Despite falling out of favour in giant tech companies, there are not many businesses in the UK that don’t use some sort of SQL database. Whether that’s a website running WordPress & MySQL or an intranet hooked up to an MSSQL DB, SQL is still everywhere. Even iPhones use SQLite to store Notes and other data inside apps.
On Disk Problems
Sometimes the fault lies with the underlying disk, Virtual Machine, or RAID array that the file is stored on. First we solve the disk problem and then extract a working copy of the database.
Another issue with database files is that they can go corrupt silently, and you might not notice until hours, weeks, or months later when a crucial process fails.
Our SQL recovery tools, alongside our hard disk & RAID recovery services can help get your lost databases up and running again with minimal fuss & downtime.
If you have a computer, tablet, or mobile you most likely have some of your data stored in the cloud. It may just be syncing your contacts or calendar, or even backing up your photos from your iPhone or Android phone. Whatever the reason it is now a cheap way of keeping your data safe. Or is it?
Never take for granted that your data is getting backed up correctly. Check it yourself.
I had a situation just recently where my wife’s iPhone had just gone through a 60℃ wash.
“That’s okay,” I said, “We have all your data on iCloud…”
A few days later we replaced the phone (thanks insurance) and restored the data back from iCloud. That’s when we discovered iCloud hadn’t been copying Contacts and some other data. Fortunately I had also kept another backup using iTunes on my Mac so was able to restore from there.
Now would be a great time to check your iCloud settings and make sure there’s a green tick next to everything you don’t want to lose!
Another thing to look out for, especially if you have a lot of data, is your upload speed. Unless you have fast broadband, uploading large amounts of data can take time. You’re unprotected until all of the data has reached the cloud. In some cases it can take hours, even days, depending on how much data you have and the speed of your network.
Once you have uploaded all your data, your device will only need to copy new changes so won’t take so long. As a Plan-B, don’t forget to backup to a computer once in a while. You can thank me later.
Don’t leave it until it is too late. You never know when your phone will take a spin in the washing machine.
Elements is the basic brand of external drives from Western Digital. These no-frills disks are usually great value, but when they fail have a few quirks that can make recovery a little awkward. For example the small pocket sized drives usually have a soldered USB port that cannot be removed. There is also automatic encryption, even if you’ve never set a password.
Symptoms of WD Elements Failure
LED permanently lit / blinking
LED not lighting at all
Clicking / ticking noise
Disk is not formatted. Do you want to format it?
Unable to see your data in Windows or macOS
Unable to copy or read files
If you have problems with a WD Elements drive, you should make some checks to see if you can narrow down the fault. Be aware that opening the external drive case will probably void your warranty with Western Digital. If there is important data on the drive you should seek professional data recovery advice before you try anything.
That’s the warning out the way, so lets have a look at some troubleshooting.
First check all cables are plugged in securely, and not damaged or frayed. If you have an identical spare cable you can try it, just be gentle.
If trying a different power supply, make sure the voltage matches exactly. Amps can be higher but not lower.
There is little point dismantling a WD Elements drive, as there is usually no SATA connection inside. Even if you manage to bypass the USB Port, your data will be encrypted.
It’s worth plugging the external drive into another computer. If it seems to work you should copy the data off straight away. The drive could still be faulty & fail again soon.
Whatever you do, don’t dismantle the actual hard drive. Hard drives are built in controlled clean-air environments and even the smallest spec of dust can cause permanent damage to the drive.
These external drives are quite unique in the way they work. It is not possible to replace the circuit board (PCB) on these disks, as your PCB contains important encryption keys. On the offchance that a replacement PCB worked, your data would be scrambled anyway without access to specialist decryption tools.
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!
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.
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.
More Problems With Seagate Drives
These ramp problems are the latest in a longline of faults for Seagate.
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.
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.
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 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.)
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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!