Free Mac Antivirus

Backup
Backup

Sophos have recently announced a free version of their Antivirus software for Mac. The software has low system requirements and will find and quarantine Mac and Windows viruses, trojans and worms.

One word of caution comes from a Mac user who lost his entire Time Machine backups while using the new software. Sophos have been quick to mention that their software has been used on Macs for many years, and by hundreds of thousands of new free users without problems.

What this really shows is that if you delete files from you mac then your Time Machine volume is no longer a backup but the only live copy of the files. Either make multiple backups or leave the files on the original volume after backing them up. Also be aware when installing new software that you should have backup copies of your data in case it all goes wrong.

Update 11-11-2010:

It appears that this guy was having some problems with Time Machine before any of this happened.

LaCie 5Big RAID 6 Recovery

I will start by saying that we can, and have, recovered data from these drives. As with all RAID recovery we carry out, we never use the original controller or drives to access the data. We image the drives on an individual basis and then work on these drives to rebuild the RAID using a form of RAID emulation. The most time consuming part of this type of recovery is discovering the RAID settings that the manufacturer has used.

Due to the complex nature of these NAS devices, we always recommend they are backed up to another form of media. Although recovery is possible, it can be expensive and relatively time consuming. Also if the unit is powered on and RAID rebuilds are attempted then the recovery can be made more complicated or even impossible.

A Little Background

The LaCie 5Big NAS device contains five hard drives and allows for a number of different configurations. One of these configurations is RAID 6, which works in much the same way as RAID 5, but with an additional parity stripe. This additional parity stripe uses an algorithm which requires a relatively high processing overhead, so RAID 6 has rarely been seen in consumer level devices. The low cost of processing means that RAID 6 is now a viable option for embedded NAS devices such as the LaCie 5Big.

The advantage of RAID 6 over RAID 5 is that with 5 disks it can theoretically cope with two disk failures. This gets round an increasingly common problem with large capacity RAID 5 arrays where if a second disk fails whilst rebuilding a failed disk, there should be enough parity information to continue the rebuild successfully.

It is important to remember that due to the complex nature of RAID arrays, it is crucial to make backups of the data to a different type of storage.

If you have a failed or broken LaCie 5Big then use the contact details on the right to contact us. Alternatively you can leave a comment here and we will get back to you.

Western Digital NAS Problems

We have recently started to see a peak in the number of 500GB WD drives sent to us from Western Digital MyBook World edition NAS Servers. These NAS devices use two WD5000AAKS drives in a RAID configuration.

The worrying thing for users is that even drives used in RAID 1 mirror mode are having problems, where either both drives are failing at the same time or where one drive has failed in the past and the other following suit some time later.

It is an important reminder that RAID does not equal backup. If there is important data on these types of devices, it also needs to be copied to another device for peace of mind.

We are currently able to recover the data from these devices using a combination of firmware repairs and other recovery methods.

An interesting note is that we have also seen a small increase in other WD drives at the moment, such as the 320GB WD3200AAJS drives from iMacs and WD5000AACS drives from external enclosures.

More to come I’m sure…

Backup Your Windows PC For Free

It’s something we should all be doing but never seems important until it’s too late. I’m not talking about taking the dog for a walk or feeding the cat, I’m talking about backing up your PC. In the words of Joni Mitchell “You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.” How would you feel if you never saw your data again. Family photos, years worth of e-mails, documents, music and videos all gone in the blink of an eye. This is usually where we come in with our data recovery process. But there is an alternative. Lifehacker has an excellent guide on using free software to backup your PC. The only prerequisite is that you purchase an external hard disk of sufficient storage capacity.

For Mac users there is a totally different process. If you are running Leopard (10.5) then take a look at Time Machine. (More on this in a future post)

Checkout Lifehacker for all the details

The Credit Crunch and it’s influence on Data Recovery

Dataquest has already started to see the influence the current state of the economy is having on the data recovery industry. We need to make sure that established and future customers are made aware of the options they have available to them when seeking out professional help for data loss. We are already aware that more DIY customers are attempting to recover their lost data themselves. This is where we need to work together with these customers to inform and educate them.  This can a simple guideline on backup and basic data recovery.

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.

The Worlds Worst Backup Solution; LaCie Big Disk Extreme+ 2TB

Anyone that has ever looked inside one of these “drives” will realise that they are only suitable for temporary storage capacity. There is nothing magical inside the enclosures, just a couple of standard hard drives and a small RAID 0 controller. What people (ie. general users) tend to do with a drive of this capacity is copy over all of the big data (pictures, movies and music) from their desktop or laptop computer and then delete it from the original location to save space. Not only is this not a backup but the chances of this drive failing are more than doubled due to the fact that the data is striped across two drives, either of which could fail at any time. In a RAID 0 only one drive needs to fail to take out all of the data.

One terabyte drive fails = 2TB of data gone!

Anyone thinking of using one of these should consider buying two and using software to mirror them. At least you would have some redundancy. There are of course much easier and not to mention cheaper ways to set up a redundant backup solution. We will post a more detailed guide of how to do this in the near future.