Old Industrial Equipment Data Recovery

Old Industrial Equipment Data Recovery

It’s always interesting to see how a complex manufacturing line can be run from such old hardware. In this case we were sent a custom PC from a  machine that is used to fill and cap bottles.

The first problem was trying to get the case open to remove the hard drive. There is no ifixit guide for this thing!

Old Industrial Equipment Data Recovery
Old Industrial Equipment Data Recovery

Inside I found a 20GB Seagate laptop drive (dated 2007) running Windows 2000 along with the programs that control the machinery. The hard drive was connected to a proprietary motherboard that in turn connected to the machinery via serial ports.

In this case, data recovery was not enough. What the client needed was a full working copy of the failed disk to reinstall into the system. The aim was to get the kit up and running and return it to the customer so they could carry on with work as soon as possible.

We’re set up to handle exactly this sort of problem, so I got this recovered and returned within two days.

The Worst Head Crash Ever?

Worst Head Crash Ever
I’ve seen some pretty serious head crashes in my time. The worst part of my job is knowing I’ll have to tell someone their data is gone forever. Sometimes media damage can be subtle enough that it’s impossible difficult to even detect by eye. Other times the damage is obvious. Today was one of the clearest I’ve ever seen. What’s worse is that we got two of these identical disks from the same Mac Pro, with identical damage. You have to see it to believe it…
Worst Head Crash Ever?
Worst Head Crash Ever?
It’s difficult to know how long these damaged disks were left spinning, but it looks like months! If you look closely, you can see that the centre of the disk is worn right through. That black dust everywhere was once the shiny disk surface that stored the data. Nobody in the world can recover data from disk dust.
The easiest way to avoid such serious damage is to power off your hard drive as soon as you hear clicking. If we got these disks sooner it’s possible we could have recovered them.

Seagate Barracuda Ramp Weakness

Seagate Barracuda Ramp Weakness

During a recent RAID 5 recovery attempt, John made an interesting discovery inside the two failed disks. The plastic ramp that the heads park onto when idle had snapped in the same position on both drives. We don’t know if the heads got damaged first, and then broke the ramps during parking, or if the ramps broke first, damaging the heads as they parked. The client told us the disks were not dropped or jolted. Whatever the cause, both disks had scratches to the delicate magnetic surfaces. In this case, two failed disks from a four disk RAID 5 means the data recovery is not possible.

Old vs New

The other two disks in the RAID had different firmware and don’t show the same fault. We don’t know if these disks have the other (older?) more robust ramp system that we’ve seen in similar disks.

Seagate Barracuda Head Ramps
Seagate Barracuda Head Ramps

More Problems With Seagate Drives

These ramp problems are the latest in a long line of faults for Seagate.

Disk Info

Failed Disk Working Disk
Model Number ST3000DM001 ST3000DM001
PN 1CH166-306 1CH166-302
FW CC29 CC26
Date 14354 13407
Site Code TK TK

Interestingly, the surviving disks in this RAID array were dated 2013, and the failed disks 2014. I would have expected the older disks to fail first.

eBay Fake Capacity USB Sticks

Despite some amount of publicity, the problem of fake capacity flash drives being sold online has still not gone away. Recently we did a bit of consumer investigation and bought a few to test. Surely after two or three years eBay will have sorted this problem out?

eBay Fake Capacity USB Sticks

What Are Fake Capacity Flash Drives?

If you’ve not heard of these before, a fake capacity flash drive is simply a small low capacity flash drive pretending to have (much) more storage. The clever / devious part is that they may have only 16GB of real storage, but can appear to the computer as anything up to 2TB. You will be able to copy data to the device, but only the first 16GB may be readable later. Some devices constantly overwrite the same 16GB while other just dump the rest of the data into a back hole.

How Do I Know If My USB Drive is Fake?

There are not any strict rules, but you can start to build up a picture as you gather more information.

  1. Price – These flash drives will be WAY cheaper than anything you can buy in a retail store. We just bought 512GB flash drives for £10 and 1TB drives for £15. Currently a 64GB SD card is £32.48 at Novatech, so you can see how expensive real flash drives should be.
  2. Quality – Large capacity USB drives are relatively expensive. You’d expect them to be well made and probably well packaged. The fake drives usually come unbranded, in generic clear bags.
  3. Wording – Since these problems have been reported, some sellers are putting some disclaimers on the listings to suggest you should only use the devices for small amounts of data etc. This is obviously nonsense. If you buy a real 1TB of storage, you can use all 1TB.
  4. Testing – Although most people won’t be familiar with testing hardware, there are some pretty simple tools to test USB drives. They write patterns of data to the chosen device and then read it back again to make sure it was written correctly. USB Test Tool (It’s German, but also runs in English)

What To Do If You Have A Fake Capacity Flash Drive

Most online marketplaces like eBay have pretty robust buyer protection to allow you to claim a refund. The advice for making claims varies with each website so you may need to hunt around, or contact the site directly. Although eBay are more than happy to organise refunds, they show little interest in stopping the sale of these devices. We’ve spoken to eBay customer services a number of times and they said that their system will flag up if enough people make returns.

USB Stick

You Often Don’t Know Until It’s Too Late

It’s a bad idea to keep using one of these USBs. If you detect a fake capacity, you may think it’s OK to just use it for small amounts of data but it’s not a good idea. The problem is that as you use and delete files, you could gradually start edging towards the limit of the storage. The next file you write could just go into the black hole, and the data is lost. In fact, many people don’t realise their flash drive is a fake until they exceed the “genuine” part of the storage. If you were copying photographs to the USB drive, you might not notice that some of them are missing until you try to read them again much later.

Not Just Memory Sticks

These same types of fake flash drives also appear as SD cards so we’ve heard from people that were at weddings or on their honeymoon and lost all or most of the photos.

Fake eBay USB Drive Animation

Update 31-10-2016: Since posting this, we were made aware of this report from the USA about eBay’s problem with fake flash storage.

SandForce SSD Data Recovery Problems

Mac Pro SSD

The low prices and high speed access of the Sandforce controller made it an appealing option for SSD manufacturers such as Toshiba, Intel, Kingston & OCX. But it soon became a problem for users when the SSD devices using these controllers started to fail in their computers after just six months of use. Usually it resulted in the device not being recognised by the computer bios, and not functioning at all.

That was okay if you were happy to have it replaced under warranty by the manufacturer. The problem came when you wished to try and recover critical data that may have been stored on these SSD’s. The use of full hardware encryption on the controller and the device, meant that the data could not be recovered, even when using low level data chip removal.

Fortunately today these controllers are not so popular, and as a result most mainstream manufacturers do not use them. But be aware that they can still be found in some non branded SSD’s.

APFS Data Recovery

When Apple release the latest version of macOS (named Sierra) in Autumn, it will include the new APFS filesystem. Apple haven’t launched a new FS for a long time, and this filesystem won’t work for bootable disks at first. Eventually Apple will make this the default filesystem across the whole product line, from the iPhone, through to the Mac.

APFS Data Recovery
APFS Data Recovery

APFS Upgrade In Place

I have heard that Apple will release a tool to upgrade an existing HFS+ volume to APFS. If you run the upgrade I strongly advise you to make at least a couple of backups first. I would suggest a Time Machine backup and a bootable full disk copy, with online backup if you have it. While the upgrade is cleverly designed to minimise the risk of disk corruption, there is always the chance that failure could leave you with no option but wipe & start again. This is especially true of older Macs that you may have updated through multiple OS versions and accumulated all sorts of nasties along the way.

APFS Data Recovery

We are already working through the APFS documentation to keep ahead of these failures. We will have some recovery tools ready soon. As with most recoveries, the most important thing is to stop as soon as you hit a problem. Remember my new catchphrase, “Most damage to data happens AFTER the original failure!” Or, “It’s not the failure that killed the data, but the failed repair.” (I know, snappy right.)

If you’ve lost data from an APFS disk, contact us now, or have a look at our Mac Recovery Services for more info.

Seagate SSHD ST4000DX001 Data Recovery

I previously posted about a Seagate SSHD ST500LM000 hybrid hard drive which failed to spin. This hard drive was put into our R&D process due to the type of the failure and further analysis confirmed that the problem was relating to the Solid State part of the drive. At the time I had only seen this type of failure with the Seagate Thin SSHD laptop drives. But since then we have now received Seagate desktop SSHD hard drives with the same type of failure.

Because the SSHD hybrid drives are a cheaper option to SSD drives I am seeing more of them in for data recovery. Also as these are still mechanical hard drives, I am seeing many of the same failures as I do with standard hard drives. For example Electronic Faults, Dropped Drives, Water Damage etc.

ST4000DX001 Data Recovery

 

 

Broken USB Stick

USB Broken Connector Data Recovery

I had a call on Friday from a very distraught lady who had dropped her laptop with her USB stick still plugged in. Unfortunately the USB stick took the brunt of the impact and all her work was no longer accessible. She contacted us and I reassured her that although the device was broken, we have a good chance of getting the data back.

With time spent on the Broken USB Stick over the course of the day on Saturday, I was able to recover all of the data. I managed to get the data back to her on Sunday morning, so she could carry on working ready for the week ahead. I was also pleased to find out that the information on the USB stick was part of her charity work for people with special needs.

The customer was local to us in Portsmouth so I had the pleasure in handing the recovered data to her personally.

 

Top 3 Coffees in Portsmouth

Safe Data Recovery

It’s probably worth a quick explanation here. Why is this data recovery blog so interested in coffee? Well personally I love coffee, but I also often recover data from hard drives that have been for a drink (or a swim). So there’s my excuse, now back to the coffee!

Fortunately for caffeine addicts in Portsmouth like me, there are plenty of places to get your fix. I’m the sort of person that finds somewhere I like, and then just keeps going back there forever. Sometimes though, it’s worth having a look at the other options. My current top three places for coffee in Portsmouth are below in no particular order. I’ve chosen three, but I’m always happy to try more places so let me know if you’d like me to give your coffee a try!

Portsmouth Coffee

Coffee#1

Coffee#1 is a small chain of coffee shops spreading like wildfire from Wales, across the South West, all the way down to the South Coast of England. The local branch is in Palmerston Road, Southsea. They do great snacks, cakes & lunches (Sausage & Relish roll anyone?) I usually go for whatever single-origin coffee they have in, and I’m never disappointed. They also have beans & equipment for sale. I recommend the Brazillian beans if you can get them. They are my current favourite for grinding & Aeropressing at home. Visit the Coffee#1 Website

Home Coffee

I’ve only just found out about this place, but I’m so glad I did. I recently went for lunch here & had a big granary doorstep sandwich, an Americano, & an iced ring doughnut. I couldn’t have been happier with all those things.  The cosy shop on Albert Road is just a few steps away from the Kings Theatre, but they are set to open a new store on Cosham High Street, much closer to home for me! They have lots of info about their coffees on the blackboards and are more than happy to have a chat with you about brewing at home. They sell kit & beans too which is handy, although I’ve not tried the beans myself yet.(Update – The beans are great!) Visit the Home Coffee Website

Soprano’s

A bit of a wildcard entry here, and also a hearty recommendation if you like quality fresh Italian food. The Peroni on-tap is always delicious, and their after-dinner coffees are the perfect way to finish a meal. Booking is advised as the cosy restaurant is always bustling with customers whenever I’ve been there. Visit the Soprano’s Wesbite

So there you have my top three coffees in Portsmouth. If you’ve spilled coffee, or any other drink on your hard drive or computer, get in touch. We can help recover the data, and you can tell me if the coffee you spilled was any good!

What Is A Clean Room

Some parts of our data recovery process require us to open a hard drive for internal repairs.

John In Cleanroom

We have a walk in clean room area on site, that allows us to carry out the necessary rework. It consists of an overhead air shower unit with a sealed enclosure that cleans and circulates the air within a specified tolerance. To keep particles to a minimum we wear a gown, gloves, and face mask to prevent contamination from outside.

All hard drives are built in a clean room environment. Keeping small air particles out is crucial due the the complexity of the internal mechanism and tiny tolerance between the moving mechanical parts and internal disc surface that holds your data. When a hard drive requires any internal repair, it is critical that this work is carried out in a clean room.

See our video about why you should never open a hard drive without a cleanroom.