Archiving Old Data

Data Recovery Software - Do Not Erase!
Data Recovery Software - Do Not Erase!

I recently read a brilliant article about the guy that wrote the original Prince of Persia game for the Apple II in the 80’s. He had long since lost the original source code, until an old box of floppy disks was uncovered in his father’s apartment.

Sensibly, he enlisted some experts to help with the data extraction, and after a day of collaboration was able to release the source code online.

This got me thinking. Although I am meticulous with my backups of current data, I still have boxes of old software on floppy disks, which are happily degrading as we speak. John even found an old 212.6MB hard drive with some vintage data recovery software on it. Now this stuff isn’t always useful, but occasionally a really old drive comes down to us, and it is only this old software that can do the job.

As a result, John and I have started a project to get all of our old data recovery software from floppy disks and hard drives, and back it up to our file server. The 212.6 MB hard drive in the picture had 128MB of old DOS recovery software, which would easily fit on my mobile phone. Who knows when we might need it, but we now have it available when the need arises.

Bigger Hard Drives of the Future

The Register has today posted two articles about the ongoing battle to expand hard drive capacities.

First is an actual device for sale, a 2TB Western Digital portable drive. This drive has a fancy new case and USB3 connection. It contains backup software and also the option to encrypt the data with a password. I wonder if it encrypts the data by default like some of their previous portables. (A bad thing!)

Second is a futuristic announcement from Seagate about their new HAMR technology. This new tech uses a laser to heat part of the disk before magnetising it. This apparently allows for much higher densities, theoretically paving the way for 60TB hard drives. There doesn’t appear to be any products using this technology at the moment.

60TB drives will be fantastic for backups, but horrible to backup without a new, faster form of connection. These would take almost forever (exaggeration) to fill up by SATA.

This news helps prove that hard drives are far from dead. It will take a long time until SSDs can cope with such massive capacities, at a similar cost to these beasts.

USB Powered Portable Hard Drives Failing To Spin

We see a lot of portable hard drives that don’t spin up when plugged into a USB port. All brands of hard drive can be effected including Hitachi, Western Digital and Seagate. The problem can be caused by power loss or sometimes due to mis-plugging of the USB lead. This causes the internal read heads to sit on the disc instead of parking on the ramp at the side.

The only way to overcome this problem is by taking the hard drive into our clean room to replace the damaged heads with good ones. This allows us to copy the data from the drive and store it on our server.

The repaired hard drives are not suitable to be reused after this sort of work as they will not work correctly, or fail after a very short time.

Toshiba Desktop Hard Drives

Western Digital Toshiba Drive
Western Digital Toshiba Drive

Western Digital want to buy Hitachi Global Storage. The FTC will only allow this if WD sell of some manufacturing capabilities to Toshiba. This seems to be due to some anti-competition type laws. The strange thing is that Toshiba don’t currently make 3.5″ drives, so perhaps we will see some strange Toshiba branded WD drives? Who knows.

Maybe it will be like when Maxtor were bought by Seagate and brought out the STMXXXXXXXXX drives, which were simply Maxtor branded Seagate drives.

Complicated stuff. Read the overview at Slashdot which has links to the FTC etc.

Warning to customers with new WD hard drives

We Recovered a Western Digital Hard Drive That Others Couldn't

Newer WD External drives come with password protection and 256-Bit encryption as standard. Even if a password is not set the encryption is still applied to the data written to the drive. The 256-Bit encryption is controlled by ROM on the USB controller. On portable USB powered hard drives the encrypted ROM is on the actual hard drive. On external desktop drives the ROM is on the interface controller within the external case.

Make sure you keep hold of the external case the hard drive was in. Although not always needed, it could be  important later on. If you’ve lost data, have a look at our Western Digital Data Recovery service.

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…