Hints, Tips And Tricks
The "hard-drive-in-the-freezer" trick is a real and proven, albeit last-resort, recovery technique for some kinds of otherwise-fatal hard-drive problems. In fact, it's part of a trio of unusual fixes that - believe it or not - can be summed up as "freeze it," "hit it," and "drop it"!
Clearly, these fixes run the risk of further damaging a drive. They truly are last-ditch efforts to be called upon only when you've already tried the normal drive fixes without success and have nothing left to lose.
The freezing trick sometimes works because the mechanical contraction/expansion may help free up binding parts. Other times, the cold can help an aging, failing electrical component to remain within specs for at least a few minutes - perhaps enough time for you to recover your essential data from the drive.
Here's how the freezing trick works:
Take the dying, otherwise-irreparable hard drive out of your computer, and place it in a Ziploc bag (to help minimize condensation on the drive). Put the bagged drive in a freezer for several hours. Then, working fast, take the drive out, remove the bag, and reconnect the chilled drive to the PC. If the drive spins up and seems to be working, get your essential data off the drive as fast as you possibly can.
The best option for this is to selectively copy portions of the dying drive to a new drive. Start with the most essential folder trees (My Documents, for example), and then copy increasingly less important folders as the drive warms up. Odds are, the drive will again become erratic or fail. But, if you're lucky, you'll be able to squeeze one last brief use from it.
The above method can work, but it is classified as a "last-ditch effort".