Fake Seagate Samsung Hitachi Drive

Over the past decade, hard drive companies have been endlessly bought-out and then re-sold. At this point I’ve pretty much lost track of who manufactures which brands now. Since all this restructuring, it’s quite common to see portable Seagate branded drives with Samsung disks inside & vice versa. There are also Maxtor branded versions of those same drives in some markets.

Fake Seagate Samsung Hitachi HDD
Seagate Samsung HDD. Seems legit.

So what’s wrong with this disk?

Here’s a list of some of the problems with this disk:

  • Unfinished labelling (the white edges are usually peeled off)
  • Mismatched serial numbers
  • Wrong PCB for a Seagate / Samsung disk
  • Wrong capacity
  • Misspelled Regulatory as Reaularory (see image below)
European Reaularory Address
European Reaularory Address

I’ve never seen a disk quite like this. It’s from a Samsung external case with a Samsung logo on the front label. It also uses a Seagate model number ST1000LM024. Normal enough so far, however the label shows one serial number while the label opposite the SATA connector shows a different one. Also a third different serial number is reported electronically to the system when the disk is attached.

Hitachi Edge Code Serial Number
Hitachi Edge Code Serial Number

The label at the end of the disk is actually a clue to the true identity of this disk. It features the familiar Hitachi / IBM style with two separate stickers & barcodes. The disk is actually a Hitachi HTS5432L9 which suggests a much older 320GB disk that was likely destined for the scrapheap in a former life. Funnily enough, these Hitachi disks had their own strange history of mislabelling.

Fake?

I originally thought this disk may have been a white-label or grey market disk. Some disks get refurbished and are then sold under different brand names in other markets. After a bit more investigation I think it may actually be more sinister than that. This is more like a fake or fraudulent disk, designed to dupe somebody into thinking it is a larger disk than it really is. It appears to the computer as 1TB however only contains 320GB of usable space. This is very similar to the fake flash drives we’ve seen before. The problem with fake capacity disks is that when you exceed the genuine size, the rest of the data usually becomes inaccessible. Also depending on how the disk handles the problem, it could damage the existing data when it fails.

Recovery

Fortunately for the owner of this disk, they had not yet used up 320GB of the disk. In fact this disk failed when the USB connector fell off. Maybe another sign of the poor build-quality of this fake. Once we figured out what we were working with we were able to recover all data. It took a combination of Hitachi firmware repair, careful imaging, and then exFAT reconstruction.

Fake Seagate Samsung Hitachi

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Stuck MacBook Trackpad Bulging Battery

If you have a MacBook or MacBook Pro that’s a few years old, you might have a problem hiding right below your fingertips. If your trackpad has become difficult to press, or stopped clicking all together, you could have a dangerous faulty battery. In MacBook & MacBook Pro laptops, the battery is directly below the trackpad. When the battery fails it can expand, pressing into the bottom of the trackpad.

Stuck MacBook Trackpad Bulging Battery
Stuck MacBook Trackpad Bulging Battery

Explosion?

I’m not sure quite how risky these batteries get, but they almost double in size. Standard battery advice says don’t pierce or burn but when these battery start expanding they could easily get punctured. I saw one so bad last week that the bottom case and trackpad were being pushed apart. (see photo below)

Bulging Battery From A MacBook
Bulging Battery From A MacBook

Check

If you click the battery ? icon near the clock at the top-right of your Mac screen you can check the status. (If you don’t see the status, press the option (alt) key before clicking the battery icon.)

MacBook Service Battery
MacBook Service Battery

From Apple’s help document

You may see any of the following conditions:

  • Normal: The battery is functioning normally.
  • Replace Soon: The battery is functioning normally but holds less charge than it did when it was new.
  • Replace Now: The battery is functioning normally but holds significantly less charge than it did when it was new. You can continue to use the battery until you replace it without harming your computer.
  • Service Battery: The battery isn’t functioning normally, and you may or may not notice a change in its behavior or the amount of charge it holds. Take your computer in for service. You can continue to use your battery before it’s checked without harming your computer.

What Next

If your status shows Replace Now or Service Battery, I would look to get the battery replaced as soon as possible. At the very least, a bulging battery could cause cosmetic damage to your Mac. At worst it could potentially leak or catch fire ?.

SQL Database Data Recovery In Hampshire

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.

SQL Database Data Recovery In Hampshire
SQL Database Data Recovery In Hampshire

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.

Inconsistency

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.

  • Peter MorganThese guys are amazing!! Really helped us out in an impossible situation with a corrupted SQL database which even the software provider couldn’t fix. Not only did they fix the corruption but they did it quickly and super professionally keeping us informed at every step of the way. I have used Dataquest many times and over the years and they always deliver. 4th July, 2017

Common Applications We Recover SQL From

  • Web server MySQL, PostgreSQL
  • Windows Application MSSQL

Why Cloud Backup Is Not Enough

Why Cloud Backup Is Not Enough

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.

eBay Fake Capacity USB Sticks

Despite some amount of publicity, the problem of fake capacity flash drives being sold online has still not gone away. Recently we did a bit of consumer investigation and bought a few to test. Surely after two or three years eBay will have sorted this problem out?

eBay Fake Capacity USB Sticks

What Are Fake Capacity Flash Drives?

If you’ve not heard of these before, a fake capacity flash drive is simply a small low capacity flash drive pretending to have (much) more storage. The clever / devious part is that they may have only 16GB of real storage, but can appear to the computer as anything up to 2TB. You will be able to copy data to the device, but only the first 16GB may be readable later. Some devices constantly overwrite the same 16GB while other just dump the rest of the data into a back hole.

How Do I Know If My USB Drive is Fake?

There are not any strict rules, but you can start to build up a picture as you gather more information.

  1. Price – These flash drives will be WAY cheaper than anything you can buy in a retail store. We just bought 512GB flash drives for £10 and 1TB drives for £15. Currently a 64GB SD card is £32.48 at Novatech, so you can see how expensive real flash drives should be.
  2. Quality – Large capacity USB drives are relatively expensive. You’d expect them to be well made and probably well packaged. The fake drives usually come unbranded, in generic clear bags.
  3. Wording – Since these problems have been reported, some sellers are putting some disclaimers on the listings to suggest you should only use the devices for small amounts of data etc. This is obviously nonsense. If you buy a real 1TB of storage, you can use all 1TB.
  4. Testing – Although most people won’t be familiar with testing hardware, there are some pretty simple tools to test USB drives. They write patterns of data to the chosen device and then read it back again to make sure it was written correctly. USB Test Tool (It’s German, but also runs in English)

What To Do If You Have A Fake Capacity Flash Drive

Most online marketplaces like eBay have pretty robust buyer protection to allow you to claim a refund. The advice for making claims varies with each website so you may need to hunt around, or contact the site directly. Although eBay are more than happy to organise refunds, they show little interest in stopping the sale of these devices. We’ve spoken to eBay customer services a number of times and they said that their system will flag up if enough people make returns.

USB Stick

You Often Don’t Know Until It’s Too Late

It’s a bad idea to keep using one of these USBs. If you detect a fake capacity, you may think it’s OK to just use it for small amounts of data but it’s not a good idea. The problem is that as you use and delete files, you could gradually start edging towards the limit of the storage. The next file you write could just go into the black hole, and the data is lost. In fact, many people don’t realise their flash drive is a fake until they exceed the “genuine” part of the storage. If you were copying photographs to the USB drive, you might not notice that some of them are missing until you try to read them again much later.

Not Just Memory Sticks

These same types of fake flash drives also appear as SD cards so we’ve heard from people that were at weddings or on their honeymoon and lost all or most of the photos.

Fake eBay USB Drive Animation

Update 31-10-2016: Since posting this, we were made aware of this report from the USA about eBay’s problem with fake flash storage.

APFS Data Recovery

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 Data Recovery
APFS Data Recovery

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.)

If you’ve lost data from an APFS disk, contact us now, or have a look at our Mac Recovery Services for more info.

Another Successful Dropped Hard Drive Recovery

No Chance Data Recovery

Last week I was working on another dropped hard drive recovery sent into us by one of our Data Recovery Partners. I immediately took the hard drive into our clean room and removed the top cover for internal inspection. Although the hard drive had been dropped there were no visible signs of physical media damage. I replaced the damaged internal heads, rebuilt the hard drive and successfully recovered the data for the customer and Partner.

Thankfully the partner had advised the customer to stop trying to access the hard drive as described in our blog. When they received the hard drive from the customer.  They sent it straight to us, without attempting anything themselves.
These actions by the customer and partner were critical in the eventual successful outcome.

When Backups Go Bad ~ Revisited

I was recently going through some old posts on here, and found the one with the clickbaity headline When Backups Go Bad. Despite the title, I thought it was worth looking again at some of the common ways backups can go wrong. A bad backup can be as useless as no backup at all. There is an old phrase that applies perfectly to backups. “One is None. Two is One.”

RAID Instead of Backups

This is a common one. Although RAID can protect against some hardware failures, it does nothing to protect against corrupt partitions, virus attacks, accidental deletion, formatting, multiple disk failures. The list is endless. Add to this the fact that you can have 12, 24, even 48TB stored in one massive array, and you stand to lose an awful lot of data in one go if the whole thing goes south.

Same Disk, Different Day

There are ways to partition a disk so it appears to the computer as multiple disks. The danger is, if you don’t know there are two physical disks inside the computer, you could be making backups to the same disk. When it fails, both partitions will go with it. Best backup to an external drive and then you know for sure.

Break the Encryption

Encrypting any data is risky without careful consideration. By design, your encrypted data is not accessible without the password, or perhaps a recovery key that was created during the original setup. If you don’t have either of those keys, you can wave goodbye to the data.

Inbetweener

If you’re ever left with a single copy of your files, you’re on thin ice. If something goes wrong, you’ve lost one copy of the data already. We always suggest multiple backups for this reason.

The Space Maker

New computers can have painfully small storage, (hey Apple) so a common solution is to start dumping files off to an external disk. This is fine if you just move over replaceable movies & music, but you have to be prepared to never see those files again. Don’t store all your photos & documents on an external drive unless you keep another copy somewhere. External disks are no more reliable than internal ones and can fail at any time. If anything, the risk of dropping or losing an external drive is higher as they are so small and portable.

I’m sure there are more ways backups go bad. I could probably make this into a regular feature. Remember, when it comes to backups One is None, Two is One…

Flood and Water Damaged Hard Drives

Flood Damage Data Recovery

With the recent floods in the United Kingdom, it is important to know that time can be a critical factor when trying to recover data from mechanical hard drives that have been submerged or damaged by water. Most mechanical hard drives have breather holes that may allow water to enter the hard drive enclosure if submerged. If this is the case then the longer the hard drive is left in this condition the worse the internal damage. Even if the hard drive is left to dry out, internally the damage has already been done. Our advice is not to try this if the data is critical to you or your business.

Any water damage hard drives that we receive go straight into our clean room environment to be dismantled and dried out internally. The hard drives external electronics would also require a cleaning process to prevent any electrical shorting caused by the water residue.

Although Solid Sate Hard Drives ( SSD ) do not have any mechanical moving parts, they are still prone to damage to the data chips and electronics by residue left by the water. Very much as mechanical hard drives they would require dismantling and specialist cleaning to ensure no electrical shorting of components.

Hard Drive Encryption Data Recovery

What is Hard Drive Encrytion

Encrypted hard drives come in many forms. They can be created by the hard drive manufacturer as part of the hard drives firmware or as a third party software add on such as Symantec PGP or Microsofts Bitlocker.

Hard drive Encryption is becoming much more common especially in many large enterprise companies. Some hard drive encryption is more sophisticated than others, but in many data recovery cases we receive, a common flaw is the inability of the encryption software to overcome bad sectors on a hard drive. In most cases it results in partial or no access to the decrypted data on the hard drive by the user or even their I.T dept.

We have created an image and decryption process that allows us to recover the users data with the original file and folder structure intact. The time it takes to carry out this process will depending on the level of hard drive encryption used.