Dead disk drive? What would Fonzie do?


Author: Lee Schlesinger

In the ’70s TV show “Happy Days,” the character Fonzie was so cool that he could make a dead jukebox play just by giving it a thump in the right spot. If Fonzie were working on computers today, he’d probably use some of these tricks for getting a reluctant hard drive to come across with its data.When a previously working disk drive suddenly won’t come up at boot time, one approach is to try freezing it. I don’t know whether the cold realigns the components or the condensation that forms when you remove the drive from the icebox has a positive effect, but this technique actually works. It revived a laptop drive of mine that quit suddenly this morning.

Sometimes the problem isn’t with the hardware but with a key system component. In that case, you may be able to boot with a Linux LiveCD, mount the drive, and copy off all your crucial files. This trick works whether your hard drive was running Linux or Windows, as long as the LiveCD understands the filesystem on the drive.

Of course, that assumes you have space to which you can copy the data. Sometimes it’s handy to just mount your laptop hard drive on a desktop PC to copy the data quickly. Unfortunately, laptops and desktops use different IDE connectors. But heeeey, that’s not a killer problem. Cables to Go makes a laptop-to-IDE hard drive adapter that lets you hook up the notebook drive to your desktop PC. I just ordered one this morning — the cheapest I could find was at

I gotta admit, I’m not cool like the Fonz, but I know NewsForge readers are. Got any more tips like this you’d care to share?


  • Hardware