How to recover lost data from crashed/dead hard disk (for beginners)?

Most computer users have been involved in a situation where a hard drive gets crashed and dead. If this happens to you, in case the files you need are overwritten, you should act quickly and download the free hard drive data recovery software below to recover lost data from the crashed/dead/damaged hard drive on Windows and Mac.

By Katrina | Updated to Data Recovery Tips on July 24th, 2019 |

Hard drives are the foundation of a computer. A computer is used to manipulate data, and the hard drive is, obviously, where you store all your files like personal documents, photos, videos, or audio files, the list goes on.

However, like every piece of hardware, hard drives can fail at any time without any hints.

It's possible that one day a hard disk is working fine and the next day, it is not even recognized when your computer starts up. Even worse, your Windows won't boot or Mac gets stuck at loading screen.

You would panic and feel alarmed about systems taking over and all important files along with them.

Don't worry. In this post, you can find some useful methods for crashed hard drive data recovery or effective solutions to repair failed hard disk.

Let's get started.

How to recover lost data from crashed/dead hard disk?

Table of contents
1. What is a hard drive and how it works?
2. How do you know if your hard drive crashed?
3. Why does a hard drive fail?
4. Can data be recovered from a failed hard drive?
5. Best free hard disk data recovery software
6. How do I recover lost data from a crashed hard disk?
7. How to repair a crashed/dead hard disk?
8. Conclusion

What is a hard drive and how it works?

A hard disk drive, shortened as a hard drive, HD, or HDD sometimes, is a data storage hardware device in a computer. A hard drive is only slightly larger than your hand, yet can hold several terabytes of data. Hard disks are an essential part of a computer, which is used to stores all your data on the computer on a long-term basis. Not just the things you have, but all the software needed for your operating system, the framework browsers used to connect to the internet, drivers for your accessories, and all the rest. So in many respects, the hard drive refers to your computer.

What is a hard drive

How does hard drive works? Unlike volatile storage like RAM, the data is stored on the hard drive magnetically. So you can restart your computer, which powers down the HDD, but still have access to all the data when it's back on. In addition, hard disks sin extremely fast so that data can be accessed immediately from anywhere on the drive.

Let's start with a real story:

My hard drive (3TB, stores all my games and work) appears to have died. Windows won't see it, I cant see it in the BIOS either, its just gone. It made no sounds before it died, so I don't think it's a mechanical failure. What's the best way to go about trying to get my data back?


How do you know if your hard drive crashed?

In many cases, hard drives fail gradually, giving you the chance to react, back up your data and repair the storage device before facing a fatal failure. That's why it's important to learn how to recognize the warning signs of an imminent hard drive failure. There are a variety of symptoms of hard drive failure, ranging from early warning signs like frequently freezes and system crashes to irrevocable damage, like click or beeping.

1. Slowing down the computer, frequent freezes, corrupt data

At the very beginning, you might notice your computer is very slow and it freezes and crashes frequently. A file might fail to open or suddenly disappear. Perhaps, everything works fine the next. But all of these are telltale signs that it's recommended you should start backing up important files if you aren't already.

2. Blue or black screen of death, strange sounds

After your hard drive stop working entirely, your computer doesn't even recognize it when it starts up and you see a message saying your PC has no hard drive. Then your Windows 10 will not boot up normally or even boot into a black screen. You also may notice some physical signs of failure, such as clicking, beeping, or other strange noises. In this case, it's too late already to back up data.

3. Do an S.M.A.R.T. check

Doing an S.M.A.R.T. check is another way to determine if your hard drive is failing. S.M.A.R.T., often written as SMART, is a monitoring system included om computer hard disk drives, SSD, and eMMC drives. It is used to assess the performance of a hard drive in real time, analyze data and evaluate each characteristic in two groups inside the system every second.

In Windows, you can manually check the S.M.A.R.T. status of your drives from the command prompt:

Step 1: Right-click the Start menu, select Run and type "cmd" or type "cmd" into the search bar.

Step 2: In the pop-up box, run wmic diskdrive get model, status.

Do an S.M.A.R.T. check

It will show "OK" if it thinks the drive is doing fine. Other statuses, such as "Bad", "Caution" or "Unknown" - can indicate problems with your drive or errors retrieving S.M.A.R.T. information.

Why does a hard drive fail?

There are several causes of hard disk failure, but they can be broadly put into two groups: physical and logical. As different kinds of data losses should be dealt with different types of data recovery means, initially you should confirm whether the hard drive is damaged physically or logically.

Why does a hard drive fail?

Physical hard drive crash: When your hard disk is damaged by heat, moisture or shock, etc., it can cause physical failure. If there is a physical crash, you will hear the licking, whirling or other grinding noises from the drive. If the physical hard drive is damaged so seriously, the computer will not boot or another system cannot see the hard drive. The bad news is that physical damage can make hard drive data recovery incredibly difficult, but by no means impossible.

Logical hard drive crash: In the event of logical hard drive crash, you will receive some error message when accessing the hard drive. If the hard drive is an internal one in a computer, the computer may fail to boot up as normal. Generally speaking, a virus, system driver conflict, human error or a software malfunction can cause a logical hard drive crash. Fortunately, logical data recovery is much easier to perform.

Here are some common causes of a dead hard drive in detail. Learning about them can help to prevent hard drive failure in the future.

  • Firmware or manufacturer faults. Firmware or manufacturer on a hard drive is software that is responsible for many major functions of the disk including accessing the data, as well as reading and writing to the drive. If the firmware of a hard drive is damaged, all files on the drive will be inaccessible.
  • Electronic failure or power surge. A power outage may do harm to your computer and shorten the lifespan of storage devices. If the power is out while working on a hard disk, the heads for recording and reading data will be damaged. As a result, the operating system fails to locate all files on the hard drive.
  • Mechanical or internal failure. This issue may occur on a hard disk when its moving components stop functioning due to stress or wear. If your hard drive experiences a mechanical failure, its read/write heads will be off track, which prevents the drive from accessing users data.
  • Corrupted files. Corrupted files will happen on modern computers with no good security measures in place. Usually, files become corrupted when being written to a disk. If your computer loses power or crashes while saving or creating a file, there's a good possibility that the file will become corrupted.
  • Human errors. This is the leading cause of hard drive failure. It's possible that you may accidentally delete any system file which is essential to boot a hard drive when you think it could be malware or junk. Furthermore, there are some indirect human errors which will make a hard disk crashed or dead.

In this situation, don't try to reinstall Windows or run useless repair tool like CHKDSK because those tools can just make matters worse. Can you recover lost data from a failed hard drive? How do you recover lost data from a crashed hard disk? Keep reading.

Can data be recovered from a failed hard drive?

Just because you cannot access your data on a crashed hard drive does not mean that it is not still present on the drive. Unless the corruption occurs within the files or results from hardware problems, you can recover lost data from a broken hard drive at the most time. Because if the crashed/dead disk refers to the corruption of the file directory and partition table, the operating system just can't find the location of the stored files and the data still keep intact.

So in order to get the best possible chances of recovery on a dead hard drive, you should avoid using the hard disk and look for fast help from professional data recovery software.

Here is a short video about how to recover lost data from crashed/dead/damaged hard disk in detail:

Best free hard disk data recovery software

iBoysoft Data Recovery is free hard drive data recovery software to recover lost data from crashed/dead hard disks. Whether you are facing the logical or physical hard drive crash, chances are that you can get lost data back with this powerful data recovery program. It is able to recover deleted/lost documents, pictures, audios, videos, emails from FAT32, NTFS or exFAT drives on Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP and Windows Server 2019/2016/2012/2008/2003.

Best free hard drive data recovery software - iBoysoft Data Recovery

  • Recover any file types on PC
  • Recover lost data from both internal drives and external drives
  • Recover lost data from formatted/RAW/deleted partitions, recover lost data even when your PC won't boot
  • Recover lost data from Bitlocker encrypted partitions
  • Support NTFS, exFAT and FAT32
  • Work with Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP and Windows Server 2019/2016/2012/2008/2003

Read-only & risk-free

Moreover, iBoysoft Data Recovery also enable us to recover deleted files even if emptied from Recycle Bin, fix RAW hard drive to NTFS, recover lost data from inaccessible drives, recover lost data from corrupted drives, recover lost data from unrecognized drives, recovers data from formatted drives, and recover lost data from deleted or lost partitions, etc. It works perfectly on hard drives, external hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards, memory cards, pen drives, etc.

How do I recover lost data from a crashed hard disk?

If the dead hard drive contains your operating system, the computer won't boot as usual. Otherwise, you have two hard drives in your laptop or computer, the dead drive is for your files rather than the operating system. In this case, your PC works well. No matter which situation you are facing, the following guide will show you the detailed steps:

Tips: Also, you can go through this step-by-step tutorial to recover lost data from crashed/dead hard disks on Mac.

If your Windows computer works as usual:

Step 1: Download and install iBoysoft Data Recovery.

Warning: Please don't download and install iBoysoft Data Recovery on the crashed hard drive. Because in this way, the lost files stored on the drive will be overwritten, resulting in irreparable data loss.

Step 2: Launch iBoysoft Data Recovery and you will see all connected drives on the home window. Select the crashed/dead hard disk and click "Next" button to scan all lost data.

Note: If you can't see the needed files in the scanning results, you can go back to the home window, tick "Deep scan" on the right bottom corner and click the "Next" button.

Recover lost data from crashed/dead hard disk with iBoysoft Data Recovery

Step 3: Preview the searching results, choose files you need, and click "Recover" to get them back. Then please make sure your needed files have been restored.

Warning: Please don't save the recovered files back onto the same hard drive partition where you lost the data from.

Recover lost data from crashed/dead hard disk with iBoysoft Data Recovery

If your Windows computer won't boot:

Step 1: If you have two PCs, you can plug the crashed hard disk out and connect it to the working PC.

Tips: If you have only one PC, you need to create a Windows bootable external drive and boot your PC from the external drive. Click here to learn about how to create a boot disk on Windows 10/8/7/XP.

Step 2: Download and install iBoysoft Data Recovery. Remember not saving recovered files to the original drive, because this may also overwrite lost files.

Step 3: Navigate to your damaged/dead hard drive, then the software will start to scan all lost data by clicking on the "Next" button.

Step 4: Preview the searching results, choose files you need, click "Recover" to and save them to someplace other than the problematic drive. If the lost files can't be found, you need to click "Back" to the home window, select the crashed hard disk and click "Deep scan" to try again.

Step 5: Please make sure that your needed files have been restored.

Tips: If you can't see the crashed hard drive listed on the home window of iBoysoft Data Recovery, the drive has been physically damaged. You can only take your hard disk to local data recovery shop.

How to repair crashed/dead hard disk?

After crashed/damaged hard drive data recovery, you can try some workarounds on your own and use this guide to repair crashed/dead hard disk.

How to repair crashed/dead hard disk?

Solution 1: Check your hard drive for errors

Windows has an inbuilt mechanism for hard disk recovery. You can use it to check a storage media for errors, whether it is an internal or external hard drive. If you can boot into the system, you can try the steps below to check and repair your hard drive:

Step 1: Go to This PC/My Computer > Drive (right-click) > Properties > Tools tab. Then click "Check".

Check your hard drive for errors

Step 2: A Window will be displayed. Go to the Tools tab and then "Error checking". Click on "Check". You'll require the administrator's permission. Fill in the password to allow.

Solution 2: Change BIOS boot order

The most common cause of this error is an incorrect order of boot devices in BIOS. Usually, BIOS tries to find bootable drive according to its boot device order. If the BIOS boot order is incorrect, an error message will be displayed and your computer will no longer boot.

Tips: These steps can only be taken if the hard drive is detectable in the BIOS. If it's not, you might have to replace it.

Step 1: Restart your computer, enter the BIOS by pressing a trigger key, which could be Del, Esc, F2, or F10, depending on the manufacturer.

Step 2: Go to the "Boot" tab and change the order to position the hard disk as the 1st option.

Change BIOS order

Step 3: Save these settings and restart the computer.

Step 4: The process of scanning will start as soon as you select "Scan drive". After the scan, you can select "Scan and repair drive" to get the failed hard disk fixed.

Solution 3: Reinstall Windows OS

In case your hard disk only has some logical errors, you can simply try to reinstall the Windows operating system. To do this, you need to find a working computer and a USB drive.

Tips: This process will wipe all data stored on the computer, please make sure you have restored important files if necessary.

Step 1: Download Microsoft Media Creation tool which will create a bootable USB drive with Windows 10 on it.

Step 2: Plug the bootable USB drive to the non-working PC and turn on the non-working PC.

Step 3: Choose the "Language to install", the "Time and currency format" and the "Keyboard or input method". Then click on "Next".

Reinstall Windows 10

Step 4: Tick "Install now" and the setup will start.

Step 5: You will be presented with the License terms. Accept it and click on "Next".

Step 6: You will be asked: "Which type of installation do you want?" Select "Custom: Install Windows only".

Reinstall Windows 10

Step 7: Choose a partition to install Windows 10 and click "Next". (If you did not create a partition earlier, this setup wizard also lets you create one now)

Reinstall Windows 10

Finally, Windows 10 installation will start. Once it is done, your PC will restart.

Solution 4: Send it to repair or replace your hard drive

Unable to find the hard drive in Disk Management or fail to reformat the drive? It indicates that the drive has been damaged severely and the operating system cannot recognize the drive. In this situation, you should ask a technical expert for advice if the hard drive is still repaired. Otherwise, you can also replace it with a new one.

How to replace the hard drive on a PC?

Replacing a hard drive is a pretty easy task that anyone can complete with a little help. In other words, no worries, you can do this by yourself.

Step 1: Make sure your computer is turned off and then open the door on your computer case. It usually held in place by small crews or there may be a sliding mechanism.

Step 2: Locate the hard drive and disconnect the power cables and data connectors from the drive itself.

Replace the hard drive on a PC

Step 3: To put the new drive in simply reverse the steps you already performed. Plug in the power connectors according to the new drive’s documentation, then follow up with data connection cords.

Step 4: Replace the screws that hold the drive into the case, replace the computer case door, and your PC is ready with its new hard drive now.


Hard drive failures are probably the worse enemy for everyone since it will result in data loss. However, it's possible to recover lost data from crashed/dead/damaged hard disk with free data recovery software - iBoysoft Data Recovery. Be it physical and logical hard drive crash, this software helps you a lot.