My Hard Drive Dropped – Now What?

Through our experience saving data from dropped hard drives, we have found the very first thing everyone does after dropping their hard drive or laptop, is the worst thing anyone can do.


Usually when we get to tell people this very valuable fact, it’s too late … (please help us share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter)

If you are reading this, there is a 95% chance that you or someone you know has an external hard drive that hit the floor, and now it doesn’t work correctly. It’s probably, clicking, scraping, spinning without access to your data, or beeping.

The most natural thing to do after dropping a hard drive or laptop, is to turn it on to see if it still works.

SERT has proven the chance of full recovery is 100% higher if you have a professional recovery service open your drive in a certified clean room and check inside.  It’s important to confirm the condition of the internal moving parts, before turning it on to check if it still works.

The pictures below show what can happen to the read write heads in a dropped drive. (Click the image to enlarge)

read-write-heads-damage-dropped-external-drive dropped-hard-drive-clicking

A full explanation of how we arrived our conclusion is below.

From our dropped hard drive quote request form:

  • “Picked up computer forgetting that the drive was attached and it fell to the carpeted floor. Now it won’t show up on desktop and shows flashing white light and sounds like it’s not spinning up. Some kind of faint beeping and humming sounds.”
  • “External drive fell from a desk. After that didn’t show on My computer”
  • “My laptop fell off the table, and it won’t boot. I need dropped laptop hard drive recovery”
  • “External hard drive fell off computer desk and when plugged back in makes a beeping noise”
  • “I had my laptop on my bed and my external Hard Drive on the floor. The height from the drop was 27 inches away in measurement. While I was sleeping the laptop slide down and fell off the floor and hit the Hard Drive. Now I’m hearing clicking noises when i plug it in my computer”
  • “It fell from the top of my desktop computer, and will power on, but is not recognized by the computer, and makes the sound that it’s trying to load, but you soon hear a clicking type sound.”
  • “The external hdd fell down accidentally and started making the beeping noise. Need dropped hard drive data recovery
  • “I dropped my WD External Harddrive from about waist high. It fell to a hard surface and the entire plastic cover came off.”

This is one of the most frustrating data recovery quote requests for us.

WHY? Because almost 100% of the time, the client has already taken that drive, and plugged it in to see if it still works. They usually get a “Not recognized error“.

This is the worst thing anyone can do to see if the drive is damaged, or conversely to see if it still works. In the picture below you can see the heads stuck, and bent on the parking ramp.

If this happened to your drive, and you turn it on, those arms will drag the bent metal across the platters scratching them. This will cause your data to be unrecoverable.


Here’s why:

The inside of a hard drive is sort of like a record player. There are three major-basic components of the inside of a hard drive:dropped-drive-anatomy

  • Records (platters)
  • Arm (actuator arm)
  • Needle (read/write head)

These components must be in good working order, not damaged in any way, and a professional with the right equipment can determine what state these parts are in and ultimately save your data.



This is the second worse event we hear about when clients report a dropped drive. They have opened the drive, potentially moved the arm and heads off the platter. Some drives parking place are in the center of the platter, and the arm actually belongs there. On others, they park on a ramp. Moving any of these parts unnecessarily or incorrectly will cause damage to the platter, the head slider, and make your data unrecoverable.


If your dropped hard drive is clicking or making other noises:

It’s worth it to pay a professional service to open your drive to confirm the status it’s internal parts. If you hear clicking or other noises, there is a really good chance the internal components have been damaged by the force of the impact in the following ways:

  1. The actuator arm has come off the parking ramp and hit the platters
  2. The heads are damaged in some way (lightly or catastrophically)
  3. The heads have hit the platter and become stuck
  4. The actuator arm has become out of alignment
  5. The spindle has been damaged from impact
  6. Read/write head sliders have come off 

head slider stuck to platter after moving arm incorrectlyread-write-head-platter

The PROBLEM occurs as power is applied to the drive. When the drive gets the signal to start, all of these components begin to work, the platter spins, the actuator arm moves, and the read/write heads begin to index.

After impact, the result can be likened to sticking your finger in a moving fan. OUCH!

Once the head touches the surface of your platters it will scratch them and your chances of successful data recovery decrease by 95%.

scratches to platter

Call for a consultation BEFORE you power on your drive after a fall. It can save you your data, and thousands of dollars.

26 responses to “My Hard Drive Dropped – Now What?”

  1. For me they said that the hard drive of my storage is already destroyed…it might have dropped they say.. i dont know exactlt what happened but last timw ita was working.. now it cant be recognized anymore… the l8ght is just blonking.. how can i recover the date….my son might have dropped it but i didnt notice… could i retrieve the data still?

    • It is possible the data can be recoverable, however you need to make sure NOT to plug it in anymore and send it to a Certified data recovery company for help.

  2. Thanks for that knowledge.. my seagate expansion drive 5tb dropped this morning and after 6hrs i plugged it in and it has a very deem beeping sound the light is off its not recognized on my computer. what should i do? Am a bit far from any certified data recovery company coz am in Uganda. please help.

      • This is a common problem and means there is a problem internally. This will require a clean room, and an engineer experienced with working with internal mechanical parts of hard drives. It is possible the drive will also need donor parts, but that depends on how much the drive has been powered since the initial failure.

    • My case is similar to yours. My seagates hard drive dropped on a tiled floor and that’s how it stopped working. I plugged it to several computers/laptops but it’s not recognized. I took it to a technician they said the disc has been broken. I need ur help please. If u r able to fix ur hard drive please contact me. This is my email address;
      Am from Nigeria. Help me😢 I got important stuffs in it.

      • Hi there. What kind of technician did you take it to? The fact that the drive fell on tile, then was plugged in and powered on several times, is a good indicator alone that there is a high probability of a serious, physical problem with the drive.

        Add to that, the fact a “technician” has now done the same thing, and possibly worse, without (i’m assuming) a clean room, or inspecting the drive for damaged parts first, definitely reduces the possibility the data will be recoverable.

        Additionally, there is no possible way to truthfully tell you if we are able to fix the drive, without physically having it to evaluate.

        You are more than welcome to send it in for evaluation. Please fill out the quote request form for more information!

  3. Hi, very informative read & I did exactly what I shouldn’t have done & switched it on, I knew know better at the time. I have since sent my hard drive to 2 different data recovery specialists & neither could recover my data. The last company sent me the below report:-

    The damage to read/write heads was most probably caused by the misaligned positioning of the head assembly when the hard drive was not powered. In addition to this small pieces of dirt and dust were detected on the individual reader heads. The actuator arm and read/write heads were chemically cleaned and re-examined to maximize the chance of re-alignment. The arm was then mechanically altered to prevent further alignment problems and the read/write heads were re-assembled on to the disk. Unfortunately, subsequent diagnostics confirmed that the repairs made were unsuccessful.
    An identical hard disk was sourced and subsequently ordered and used for spare parts in order to attempt the recovery of your data. The read/write heads were completely removed from the newly ordered disk and were examined to ensure they were in working order. This second set of read/write heads were then assembled into the original disk replacing the existing malfunctioned heads and carefully aligned. Diagnostics confirmed that this procedure was also unsuccessful.

    Further analysis of the medias platter surface revealed inconsistencies of the magnetic properties which could potentially be linked to the contact made between the head and platter surface resulting from the initial ‘head crash’. This may have been caused by one of several factors ranging from environmental impacts (e.g. a drop or bang) up to temperature expansion of certain components. Due to this preventative damage caused we were unable to initialise the heads long enough for a forensic scan to take place before further damage was caused to the replacement read/write heads.

    Unfortunately, as we are unable to help with your data recovery needs at present, there is no further action that can be made.

    My question is, is this worth trying a 3rd time with another company?

    • Sounds like the company’s attempt to use the same damaged parts could have caused the drive to be unrecoverable, that is of course only if the drive wasn’t initially damaged to that point already.

      At this point it’s been in too many hands, and is at least 75% less likely to be recoverable because of that.

      We would never try to use the same set of original heads that we know are damaged, nor would we try to bend back something on those heads that was bent. The space between the heads and the platters is too minute to have any room for error.

  4. Hey I have Dell 5547 laptop. It fell from table one day and now when I diagnose it shows hard-disk error 2000-0142. Not in warranty. So I tried to use my friends hard-disk so it’s started working. So tell me what kind of error is this. And how can I repair my hard disk. It has lot of data. No damage is there. So what are the possibility of internal damage. Can this corrected manually.

    • The one question you asked is most important: “So what are the possibility of internal damage.” This is the million dollar question, the only one that matters, and frequently the case.

      If the data is valuable you will want to hire a professional to help you figure this out.

      This requires a a few things to get started: a clean room, knowledge of the type of damage that can happen to a hard drive (especially in this situation), experience and technology to fix it – image it – then recover the data.

  5. Hey! So last night I dropped my Seagate Backup Plus while it was still working. I did plugged it in and the flashlight starts and I can hear the platter starting to spin but after a few seconds it stops. The worst part is that I had all my 4 year of work on that dard drive. Is there any chance I can recover the data, even if not all of it?

  6. This is something anyone with a computer should read BEFORE they ever have this problem that pretty much will happen to ALL of us eventually.

    My first time was my laptop fell a total of 2 feet onto a think rug and the first thing I did was try to reboot and I don’t remember exactly what happened but it did not reboot.

    The only good thing is that it was the original HDD so I replaced it with a new SSD and it sure is better and my computers all run 24/7 doing data processing and never get a break unless the power goes out or I have to do the occasional reboot after a Update.

    Since then I had a desktop that fell 3 feet onto a carpet TWICE…..first time I caught it just before it hit the floor and after hours of work I finally got it to let me partition the OS again to get it running and it was running great……THEN the next time I didn’t catch it and it hit the carpet (long story) but the first thing I did was try to reboot since this time I saw nothing on the monitor……..well NOW I have a feeling I shouldn’t have tried the reboot and if I read this I might have just tried to remove the cover and see if it was the obvious problem that you showed here.

    But instead it put me in that mood where I wasn’t very happy so I found and bought a new desktop……rare occasion but it was the best price I ever paid and got one with a better CPU with threads so now I have a faster one that can run 8 separate tests at the same time (basically 8-core) with 24GB ram and 2T HD (3.4mhz)…..BUT after reading this I will find some free time to get that HD out of the box and open it up (I am a retired electronics engineer and company owner and have built many pc’s and even had to take my laptop all apart just to see if I could do it or not and I am on it right now and it has 5 years of non-stop running)

    Of course this has a SSD so there is no spinning disc like the good old HDD but I have plenty of old HDD’s to practice on and in my younger days assembled and tested hundreds of circuit boards (EPIRB’s) and microwave communications electronics (satellite LNA’s and LNB’s)

    But thanks for showing this info here and it was one of the first couple links I checked and the FIRST one to do a good job explaining this subject (I guess I will save this site to check other topics)

    Thanks again-


    • Samson,

      It is not recommended AT ALL for ANY REASON to open the HD. Nor is it wise to encourage others who have less experience than you do to do the same (which is what this kind of post does).

      There is no experience (IT, computer repair, electronic engineering) that automatically helps you, or puts you in another category when it comes to hard drives repair. They are their own beast, and most recoveries also require very expensive technology made specifically for HD repair.

      If you have never done a head swap, then you will not know the peculiarities that go along with it, nor will you have the technology that is often required to additionally perform steps to get the drive to respond the way you would want, ultimately to access the data.

      Most hard drive recovery engineers endure extensive training, and have made at least 5-10 failed head swaps before they got their first one right.

      If you do not need the data back, feel free to open whatever hard drives you want to play with them, but don’t expect them to ever work again! Once certain damage has been done to the drive it cannot be undone. We have had drives with many failed user attempts come in the shop that will never have their data recovered because of it. 🙂

  7. Hello, My laptop fell and got very slow.. i restarted.. Boot file not found.

    will a Format help in making the drive reusable?

    there was 2 partitions,, one of them works fine and i was able to recovered all the data out of it… the other one with contained windows and unable to launch/be accessed…

    What can i do? i have already backed up all the other working partitions and now im doing a totall format (total zeros writing and departitioning process)

    Kindly let me know if this will make the drive healthy again..

    PS: if there is a way to identify the scratched sectors of the hard drive then i could probably do a partition where i will not let my hard attempt to write on.


  8. helloe, Pls i need your help more than ever! I use an Imac desktop. i have never had issues with it until recently when my sierra crashed and i reinstalled. then it crashed again. so i continued using my windows bootcamp which has a partition size of 600 gig while the mac has 300 gig, the whole harddisk is 1 terra. now as i was booting into my windows 10, it told me to do a disk scan to fix errors while booting and i said yes. but it got stucked on 0 percent. then next thing it said disk recovery error. and went off then i tried to reboot but it wont boot . the hard disk starts to make a funny sound. so i removed it to slave it to an external reader. but my system cant see it atall. once i plug it spins then 3 secs after it starts to make sounds for like 7 times and it goes down again. i need my datas on it deperately . the hard disk did not fall atall. what should i do please?

    • Sounds like there is some damage to the drive that will only get worse if you keep powering it on.

      You need to send it to a professional with the right diagnostics equipment, and experience to fix these types of issues.

      We’d be happy to take a look at it for you.

  9. This seems like a scare tactic to me. How in the world are you to assess the fact that your hard drive is no longer working unless you plug it in? I’m not going to spend thousands of dollars assessing a hard drive right after it dropped just to be told it’s fine, and I could have plugged it in right after the fact. I recently dropped my passport ultra. It’s making the clicking sound. But most people I talk to tell me that as long as I don’t plug it in ANYMORE, and get it to a specialist, I should be able to recover it. Or at least most of it. You can’t know a hard drive doesn’t work unless you test it.

    • Your drive is clicking now because you turned it on after it dropped. How much of a scare tactic could the information provided here be? Now you have to send it to a professional anyways, except NOW your drive may have been damaged permanently because it was turned on after the drop. Which means your data may not be recoverable. If you had not turned it on and sent it to a company like us with a clean room, it’s almost 100% GUARANTEE to get your data back. Now you have 50/50 chance. Scare tactic = NO Truth and GOOD information = YES If you want to take the chance then plug it in. If you DONT want to take chances send it to someone with a clean room who has a policy for dropped drives that includes inspections before turning the drive on. Only way to be 100% SURE of NOT CAUSING MORE DAMAGE (possibly permanent).

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