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The Trials of Data Recovery

Data recovery is a service that doesn’t always yield results, and having done it a few times, I know that whenever a hard drive or a solid state drive fails, the data on it has a very good chance of being lost forever. There are tools that can help recover data in the event of a failure, but please know that nothing is guaranteed.

The process of rescuing data can also be very time consuming; we had one project on the tech bench that ran for ten days trying to extract data from the drive. Something was pulled off, but whether or not it is intact data instead of nothing but 1s and 0s of gibberish has yet to be determined.

One tool we use is Data Rescue by Prosoft. It’s a handy OS X software to have to try and extract information, but if the drive in question has failed, expect it to take anywhere from hours to weeks to fully scan the drive. There was a project I was working on a while back, and the Data Rescue scan took three days and the subsequent extraction took four. Thankfully, we were able to extract the customer’s valuable data on that one.

One problem that has been coming up a lot is that the board on the hard disk itself gets shocked and it no longer is seen by anything it’s plugged into. We’re unfortunately not able to extract any data when we see this type of failure. Next step: DriveSavers. Thought not cheap, they have the expensive equipment to be able to pull the drives apart and read the data directly from the platters inside.

Another type of failure is physical failure — you know, when there is a clicking or grinding sound coming from them as they attempt to spin up and function. People ask me all the time what makes a drive fail, and my answer is that it’s most commonly when the machine is dropped, bumped, or generally handled roughly. Anything can really cause the little read/write heads inside to nick the platters and scratch them.

“Bad Blocks” are another form of failure, wherein the platters themselves are no longer able to hold information. Any information written cannot be retained, causing corrupted data. Once a hard drive starts having bad blocks, it’s only a matter of time before the drive fails completely.

Moral of this story? Back up your information to another hard drive or utilize a cloud storage backup service!

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