LaCie Big Disk Recovery


LaCie Big Disk
LaCie Big Disk

Over the years we have seen stacks of LaCie Big Disks (and quite a few LaCie Bigger Disks too). With their designer looks and an abundance of different interfaces, it is no surprise that they are so popular. There is however one main reason that people send us their drives, and that is because they are not working.

Size Matters

Those of you familiar with hard drives will be aware that these LaCie drives are substantially larger in physical size and storage capacity when compared to a standalone hard disk drive. The reason being is that the LaCie Big Disk contains two hard disks (and the LaCie Bigger Disk contains four hard drives). Of course when you attach the drive to your computer you only see one volume. This is due to a RAID controller inside the LaCie drive which allows for multiple disks to appear as one large, usable disk. The main advantage to this setup is that read and write speeds can be very fast, as the reads and writes are spread over multiple disks. Another bonus is that the capacity of the volume is as large as the two drives. So two 500GB drives will give you a 1TB volume. There is however a massive downside to all of this clever RAID business which boils down to some simple mathematics.

Failures

The larger the number of hard disk drives used in this particular striped (RAID 0) setup, the more chance that one of them will fail, therefore a higher chance that you will lose all of the data stored on these drives. The way a RAID 0 stripe works is to distribute the data across the disks at block level. The amount of blocks used for each stripe is determined by the RAID controller and varies between different manufacturers. What this means, from a data recovery point of view is that in order to extract data from a LaCie Big Disk, you need to figure out the block size, and read the data from both drives in sequence, in order to extract usable data. This sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is and is often explained with the analogy of a filing cabinet.

Imagine the LaCie Big Disk is a filing cabinet. The cabinet has two drawers (disks) with an index in the first drawer. Now imagine that when you save a file into the cabinet, all of the odd numbered pages are put into the first drawer, and all of the even numbered pages are put into the second drawer. Once saved, the files location is stored in the index. In order to read back the saved file, it must first be collected from the relevant drawers, one page from each drawer at a time, and arranged into the correct order.

This is all great until a problem occurs. What happens when one of the drawers becomes damaged and can no longer be opened. Sure you can access all of the pages in the other drawer but having every other page is not much use to anybody! So until you can access both drawers, the documents are worthless.

Special Hard Drives?

The hard drives in a LaCie Big Disk are much the same as any other hard drive on the market. This means they are just as likely to have the same failures as a standalone drive. They suffer from electronic problems on the PCB, firmware corruption and also internal component failure and head crashes. These are problems which need to be overcome before any attempt at a recovery is even possible.

Aside from the usual hard drive problems, we have also seen other problems such as failed power supplies or damaged circuit boards within the LaCie Big Disk, which prevent access to the stored data.

This is why we have spent a lot of time researching the process of recovering data from RAID systems such as the LaCie Big Disk. We follow the same precautions with RAID as we do with single volume drives.

  • We make binary images of all of the individual hard drives on a read-only basis to protect against drive failure.
  • We don’t use the original hardware to read the RAID data, as this may be part of the problem.
  • We never write the recovered data back to the LaCie Big Disk, as this would prevent any further recovery process if it was required.

As with all data recovery, the most important thing to remember is that any attempts to access the data without following strict precautions could result in the data being either lost forever, or extremely expensive to get back.

The best advice is to keep these drives backed up as regularly as possible to avoid future headaches.

Free Seagate Firmware Recoveries

It appears that Seagate are offering an unusual free data recovery service to customers affected by a recent firmware bug. The bug which affects certain 7200.11 drives, DiamondMax 22 and Barracuda ES.2 drives, makes the disks inaccessible when the host system is powered on. 

The read link has not been working but keep trying as I did get to the page eventually.

2TB WD Drive

Western Digital are apparently set to release a 2TB hard disk in the next week or so. With a 32MB cache and “Green” logo, this drive will spin down from 7,200rpm to 5,400rpm to conserve power. With capacities like this, the gap between SSDs and hard disks is still far from closing.

MEMRISTORS

To put it in a nutshell, this could be the future for storage technology. The memristor has been the missing link from back when resistors, inductors and capacitors were originally created. What has now changed is the use of nano technology which has allowed the creation of the fourth electronic component; the memristor.

This technology can “remember” how much current has passed through it and can save its electronic state even when turned off. This means that in theory it will be much faster and cheaper than flash memory (And SSDs), and eventually also replace the hard drive for data storage.  

The Eight Commandments

1. Stop using the drive. Any mechanical faults can be worsened by using a failing hard disk drive.

2. Do not remove any covers or parts. Removing the top cover of a drive will introduce dust, particles, fingerprints and other contamination if not removed in a controlled clean environment. Some drives are also very difficult to realign once the cover has been removed.
3. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PUT YOUR DRIVE IN A FREEZER! This dangerous myth has been doing the rounds for so long that it is almost common knowledge but unfortunately only a small number of drives respond well to such treatment. The risk of allowing moisture by way of condensation into the drive far outweighs the likelihood of it actually allowing you to get your data back. We have a high success rate and have never had the need to put a drive in a freezer. Recovery from a water / condensation damaged HD is likely to cost you a lot more than a regular recovery.
4. If you are going down the DIY software route, keep a very close eye on the process. Make sure you recover the data to a second (external if possible) hard disk. If the process stops at any point, or if it incurs hundreds of errors then it is best to stop the recovery and get the data recovered professionally. Also if the software reports that it will take more than a few hours for a drive under 1TB then don’t let it continue. There is likely some damage on the drive which will only get worse if the drive keeps being used.
5. Never attempt to repair a failing hard disk drive. Any writing to an unstable drive will not only fail to fix the problem but it could make the eventual recovery extremely difficult or even impossible. If you cannot afford professional data recovery then we suggest trying to backup the data first and then attempt to fix the drive without any fear of losing the important data.
6. RAID ONLY: Do not attempt to rebuild or reinitialise a problematic RAID array without first backing up the data. If the data cannot  be accessed then a data recovery professional is far more likely to be able to get the data before a destructive rebuild process. It is also important to note the locations and IDs of all drives and label them accordingly if the entire server or RAID enclosure cannot be sent for recovery.
7. Don’t run Windows Check Disk without first backing up your data. If you see the blue message for the first time that says something like:
Checking file system on C:
The type of file system is NTFS
One of your disks needs to be checked for consistency. You may cancel the disk check, but it is strongly recommended that you continue.
To skip disk checking, press any key within  7  second(s).
 Press any key to cancel the scan, you should then backup your data as soon as possible onto another drive, USB pen, DVD, CD or even Floppy Disk. Then you can safely reboot and run the check. BEWARE: The drive can be warning you that it is on it’s last legs. It could be just a one-off problem or the drive could be destined for the dustbin (after a secure erase of course).
8. Be very wary of any potential data recovery company. You will be trusting them with your precious data after all. Ask lots of questions and get some quotes up front. You should expect to pay between £250 – £750 for a single hard drive data recovery. This depends on factors such as drive capacity, failure type and turnaround time.

Toshiba 400GB 2.5" Drives

Toshiba have recently announced the new GSX series of hard disk drives. With 200GB per platter these 5400rpm drives should see the light of day by the end of the year. There are other notable features such as the new acoustic technology which aims to silence seek operations.

In addition to increasing areal density to 308 gigabits-per-square-inch, the 400GB MK4058GSX incorporates acoustic techniques that make the 5,400 RPM HDD nearly inaudible during seek operations.

Tosh have also announced the new GSY series of drives which will be a touch less spacious at 320GB but spin at a whopping 7200rpm with fast data throughput of 1020 megabits per second.

The Little-Big Drive

Toshiba has just announced the 1.8″, 160GB, 5400rpm MK1617GSG drive. Apparently designed for netbooks and other such small machines, it’s a shame that this drive is a tad on the bulky side. at 8mm thick, this drive would be bulging out the sides of a current iPod or MacBook Air. With a SATA interface though, this drive could make for some fun embedded type devices or mods. I would personally love to see one squashed into an eeepc. I also bet that this little baby will be far cheaper than an equivalent solid state drive.

Fujitsu Encrypted Hard Disks

Fujitsu’s new 80-320GB “MHZ2 CJ” drives come with a nice added feature. Not only do they spin at a reasonable 7200rpm, they also have the ability to totally lock you out of your data (And throw away the key). With AES-256 encryption you you can be sure that a forgotten password would wave bye-bye to your data. Currently, AES has yet to be broken in a feasible way, leaving a lengthy brute-force attack as the only option. I question the implementation, as we have seen a number of problems with hard drive passwords which are stored on the drive in the service area. Quite often the passwords become corrupt leaving the user locked out of their drive.  The only way to overcome hard drive passwords is by low-level firmware repair, effectively removing the password. This is likely not an option with disk encryption as you would expect a much more robust system. 
Whichever way you look at an encrypted drive, it could  cause major problems to people needing data recovery. Is it just a clever marketing scheme in a paranoid market or is there some really secure basis for the new technology. I can’t wait to get my hands on one and find out.

Read More On Engadget

Disk Warrior versus Data Recovery

Disk warrior has long been a favourite utility used by mac support companies and enthusiasts to analyse and repair Macintosh disks. It is favoured mainly for it’s simplicity and many features including data recovery.

As a data recovery company we have received many mac hard drives from clients who had previously used Disk Warrior to attempt to gain access to their data. In some cases the particular hard drive being examined was too severely damaged for Disk Warrior to be of any use. In other cases Disk Warrior was used but the data left afterwards was corrupt and not accessible.

The problem is not so much the utility itself, but the lack of a users understanding of how powerful this utility is. This is a quote used on Alsoft’s website that can be misleading.

“ Simply click the rebuild button and Disk Warrior goes to work ”

In any data loss situation writing to the hard drive that has your lost data is something that should never happen, as it is this writing process that can do more damage than good. If you allow DiskWarrior to write a repaired structure to your disk, you lose any chance of getting back data what was missed out. If the rebuilt data is damaged, the disk will be in a worse state than the original failure.

We recommend that you read the documentation that comes with the utility carefully and fully understand its capabilities.

Hard Drives Vs Solid State Round 1

It seems the backlash may have already begun. As we expected the current batch of SSDs are no match for the long perfected hard drives. Reports of customers returning solid state laptops are apparently hitting the 10-20% mark. I would like to think that a new revolutionary data storage medium gets into the market place before SSDs really take hold. I have an SSD in my EEE pc which is fine but I can’t help thinking a 30GB 1.8″ drive would have been far more versatile. Let’s see what developments appear in round 2. Will the SSDs fight back? (I think not…)

Read More On Engadget