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How to Handle a Hard Drive Head Crash

Mechanical hard drives have a stack of heads that read magnetic data from the platters, or media. When the drive is spinning, these heads actually float upon tiny air cushions. They are never supposed to actually touch the platters. However, just because something is never supposed to happen, doesn’t mean that it never will. A head crash occurs when a hard disk drives’ head(s) touches the platters.


What is a Head Crash?

If the read/write heads from your HDD touch the platters, this is referred to as a head crash. A head crash will likely lead to drive failure, data loss, and potentially hard drive data recovery.

Hard Drive Head Crash Data Recovery

Data recovery companies replace hard drive head stacks on a regular basis. Replacing a head stack can become problematic, as you can’t simply go buy replacement heads by themselves – they are always part of a complete hard drive.  So, in order to get replacement heads, you have to find a suitable donor drive. Fortunately, established data recovery labs (like Data Savers) that have been around for nearly twenty years often already have popular donor drive parts available on-site.

Manufacturers may use different and incompatible heads in the same model hard drive. This means that data recovery firms have to get an exact match if they want the head swap to be successful.  The problem is that there is no way to tell what heads are inside the 5 TB Seagate HDD (shown in the photo on the right) by looking at the label or anything on the exterior.

Even so, that’s usually no problem, unless the heads are rare, and the donor drives are expensive. A firm can buy several drives from different vendors and still not get a suitable match. Sometimes data recovery firms will even reach out to their competitors for drive heads that they need.

Use Your Head Before you Do a Head Swap!


Many of the largest data recovery firms purchased or built complex and expensive equipment that identifies a hard drive’s head type without disassembling the drive. Unfortunately for the little guy, very few hard drive resellers and local computer repair services have access to this kind of specialized equipment.

Data Savers Case Study Results

For this particular recovery, Data Savers contacted data recovery and hard drive suppliers from around the world to find a stack that worked with this defective hard drive.  Eventually, a data recovery company that we have enjoyed a mutually beneficial arrangement with happened to have a suitable spare head.

At the end of the day, we were able to complete the recovery, and read more than 99.9999% of the drive’s data sectors for an almost perfect result. 

I was very thankful that they provided a fair price up front! No hidden fees! These guys know what they're doing. Super thankful for them!

~ Marin G. on Google

After working with two other companies who could not recover the wedding videos, we took the drive to Data Savers. Our wedding videos were recovered. They are true professionals and worth every penny!

~ Elizabeth H. on Yelp

The team at Data Savers were level headed and provided reasonable flat rate options. They quickly diagnosed the problem, recovered the data, and had me back to normal in short order.

~ Mark J. on Google

Data Savers' No Risk Steps

Send In Your Drive

Ship* us your drive, our technicians will examine it for FREE and provide you with a flate rate (no hidden costs) estimate. (*FREE UPS Ground shipping in continental U.S. too!)

You can start by clicking Submit Drive.

We can also email you a quick estimate with our Request Pricing option.

We Go To Work

After your receive your estimate, with your approval our experts will get to work on recovering your data. Our drive repair and recovery techniques have been developed over many years to get the highest success rate possible.

With our No Data - No Charge policy we will not charge you if no data can be retrieved.

Get Your Data Back!

We will transfer your recovered data to a new external drive, ship* it back to you and let you get back in business! (*Free UPS Ground return in continental U.S.)

We do keep a copy or image of your data for ten days to ensure that you receive it successfully. After that your data is securely erased.