I have to say, this drive recovery was frighteningly successful for a frighteningly difficult problem.
The Back Story
So, it all started when my significant other powered on her laptop. She received the infamous and equally dreaded message "Cannot Find Operating System". After several reboots and reseating the drive it made its way onto my desk for the hard drive lobotomy known as recovery.
And so it beings. A Seagate Momentus 5400.2 60GB IDE drive. Model: ST960822A with Firmware: 8.03 and Date: 06366. I hooked up the drive through adapters in attempt to get it to show up so I could accomplish this the easy way by just pulling files across. That failed with stellar proportions since the drive didn't even show up in windows as a device. It was clear at that point that this drive was as dead as a doorknob.
Next, I attempted a board swap. It just so happened that I had a drive that matched model, size, firmware and came out of the same factory an amazing 1-day after the damaged drive. If any board was going to work, this one was it. I went about carefully swapping it in, hooked everything up, and yet… nothing.
So now what? It could be the board still, it could be the adapter or who knows what else. Since we needed another adapter anyhow one was bought and confirmed it was not an adapter problem.
At this point, it became quite clear that this drive was much more damaged than even I'd thought. So now it was time to break out the big guns and pop the hood. With trusty screwdriver in hand I thoroughly voided every (non existant) warranty the drive had by removing all the screws that keep the platters and internal mechanics safe and sound. I lifted the top and had a look. Everything looked okay but then I attempted to barely skooch the spindle and it wouldn't budge. EUREKA! So we've found the problem! The drive has siezed. Just to verify this I left the top off, hooked up power and computer connections at which point the spindle should have started to turn regardless of actual functionality. It didn't.
Great! So now, the trusty old trick of popping the drive in the freezer to attempt to get the bearings to loosen up. After 30 very chilly minutes in the freezer the hard drive wound up on my desk for another try. Nothing! Nothing at all… That should have done it so what the heck does one do now?
The Dark Before The Light
Well, with nothing more to loose other than my girlfriends precious data, including her only copy of NaNoWriMo documents, it's time to take things up another notch. So I pop the top again, hook up power and connections so the drive is active and then took my screwdriver and applied pressure on the spindle which was almost impossible to move. Since it seemed like I was only going to cause more problems by moving the spindle I went for the actuator arm and gave it a little push. Okay, it took a little more than a push but as soon as I moved the arm toward the drive edge the spindle started to spin! Not only did it start to spin but it also came up in Windows! Amazingly enough, windows found the drive, its two partitions and presented them for extraction without the need for recovery software. YAY! There was some damage to the drive and a section of things I was not able to get. However, 95% of the data that I attempted to pull came off without a problem.
So success once more for quite a difficult situation and a good way to end a weekend!