From the "Trippy but True Hardware Fixes" department:
For any of you out there who've had the wonderful misfortune of having a hard drive go totally belly-up on you, but recovering the data on the drive is absolutely necessary, check this out:
One of my clients' old Maxtor drives finally went South on her this weekend, just as I was in the middle of migrating her data over to her brand new computer. The drive just suddenly died- whir!, click!, spin down, vanished, kaput. I couldn't get it to spin up again on a few subsequent power-cyclings of the machine, and not wanting to damage either of her computers, I took it back to my shop to try to revive it. I put it in three different computers (running Windows and Linux), but it refused to engage in any of them at all; all I got from the drive were a few sick-sounding whines, and one of the controller chips began to get really hot.
I was just about to call her and give her the bad news when I remembered a really off-the-wall fix that I read about ages ago: wrap the drive in an anti-static bag, wrap that in couple of zip-lock baggies, and stick the beast in the freezer overnight. I Googled around a bit and found that this was considered to be a huge "Urban Legend" by many folks, but others said that the fix had indeed worked for them.
WTF I thought- the drive can't be much more dead than it is now, right? Soooo... into the freezer she went (the drive, that is, not the client). Well, this morning I pulled the drive out of the fridge and stuck it back into one of my test boxes, and the damn thing spun right up, and stayed alive long enough to let me pull all of the data off to another drive!
As weird as it sounded at first- it worked, so I just thought I'd pass my experience on in case it can pull anyone else out of a similar jam.