Getting data off of an old dying Mac laptop hard drive

Among the most difficult consultant’s task is retrieving a user’s precious files from an older Mac whose hard drive has started to fail and has never been backed up.

I know, I know,  tell the customer to back up their files, but we’ve all been there. That new Mac PowerBook or MacBook becomes so interesting that backing up gets put on the back burner. In this case we were dealing with a 2004 12″ PowerBook. The customer called to complain about a grinding noise coming from the left side of the computer and that it was slow to boot and was freezing up after a few minutes use. What they wanted was a Virus check. What they got was the news that the drive was just about gone and there was very little chance of getting everything off of it.

Enter drive recovery specialist Denver Macintosh Consulting. When the computer was turned on everything seemed normal. The OS 10.5  loaded to the desktop, everything looked pretty normal. Then just a couple of minutes into it came the horrible wining screeching noise. There was a slight vibrating sound. The computer froze with no response from the mouse or keys. Uh Oh, this is very bad. There was 30 Gigs of files that needed to be recovered and the drive only worked when it was first turned on and after heating up a bit it began to bind up at the spindle. Damage to the spindle, dropped and damaged actuator?

Probably just age and bearing wear. Nearly 7 years of use. Pretty good for a laptop. Now how to get the files off without the expensive option of pulling the platter from the drive and placing it in a new one. First we attempted putting the drive in a freezer for half an hour. This kept it cooled down but it started to fail again after about 10 minutes. It was going to take 30 minutes to get the data transferred to an external drive and it just wasn’t going to make it.

On to plan B. Simply turning the drive upside down took the weight off of the spindle and the data was successfully recovered. In fact it probably could have operated much longer this way but for our purposes, the data recovery was all that was needed. You learn new things all the time in this business. I never though that flipping the drive would get the results but through trial and error, it worked.

New drive put in and the files restored to the user account. A happy customer and low cost file recovery.  Not bad for 3 hours work.