How Is Magnetic Data Stored?

Think about data storage in three different levels. Firstly, the binary data which is stored as 1 or 0. In magnetic data storage the number simply relates to the magnetic polarity of the particle that is recording that number. Secondly those binary numbers are recorded by hardware inside the computer itself. Thirdly, those binary numbers are manipulated by computer software into a higher level of information.

Binary data as we know is recorded as a 1 or 0 to represent all possible values. Hence typing the number 0 through to 8 on your computer keyboard will look like this as binary code: 0, 1, 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111 and 1000. Binary characters can be very long.

Most data storage media uses magnetic coatings and heads that can read the magnetic polarity of each particle. Binary numbers are recorded as tiny spaces on a disc which are magnetised either positive or negative, relating to a 1 or 0 respectively. New NAND technology which encompasses solid state drives and flash media does away with magnetic recording. Instead they use electrically charged particles to record binary code. CDs and DVDs on the other hand literally burn tiny mirrored sections on the disk (hence the tern ‘burn’ a CD). This either reflects a laser beam or not again representing each binary character. In theory, data recovery requires you to fill in the missing gaps. 

Clearly it is beneficial to the data storage device to organise and process these binary characters for expediency’s sake. Hence the computer’s electronic memory or BIOS is responsible for allocating storage locations around the computer. The operating system contains instructions for organising data into files and folders. Application programs then process the data.

Binary source code is common across all platforms but each different operating system, BIOS and application organises the data differently. Hence a data recovery program may work extremely well on a particular version of Windows, but be totally useless on an Apple operating system. This is why it is important that we identify file formats, data parameters and file structures before we start the data recovery process.

Data Recovery