October was a pretty busy month for us, so I thought it would be a good chance to check on our success rate. As you can see from the graphic below, we have a great success rate of at least 69%. We always keep an eye on our success rate, to make sure we are still recovering as many drives as possible. Our success rate is often higher than 69% but we did get a few non-recoverable drives which had suffered physical media damage. For an example of why those are unrecoverable, have a look at a photo of a head crash. (Tip: Those dark circular lines are not meant to be there!)
Of those successful jobs, a whopping 90% of them were recovered without even needing to repair them in our cleanroom. This is interesting as cleanroom facilities are often advertised as one of the most important factors when choosing a data recovery company. Not to undermine the need for cleanroom facilities, but they are not required for most hard drives.
In the graphic above we have classified non-cleanroom jobs as external, and cleanroom jobs as internal.
This hard drive was from a Macbook Pro. As you can see in the image, loss of data was caused by a severe head crash. The damage is so severe you can actually see through the top foil layer to the glass platter beneath. Another good reason why Mac users should make sure they backup regularly.
This Seagate ST31000333AS 1TB drive suffered a head crash resulting in severe media damage. The contamination caused by the damage can be seen on the disc surface as well as the internal filter. The filter is usually white but is now silver metallic in colour as a result of the contamination. The customer did not have any indication that this was going to happen.
Working inside a broken hard drive today we came across some of the most damaged read / write heads we have ever seen. First, below is an example of how the heads should look. Notice how straight they are at the ends. Then below are the damaged heads. They are at 90 degrees to the discs (tomb stoning) and would have been scraping the inner disc surfaces to pieces. Bad times!
If you ever hear scraping, scratching or screeching noises from your hard drive, turn it off as soon as possible. If left too long, it could scrape all of the magnetic coating off the discs until there’s nothing left to recover.
Dataquest’s specialist data recovery services incorporated in Novatech’s bespoke IT & Telecomms hardware solutions. Novatech can now offer their customers the complete worry free IT Solution. In partnership with Novatech, Dataquest will provide their customers with 24/7 Data Recovery support.
We are still seeing these drives failing even after nearly 4 years. This just shows that there is no specific time stamp when these drives are going to fail. So anyone out there who still owns a original mac book with its original drive needs to make sure a regular back up is in place.
We are a specialist data recovery company in Hampshire recovering data from corrupt, defective and faulty hard disk drives. We are based in Copnor, Portsmouth and are an independent company, not part of a franchise. All of our work is carried out at our site, and not sent on to another company.
We offer data recovery on a national service. Some of the main areas we cover in Hampshire are Portsmouth, Southampton, Hayling Island, Isle of Wight, Gosport, Fareham, Basingstoke, Havant, Waterlooville, New Forest, Andover, Emsworth, Petersfield, Romsey, Winchester, Alton and Aldershot.
Our speciality is recovering data from hard disk drives, but we can also recover data from USB Pens, Camera flash cards and CDs, DVDs.
PC or Mac, we can recover either. Windows, Linux or Mac OS.
If you would like to use our data recovery service, please use the contact link near the top right of this page.
Our address is Dataquest International Ltd, 24 Domum Road, Copnor, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO2 0QZ, United Kingdom.
There have been some new reports of drive issues in the new MacBook Pros. It seems that the updated Seagate 7200rpm drives are getting a bit noisy at times and clicking. No reports that this causes anything particularly sinister, but after the (still ongoing) MacBook headcrash fiasco, it’s bad news to see another problem between MacBooks and their drives. There are suggestions that the new 7200.4 G-Force drives are noisy due to some new anti-shock technology. It sounds obvious that a drive spinning at 7200rpm is going to generate more noise than a 5400rpm drive. We’ll see what happens with this one. Updates to come I’m sure.
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.
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.
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.
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.