Picture of a Samsung Laptop HDD in USB enclosure, top view.

Hard Drive Does Not Spin Up, How to Fix

When a hard drive does not spin up, getting the data off of it is impossible.   This is true, whether it be PATA, SATA, SCSI, IDE, USB, internal, or external hard disk drive (HDD).

If you get into this situation, then try to recover the drive yourself.  If the problem is in the drive, then it pays to try at least.  Try to get your drive to spin up, and copy off any data you can.  Then, replace the failing HDD as soon as you can.  Never trust an HDD again with your data once it shows slow startup; even once.

If you can’t manage to start the HDD, then kiss your data goodbye.  That is, unless you spend hundreds to thousands of dollars for a data recovery service.  Indeed, you’ll fail to get your photos, music files, Office docs, and so on.

But if you must save this data with lowest risk, then let the pros do it.  Why?  Because they maintain dust-free HDD repair environments, and have familiarity with specific drive models.  They know therefore, which are the best recovery methods to use. They likely know your hard disk drive (HDD).  Further, they may have parts on hand for it.   So, it’d be easier for the pros to attempt platter swapping or logic board changes.

True.  This will cost you, a lot.  But this should spur you to learn the lesson of regular backups.  Back up your data in the future!  That way, you avoid having to ever worry about hard drive not spinning up recovery again.

If your data is important, try these tips before hiring an HDD data recovery service. Indeed, we wrote this post just for your case.  Yes, there are many tricks that to try yourself, to get at your data.  So it’s best to try all that you can to successfully power up the drive.  We’ve assembled some tips below to rev up the drive long enough to copy off your critical files.  Often, you won’t need expensive data recovery services to recover your data.

We’ve ordered the procedures below as lowest-to-highest risk of further damaging the disk drive.  So, to raise your odds of getting your files successfully, follow the steps below, in order.

Hard drive does not spin up. Picture of a laptop SATA HDD, powered via SATA to USB Cable, from USB power adapter, for testing purposes.
Hard drive does not spin up. SATA HDD, powered via SATA to USB cable, from a USB power adapter.

Hard Drive Does Not Spin Up: Tips to Get it to Spin

Minimize All External Sources of Vibration and Magnetic Fields

First, make sure that nothing in your computing environment is interfering with proper HDD operation.  Move the drive / computer that it’s in, away from motors, transformers, electric heaters, televisions, refrigerators.  Get it away from any appliance that generates radio frequency energy or magnetic fields.  Keep magnets away; especially those extra strong neodymium types.  Not only can magnets erase the data on the drive platters. But this can also trigger faulty drive operation; including spin up failures.   Position the affected drive out of direct sunlight.  Then, make sure that your mains power is the correct voltage.  If other devices on the same circuit operate correctly, then low-voltage brownout is not the problem.

When a Hard Drive Does Not Spin Up, Try a Different Power Supply

Most HDDs should start up without computer support.  So, if the drive has an external power supply, try replacing it.  Swap it out for another, known good supply of the same type. Indeed, we experienced this issue recently with an internal SATA disk drive from a laptop.  So we bought a SATA to USB cable.  Then we plugged the drive into the SATA end of that cable.  Finally, we plugged the USB end into a USB power adapter, as shown above. We were able to power up the HDD in this way.

If this is an internal drive, try plugging it into a different “rail” bus on the computer’s power supply.  Or, power it from an external power supply that offers the right connections.

If this drive runs completely from USB, as shown above, check that you’re plugging it into a high-current (2.4 amp) USB port.  This assures that your getting enough power to properly start the HDD.  A hard drive not starting up might occur because of too little power available.

If the HDD is inside a drive enclosure, try taking the drive out of it.  Why? The electronics in that enclosure may be faulty.  Next, move the drive to a different enclosure.  Or, directly attach it to your computer with the right cables (USB to IDE, SATA to USB, ESATA, Etc.).

When a Hard Drive Does Not Spin Up, Try a Different Computer

Sometimes, plugging the hard disk unit into a different PC / Mac relieves locked-platter syndrome.  That may happen due to moving it around. Or differences in voltage levels and software configurations in the “different” computer can make it spin again too.

Clean the HDD Connection Points when a Hard Drive Does Not Spin Up

We use a regular pencil eraser to gently buff the edge-board connections on SATA drives.  But be careful on IDE or SCSI drive connectors.  You may ibend the tiny gold pins and not be able to straighten them out.

Shake the Drive While it’s Powering Up

When a hard drive wont power up, try this.  Hold it in your hand.  Then, turn it upside down.  Flip it over again, rotate it, rock it, roll it, and turn it around.  Just don’t throw it!  This little procedure often releases minor platter lockups.  With power applied, you’ll be able to hear if the drive spins up, while shaking it.

Tap the Drive a Few Times Against a Hard Surface

If you drop or shock a hard drive, such a bump can misalign parts and freeze up the platters.  Sometimes though, rapping the drive can reverse this long enough to get a good spin up and data recovery.  If the drive beeps, squeaks, or clicks while attempting to spin up, try rapping it while this is happening.  Your taps as well as the added forces from the platter motor may together, get the platters to start rotating.

Freeze the Hard Drive

Sometimes, cooling down the HDD can contract the platters / motor parts enough to eliminate the seizing.  We cooled a drive like this in our zero-degree freezer for a half-hour, and it then spun up successfully.  Longer freeze times may be necessary.  Experiment.  Put the drive in an air-tight plastic bag (zipper lock bags work best). This reduces condensation on chilled drive parts once you take it out of the freezer.

Then, hurry up and copy the data off.  If a lot of data, the drive may lock up again before you get it all.  So you may have to chill it several times.  After each time then, start the copy from where it failed the prior time.  Or, keep it cool during the copy by sandwiching it between a couple of those frozen chill packs.

Warm the Hard Drive

Every now and then, heating the drive for ten minutes in a 125-degree oven can solve no-spin-up problems.  How?  It softens components and bearing lubes enough to loosen locked platters and shafts.  But try the cool-down approach first.  There’s more risk to the drive when baking it, than chilling it.   Again, the problem may reappear as the drive warms up again.  So act quickly to copy the data.

Swap the Logic Board

If you happen to have another identical HDD that works, try putting its logic board(s) into the faulty drive.  This often does not restore proper spin up. But even if it does, the data will be inaccessible.  Why?  Because the logic board in the faulty drive has unique info in its flash memory.  This data goes with the particular platters of the non spinning HDD.  Plus, you risk “bricking” the good drive, and rendering it as dead as the original faulty one.  But now and then, this might work, although we’re never been desperate enough to test this.  Other IT techs though, report success.

Take Apart the Drive, Spin the Platters Manually, and Put it Back Together

Be sure to take apart the drive ONLY in a low-dust environment.  Again, we recommend allowing “the professionals” at a bonafide data recovery service perform this procedure.  Also, there’s a high risk that doing this will render the drive inoperable.  So make sure to execute the procedures above first.  If they don’t work, and you really want your data back, be adventurous and try this.  But do so at your own peril.

If all the above steps fail, then you will likely be unable to get your data off.  However, with a bit of care, one of the above techniques usually restores proper operation.  Hopefully, it works long enough for you to copy off the data.

Related Posts to Hard Drive Does Not Spin Up

References for Hard Drive Does Not Spin Up

Revision History

  • 2018-04-09: Revised the post content and added the Related Posts section.
  • 2016-02-02: Originally published.