I have a bunch of hard drives. From 500 megabytes to a few gigabytes from years around 2000-2006. I was wondering if those are still readable or are dead. Should I hurry up finding an adapter and try to save the most i can, or are safe where they are? (dark dry place)


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    Any answer is only going to be anecdotal... If you care about the data you should copy it. – Stephen Kitt Jun 26 '18 at 9:49
  • You should have at least 3 copies of the data, and those copies should not all be in the same geographic location, in case of fire, earthquake, etc. – snips-n-snails Jun 26 '18 at 11:40
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because not rc – Raffzahn Jun 26 '18 at 18:32
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    If the drives do not have any useful information, and you wish to bin them, take out the magnets and the disks first. The older drives have very powerful magnets - great for picking up screws in unreachable places. The disks make amazingly good unbreakable mirrors - great for looking behind a PC. Most of these disks have a hidden screw under the information sheet. – cup Jun 26 '18 at 20:27
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    The oldest, and perhaps the most reliable (:)) is painting on cave walls - are you choosing the most reliable medium for your use given the functionality you require? – Solar Mike Jun 27 '18 at 8:16

IME, the main reason a disk doesn't work when it comes out of storage is that it was basically knackered when it went into storage because it had been used heavily or was just junk to start with. You've probably heard the perjorative names people give to disk brands they've lost data to and don't trust any more: "Seacrate", "Necropolis", "Minstor" etc. We do not generally put lightly-used high-quality disks into archive storage, as they're expensive and we want to get our money's worth out of them.

However, you should still prioritise the data retrieval because there is also a gentle decline while in storage which will eventually push a marginal disk over the edge. Oil seeps out of drive bearings, the plastic packaging in chips eats into the silicon, and metal rusts. Entropy eventually claims its own no matter how hard you try to stop it.

You should not have any problems finding an adaptor for your disks as USB-PATA adaptors are still made and sold today and are backwards compatible to a surprising degree. I was able to read disks from the early 1990s with one such device. The only ones that wouldn't read were those that made some very sick-sounding noises indicating terminal mechanical failure.


For starters, you should definitely make a backup copy of anything you care about.

Anecdotally, the biggest issue you'll likely encounter is stuck bearings. I've got 2 retro systems that have sticky spindles. One can usually be started by giving it a sharp axial twist (or three) at power on (50MB, brand unknown). For the other (105MB, I think) I ended up replacing the drive with a more recent SCSI disk. Bearing will "dry out" eventually so it's best to make copies sooner rather than later. (Both of these systems are 'workstation' class.)

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