Electronic devices (cell phones, computers, etc.) can sometimes be salvaged after exposure to water, heat, or extreme conditions during an emergency. If the device itself can’t be salvaged, the data stored on it can possibly be restored. This is especially important if the data was not backed up at a safe offsite location.
Salvaging Wet Hard Drives + Other Digital Storage Media
Be sure computer is unplugged.
If computer is wet, pour out residual water.
Do not attempt to dry — this may further damage a hard drive.
Open computer case. Unplug, unscrew and remove hard drive(s), being careful not to touch the circuit board.
Seal drive in ziplock bag or wrap in plastic and tape shut.
Do not freeze; store as close to room temperature as possible.
Take or send the drive to a hard drive recovery specialist for data recovery.
Be sure computer is unplugged and battery is removed.
Remove and bag the hard drive as above or bag the entire notebook computer.
Flash Drives + Memory Cards
If drive or card has been in salt water or other contaminants, rinse thoroughly in clean water.
Place in a plastic bag with silica gel or, if that is unavailable, dry (uncooked) instant rice for several days until dry.
If drive works, download files to another device immediately in case the drive later fails. If drive does not work, try further drying.
Be careful not to scratch disk, especially the shiny non-label side or data may be lost.
Rinse dirty disk in clean water. Do not scrub. If dirt will not come off with rinsing, soak in mild detergent solution, then rinse.
Air dry label-edge up in racks or label-side down on a sheet of clean wax paper.
Dust and smudges can be cleaned with a soft lint-free cloth using light strokes from the outside edge toward center only.
Floppy Disks, Zip Disks + Back-up Tape
If the data is valuable, seal in plastic and send to a data recovery specialist.
If you want to attempt recovery yourself, take disk out of enclosure. Rinse in fresh clean water. Dry on lint-free or microfiber cloth. Place in new enclosure.
Analog or Digital — except old paper-backed tape — put in ziplock bag.
If wet and dirty, do not let tapes dry out.
Rinse as soon as possible in clean water to remove contaminants; if necessary, tapes can stay wet for several days.
Avoid use of extreme heat or cold — both can damage tapes.
Open Reel Tapes
If covered with mud, or other contaminants, rinse in clean water.
If needed, add a small amount of mild dishwashing detergent to the cleaning water.
Rinse in clean water.
Air dry vertically in racks.
Tape in Cassettes
If only case is wet or dirty, wipe clean.
If inside is contaminated, open cassette, remove tape reel and clean and dry as with Open Reel Tapes (above).
Drive Savers offers free evaluation and firm quote for recovery
Seagate offers a variety of data recovery services
The National Archives has an excellent list of steps to take for lessening damage to magnetic tapes and media after a disaster. The site also has information on conservation of film and paper.
CDs + DVDs
Care and Handling of CDs and DVDs: A Guide for Librarians and Archivists has information on cleaning, handling, and care of optical media. Conditions that Affect CDs and DVDs and Cleaning are the most useful