Case Study: Data Recovery following a Power Surge

A common cause of hard drive failure surrounds power problems, especially power surges, as an unlucky client recently found out. Thankfully, our hard drive data recovery team were on hand to recover 99% of their data.

Hard drives, like many mechanical devices, need a power supply to function. With most electronic devices, a power outage and subsequent power surge won’t do too much damage. But hard drives are a different matter. A sudden loss of power could short out the control board on your hard drive, which effectively acts as the intermediary between the data stored on it and your computer or laptop. The platters and read/write heads within the hard drive are pretty much immune from power surge damage, but the control board, with its delicate circuitry, can be instantly killed. So when the hard drive is next powered up, none of the components will receive any power; the spindle motor won’t spin, the platters won’t rotate, and the read/write heads won’t move into the correct position.

This is what happened in the case of this client, whose Hitachi hard drive was effectively a lump of metal with their data locked within. The hard drive contained important spreadsheets for the client’s accounting business, and as such, it was vital that they were recovered. The hard drive was catalogued, and given a unique job number, that followed it for the rest of its time with us. Since it wasn’t known exactly what had happened to the drive when it arrived – the client simply reported it had stopped working – our data recovery team needed to ascertain whether it was a physical or logical failure. The hard drive was disassembled in our Class 100 Clean Room, where all drives are taken apart. This enables our technicians to work in conditions similar to those in which the hard drives are assembled, to ensure the maximum chance of a successful data recovery. The drive’s read/write heads were undamaged, as was the spindle motor and magnetic platters, which boded well for a successful recovery. Our team determined that the power surge had caused the hard drive’s PCB – printed circuit board – to fail. Replacing a PCB isn’t as simple as it used to be. In the past, one could simply source a suitable donor part, swap it over, and the drive would be good to go. But with modern hard drives, one of the chips on the PCB is a ROM chip, which contains drive-unique factory calibrations. Our data recovery team had to carefully remove the chip from the old drive’s PCB and install it on the new PCB.

After completing the PCB transplant, our team were able to recover 99% of the client’s data. We provided a no-obligation quote and a file listing to the client, which was accepted, and we transferred the data onto a blank external hard drive.

Data Recovery