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

Hard Drive Not Spinning, How to Fix

For a hard drive not spinning, 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).

Hard Drive Not Spinning, First Remarks

Try Fixing it Yourself if Data Not Too Important

If you find a hard drive not spinning, 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 not spinning hard drive as soon as you can.  Never trust an HDD again with your data once it shows slow startup; even once.

Consider a Data Recovery Service

If you can’t manage to start the HDD spinning again, 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 settings, and know about specific drive models.  They know thus, which are the best recovery methods to use. They likely know your hard disk drive (HDD).  Further, they may have parts on hand.   So, it’d be easier for the pros to try platter swapping or logic board changes.

Seagate Barracuda SATA 500 GB hard disk drive, bottom view. Hard drive not spinning.
Seagate Barracuda SATA 500 GB hard disk drive, bottom view.

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.

Picture of a laptop SATA HDD, powered via SATA to USB Cable, from USB power adapter, for testing purposes.
SATA HDD, powered via SATA to USB cable, from a USB power adapter.

Hard Drive Not Spinning: Tips to Get it to Spin

Minimize All External Sources of Vibration and Magnetic Fields

First, make sure that nothing in your space is interfering with proper HDD operation.  Move the drive / computer that it’s in, away from motors, transformers, electric heaters, TVs, fridges.  Get it away from any appliance that make 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 your hard drive not spinning problem.   Position the drive out of sunlight.  Then, test that your mains power is the right voltage.  If other devices on the same circuit run well, then low-voltage brownout is not the problem.

Try a Different Power Supply to Fix Hard Drive Not Spinning

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 had  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 not spinning hard drive 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.).

Picture of a Samsung laptop disk drive in USB enclosure, bottom view. Hard drive not spinning.
Samsung laptop disk drive in USB enclosure, bottom view.

Try a Different Computer to Test Hard drive Not Spinning

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

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 you see a hard drive not spinning, 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 routine 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 miss align 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 trying 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 ans solve your hard drive not spinning problem long enough for you to retrieve the data from it.

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, you may notice the hard drive not spinning 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 fix hard drive not spinning issues.  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.

Picture of a Seagate Barracuda SATA 500 GB hard drive, showing the SATA port side.
Seagate Barracuda SATA 500 GB hard drive, showing the SATA port side.

Swapping the Logic Board Might Solve Hard Drive Not Spinning Issue

If you happen to have another identical HDD that works, try putting its logic board(s) into the hard drive that’s not spinning.  This often does not fix a not spinning hard drive. 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 work space.  Again, we suggest letting “the professionals” at a bonafide data recovery service do this for you.  Also, doing this could render the hard drive not spinning even more broken than it is already.  So make sure to run the routines above first.  If they don’t work, and you really want your data back, then take the risk and try this.  But do so at your own peril if you fail.

If all the above steps do not correct your hard drive not spinning, then you will likely not get your data off.  But with a bit of care, one of the above methods often restores drive spinning long enough to copy all data off.

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References for Hard Drive Not Spinning

  1. How to Fix Hard Disk Drive Failures
  2. Where to find Date Recovery Services

Revision History

  • 2019-05-01: Targeted ‘Hard Drive Not Spinning’, added tags, and deleted ad code scripts.
  • 2018-04-09: Revised the post content and added the Related Posts section.
  • 2016-02-02: Originally published.