Come, let us tell sad stories of the deaths of hard drives

So I think the answer to this is going to be “you’re out of luck”, but I figured it’s worth asking. I’ve got a dead hard drive and I’d love to fix it, or at least get some information off it.

It’s a 1TB Samsung SSD, and it’s not my main drive (whew!). That’s a 500GB Samsung SSD. This larger drive was a secondary drive, and it had basically all my game installs, along with the video editing I used to do. I’m 99% sure the games were cloud saved, although I’m a bit worried about a couple of things I’d been playing from the Epic Games Store and Uplay. I better not have lost my Watch Dogs progress!

Here’s what happened. Several months ago, I was trying to download Alyx, and the download crapped out because my drive disappeared! I stopped the download, mucked around, and eventually the drive reappeared. Weird. But every time I tried to resume the download of Alyx, it would “kill” the drive. So I didn’t download Alyx. I wasn’t that psyched about playing it anyway. Fine.

Fast forward to tonight, when I notice a folder in Steam called Download. It’s got 80GBs of junk in it. I Googled whether it was safe to delete, and it was, so I did. Except that it wasn’t safe to delete because now the drive isn’t showing up in Windows!

I’ve verified that it’s having issues regardless of which SATA port it’s connected to, so it’s not an onboard SATA port screw-up, and it’s not an issue with cables. Seems there was some “bad section” related to where I was downloading Alyx, and deleting the files “woke up” the “bad section” and now the drive is dead again? Those might not be accurate technical terms.

But here’s the deal. Sometimes I can see it in BIOS! It isn’t showing up in File Explorer, or the Device Manager, or on the Disk Management option. It’s not even showing up in Samsung’s “Magician” software (such a dumb name for disk management software). But I can see it in BIOS! It’s correctly listed and identified along with my other drive. At some level, it still exists! So at some level, shouldn’t I be able to access it, and at least get stuff off it?

My main concern is the cost of replacing it, and if there’s some way to identify and fix why it did what it did, I can save myself a couple hundred (?) bucks. But my secondary concern is some of the video I was editing. I have footage of playthroughs that I had half a mind to edit together and post. My tertiary and pretty much negligible concern is the games I had installed. I can just download them again and hope the saves are in the Steam cloud.

So does anyone have any ideas for how a fellow can access and troubleshoot a hard drive that shows up in BIOS, but isn’t accessible via the usual manners in Windows 10?


Gah, I knew I was overlooking something! All my music files! I must have ripped twenty opera CDs to that drive, as well as about fifty other CDs, and I just threw away the physical CDs during a move! I remember thinking there was no need to keep the physical CDs anymore, and they got chunked into the trash a week ago. Dammit! Dammit!


Paging 2019’s MVP, @lordkosc

Please report to the technical services area. Your help is required once again.

Magnets are a lie, Tom. You should know this.

Does the SSD show up in Disk Management? It’s one of the options when you right-click the Start menu. NM, I see in your post you tried that. Maybe try moving the drive to a different SATA port or M.2 slot.

Actually fixing a hard drive is basically impossible afaik, although depending on the age of the drive you may be under warranty. The root causes for failure can be varied, but you could be dealing with bad blocks, a bad data port, or something else. Being an SSD doesn’t make them immune from the same issues as HDDs, but they’re less likely to die from heat or physical damage. I personally blame the salt air you deal with on the coast /sarcastic Midwestern snobbery. As for the data, there are numerous data recovery techniques/services but I can’t vouch for any of them. Hopefully someone here has some experience with those.

Try the suggestions here first for getting the rest of the PC to see the SSD again.

I have used this AOMEI Standard edition free software to great success twice so far, for older SSDs that are showing some wear and tear issues with bad sectors.

Be careful, there are lots of buttons you can click and some are dangerous!

You would use the part 1 of the suggested fix options.

I usually check for errors then run it again with a chkdsk option.

If you do get the drive back, move important stuff off it, and consider replacing it if it is more than 5 years old.

The overall work involved and experience should be easier than this:

@tomchick , status report please!

Coming soon! I haven’t been able to mess with it yet, since I’m in the middle of moving chaos, so I’m almost literally juggling a dozen different things. In fact, I’d say moving closely resembles Tom Cruise attempting his torus heist.


So what version of Windows are you using? I ask because I was having weirdo drive issues where the BIOS would find them but Explorer would not, and it would take a few restarts to get them all back again. M.2 was never a problem, just the SSDs. I really thought my mobo was on the fritz, so I did a firmware update on her and got no better results. Then a windows update happened and now it’s stable. Thinking back, I think the problem started with a Windows update too but I didn’t notice which one nor could I find any info on it. The C drive never had any problems…ever.

I believe it is 1909 that seems to have fixed everything. Whether it was a bug that was corrected or an actual upate, can’t say that.

You may have success buying a USB/SATA adapter such as this and hooking it up via USB instead of your main drive controller. Given that I am forever cursed to be freebie tech support to family & friends this kinda cable comes in handy often enough to be worth having around the place, and it’s cheap.

Sometimes this method works, sometimes it doesn’t. Make sure you plug it into the USB ports on the back of your PC though (i.e. the ones that directly connect to the mainboard), as I have consistently found that the front ports are more temperamental due to… who knows, crappy wiring? BTW This trick works for USB wifi dongles that keep cutting out, and was how I noticed this (totally stupid, yet true) phenomena in the first place.

Anyways, you may have to unplug and replug it a couple of times until windows sees it. Failing that, recovery software time as lordkosc mentions.

And now for my tale of woe. A few months ago we had a power outage which blew the hard drive controller in my server. The controller was relatively easy to replace, however after doing so I learned that it took out one of the four 6TB hard drives which I’d stitched together using windows storage spaces. I’d set it up into a single parity space, effectively 3 drives worth of space (18TB) with 1 drive worth of parity data which meant that, in theory, I could lose any one hard drive out of the four without it affecting anything once I replaced the busted disk.

At least, that was the theory. In reality, whatever happened with the controller put the storage volume in some weird state where I simply could not detach the busted drive and replace it with a healthy one like you’re supposed to. After much powershell wrangling I managed to sorta get it back up enough to read out the data on there, but could never get it back into a ‘healthy’ state.

Still, it allowed me to slowly but surely copy out my stuff piecemeal onto a bunch of spares I had lying around. Shortly after completing this migration, I deleted the accursed storage space (never to return) and began setting up the server again (this time with two simple mirror volumes).

Disaster struck a second time as one of the 6TB hard drives containing a portion of the migrated data somehow ended up falling off the table and broke completely. The reasons are lost to the mists of time; some witnesses say a spouse, some spouses say a cat. In the interests of the state (aka a happy marriage), the cat was found guilty despite purring the fifth and was sentenced to bath.

Anyhoo, that drive was jam-packed with movies, essentially my QT3 podcast backlog. I’d cheaped out on buying a UPS forever and had paid the ultimate price; two hard drives (£150+ apiece), a replacement SATA controller (£30), days of my time, a strained marriage and an unhappy (but fragrant) kitty.

About three years ago, one of my big media external drives crapped out on me – right after I’d bought some space in cloud storage to back it all up to. Which sucks, because I didn’t get a chance to back it up there. Nothing huge lost – the most valuable thing was some music folders with some rare stuff, only some of which was backed up to other drives. But there was stuff that’s a pain in the butt to replace, like my folders of Hitchcock movies, Rohmer movies, Baumbach films, etc. Most were blu-ray rips from my own media. Which…takes a while.

For whatever reason I kept the drive around. Occasionally I’d plug it back in, and sometimes Windows would recognize it and even show the folders on it, correctly named. But click on a folder and sad trombones. I’d eventually get an I/O error before the contents of the folders could even display. Couldn’t copy them, couldn’t interact with them in any way without getting an I/O error.

So today I’m doing some cleaning and I’m in Marie Kondo mode and I’m looking at this external drive and realizing that it’s probably time to let it go. But maybe not before one last try to get the files and folders off of it. I do a little research, and try the free versions of Disk Drill and Stellar. Nope. Even when both can find the drive (which took me unplugging and replugging in the USB cable multiple times to get it to finally show), they show no recoverable files in the folders. Ah well.

But then I read one last suggestion: “Try it in Safe Mode”. Right. Huh. I’m almost laughing at this point, because there’s no WAY that Safe Mode will work…but it has fixed other issues I’ve had (see the great internet speed issue when I first moved to my new place.)

So I try restarting to safe mode. And two things happen.

First, I’d noticed a couple of times that restarting or powering up my computer with this faulty drive plugged in resulted in it just hanging on the first post screen (the one that shows your motherboard and prompts you to hit DEL to enter setup, or F12 to enter the boot sequence, etc.)

This time, with the offending drive having been “recognized” but not useable by windows when I shut down, after about a minute the drive makes these two loud-ish (relatively, I mean, most drives are silent. Loud enough that I could hear it from my chair) almost “burping” noises. And then the computer gives me the Safe Mode prompts.


And so I’m typing this right now while hopefully life-boating a whole bunch of media files off that external drive to other drives.

Once again: safe mode saves the day. And I post this in case it might help someone else having the same problem with an external drive some day.

That is super cool, seriously. Goes to show that this stuff is not all that cut and dried sometimes.

That follows my Rule #36 of computers–sometimes they do that (for no apparent logical reason). I recommend eating your veggies, getting to bed early, and perhaps making a donation to your local foodbank, for the Tech Gods have bestowed charity upon you. Hurrah!

What’s hilarious is that I’ve tried to duplicate this a couple of times just to check to see if there’s a folder on there that I’m looking for – nothing major, and the stuff in that folder I literally have saved elsewhere, just organizing it all into one folder (it’s mp3s of rejected songs for old holiday music mixes) will be a pain.

And now the drive feels like it is finally and truly completely dead. Windows won’t recognize it at all anymore.

But for three and a half hours this morning…we got survivors off that sinking ship.

That’s awesome! Way to keep hope alive and way to keep trying new things.

Hmm, I’ve still got my dead harddrive with all my opera on it. But this is where I’d post that gif of Jeremy Renner as Evil Hawkeye in the Japanese rain saying “Don’t Give Me Hope”, or whatever he says.

Still, might be worth a try.

I have an old external spinny drive that I suspect I fried when trying to find out which adapter was the one that worked with it… previously I had run it with my router extender power source, but I had temporarily lost that too and was just trying random ones from the cupboard.

Given it doesn’t spin up now with the router power adapter that did work before (I since found it)… any saving this guy? It has some portfolio files and music that I wouldn’t mind saving. But not sure what I’d have to do… crack the case open, can you plug this kind of drive into something else? Like are there standard pci-e connectors in there (from 2008-9)?