there, it often takes specific skills to recover data from a corrupted hard drive, as no two recoveries are the same.

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

A properly accredited data recovery professional has tight relationships with most hard- and software manufacturers and is always up to date with the latest technology used

Leave it to Ontrack

Our expert team can recover data from any make or model of hard drive and from all types of data loss. This includes loss from corruption and deletion, reformatting, electronics failure, physical damage, viruses and more.

What’s more, we want you to have complete control over your data recovery process, so we’ll tell you exactly what can be recovered before you pay anything.

Learn more about our services by getting in touch, or request a free estimate to begin your recovery today.


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