Old Quantum Pro Drive 250 MB 50 Pin SCSI

Old Quantum Pro Drive 250mb 50pin SCSI

This hard drive was opened in our clean room for internal rework. In the process we found that the rubber crash stops attached to the VCM magnet were perished.  They were oozing sticky rubber solution contaminating the drive internally. A word of warning to anyone who may still have one of these hard drives with critical data. I would recommend back up and replacement. This particular hard drive was from a synthesiser that had stopped working.

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.

Bang Goes The Theory Data Recovery

Bang Goes The Theory – Series 6 Episode 3 – March 26th

Bang Goes The Theory Data Recovery

I love Bang Goes The Theory. I loved the alcohol powered motorbikes last week and find it a good doorway into ideas, which are presented in a fun and interesting way. I was extra excited when I started watching episode 3, and relised they would be featuring data recovery. A perfect opportunity to dispel some common myths, and dish out a bit of advice in the process.

Deletion

The data recovery guy Rob, made a good analogy when he described deleting data as ripping out a page from the table of contents. That is pretty much how it works, and really simple to understand.

Data Recovery Experts

Yes they are the world leaders. I’m not going to dispute that, but I’m also not going to name them. They don’t exactly need the extra publicity. It’s worth noting that any decent recovery firm would have reached the same results from the batch of damaged drives.

Getting Physical

I do have a couple of problems with the way some of the drives were “destroyed.”

  1. Sledgehammer. This would have been a good way to destroy a drive, but only if it had been removed from the PC first. Effectively the metal PC case acted like armour, thus protecting the drive from the brunt of the impact.
  2. Tractor. Same as above. If the drive was bare, and on solid ground, then maybe the tractor would have done more damage. Instead, the PC case protected it sufficiently and all the data was recoverable.
  3. Golf Swing. This was great in the example shown, but is a bit unreliable. If you only hit the edge, or if the disk didn’t have glass platters then it may have been recoverable. Maybe take it apart first, then you can see if it’s damaged.
  4. Tea Damaged USB Pen. This was a good one. Solid state storage should survive liquid damage, as long as it is powered off at the time. When dried out, there is a good chance of getting the data back. The worst thing you could do is plug in a wet drive, as this would cause an electrical short, and potentially damage the electronics of the device, and even the computer you plugged it into.
  5. Big Magnet. This was a good one, and surprisingly effective. Only problems are the fact that most people don’t have a giant magnet, and unless you test it afterwards, you wouldn’t know if it had worked.
  6. Toaster. This is an interesting one for me. Of course the toaster damaged the PCB (circuit board) of this hard drive. These drives were quite old, so that was no major problem. If however these were more modern drives the story could have been quite different. A lot of newer drives encrypt the data using keys stored on the PCB. If you melt that PCB, then you have a very difficult job on your hands.
  7. Torched. 100% successful. If you can see the drive destroyed, then that’s perfect.

Optical Discs

Liz later made some good points about the reliability of CD / DVD storage. I agree that although the quoted life spans of DVDs are enormous, in reality DVDs often only last for a couple of years. We have had discs in for recovery that have been stored in temperature-controlled server rooms that have still failed well short of their estimated lifespans.

Hard Disks

Hard disks can last for ages. We have some here that are well over 15 years old and still going strong. The problem is that they can fail without any warning. It is sound advice to backup one drive with another, and then another. This is the only surefire way to avoid being stung by a failed drive. Dallas made a good point of moving one of the backups off site, which is also a good idea.

Scrambling Software

I didn’t like the scrambling advice given near the end. There are problems with the way hard drives are designed, which can prevent the software from accessing bad sectors, and hidden parts of the disk. Although only small parts of the disk, you could leave enough data there to be targeted by fraudsters or whoever.

I advise a two pronged approach. First erase / scramble the data, then physically destroy the drive. This makes it far less likely that your data could end up in the wrong hands.

Summary

It is good to see this sort of thing on mainstream TV, and the advice given was a good starting point for most people. Despite my points above, it was basically a good show: Interesting and informative, with a decent amount of good info.

Many people have little or no knowledge of the way their data is stored, so any way to bring this to their attention is good in my books.

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.

Seagate Full Disk Encryption FDE

Seagate FDE hard drives encrypt the data automatically as it is read and written to the drive. As you save data to the drive it is encrypted immediately and can only be accessed when you input your user name and password. The drive will then be temporarily unlocked and allow the operating system to boot. Once the drive is powered off, it will be automatically locked again.

We have received several of these drives from customers who cannot access their data due to a hard drive failure. You may still be asked for the password, but the laptop will then fail to boot. This can be as a result of bad sectors or electronic problems. We can overcome virtually any type of failure and can return your data back to you decrypted and fully accessible on a new hard drive.

See our Seagate Data Recovery Services for more info.

Apple Mac Time Machine Back Up

I have lost count on the amount of times we have received hard drives for data recovery from Mac customers, who are not aware of the Time Machine back software. Time Machine has been preinstalled in every version of OS X since 10.5. This software is easy to setup, and once the first backup of the internal hard drive is complete, it will then carry on backing up as you create new data.

As a small business or personal user it is ideal for your everyday backup needs.

 

ST9320421ASG Head Crash

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.

ST9320421ASG Head Crash
ST9320421ASG Head Crash

What’s The Best / Most Reliable Hard Drive?

We get asked this question a lot. The simple answer is that there is no such thing as a reliable hard drive. This is nothing against the hard drive manufacturers, but all drives will fail eventually. Hard drives are delicate machines and must be treated with care. They are not designed to be the one and only storage for all your work, photos and videos. Imagine your computer never booting up again, and then imagine it happening during the most important job you have ever done. That’s how bad it could be, and often is for a lot of people.

A good lifespan for a hard drive is now probably around 3-5 years. In reality we often see hard drives that are only a few months old. If you’re a gambler then maybe you have got away with it so far, but is it really worth the risk?

Backup your data. Maybe then you won’t need to find out how good we are at recovering it.

Read more about backing up your data here

Seagate Head Crash

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.

Seagate Head Crash ST31000333AS
Seagate Head Crash ST31000333AS

 

Seagate Head Crash ST31000333AS
Seagate ST31000333AS Filter

Mac Data Migration

Portsmouth Data Recovery

If we recover a good amount of your data, the easiest way to get your Mac running again is using the Migration Assistant – a standard Apple utility included with all modern versions of Mac OS X.

The process for restoration varies a little bit depending upon how your Mac is currently set up.

Best Case Scenario:

If you have a new hard drive with a fresh system installed, and have not yet clicked through the Setup Assistant screens follow this guide. >>>

2nd Best Case Scenario:

If you have a new hard drive and have set it up with a username you will need to follow this slightly more complicated guide. >>>