About a week ago one of the hard drives in my home computer crashed, and because this was my system disk I couldn’t even boot the operating system. After some error checking, recovery attempts, etc., I noticed that when the hard drive was cooled down it worked normally for a minute or two.
I have heard rumors that if you freeze down a hard drive that is broken or partly failing, it might give you some minutes to recover the most precious data. I read some articles about it on Google, and several articles claimed that it actually works. The hard drive was broken anyway so I decided to give it a shot.
The next day I detached the hard drive and put it into the freezer. I kept it there for 24 hours to be sure that it would be as cold as possible. I broke my leg earlier this autumn so I had some “cold packs” to put in the freezer to cool down the leg. I thought they might be useful to cool down the hard drive as well after I’d started it. I therefore made a sandwich with this ingredients: “cold pack”, towel, hard drive, towel, cold pack and a proper weight on top.
After some preparing (installing Windows on another harddrive etc) I was now ready to boot up, and I expected Windows to ask for an error check on the halted hard drive. I was anxious to see if all the errors would be corrected before the hard drive would fail again.
Finally Windows booted up and I started to copy the most important data. In this case I had backup of all the critical data, so it was mostly music and stuff I wanted to recover.
After copying all the important stuff, about 40GB (yohooo!) I started to copy all the program files and was planning to copy the whole Windows installation to do a full recovery, but after a short while the hard drive failed again, and I wasn’t able to read any more data from it. But I recovered the most important files and the operation was sucessfull.
Conclusion: I can confirm that freezing a broken hard drive in some cases actually works. Obviously the hard drive can’t be completly broken, the disk must still spinn and the read/write head must move back and forth and so on. What actually is going on physically inside the hard drive I don’t know, but I do know that metal shrinks when it’s cooled down, and I’m pretty certain it has something to do with that. Wikipedia claims that it “unsticks a jammed platter”, but this was not the case with my hard drive.
Therefore I must call this myth: