Case Study: Data Recovery from a Seagate Hard Drive

We have recently completed a successful data recovery job on a very badly damaged Seagate STBD2000102 2TB laptop hard drive. Our data recovery team worked over a 48 hour period to successfully get back the client’s data.

The hard drive had sustained major physical damage as a result of being dropped down a flight of stairs. The client had taken it to a local computer repair store, who weren’t well versed in data recovery techniques, and they referred them to ourselves. The drive arrived into our data recovery lab on a Monday morning, where it was catalogued and booked in by our logistics team. It was then taken into one of our ISO-4 accredited Class 100 clean rooms, where it was worked on in the correct environment. Hard drives are assembled in clean rooms and aren’t designed to be taken apart – which means leaving data recovery to the professionals in these situations so important. Upon disassembling the hard disk drive, our technicians found extensive physical damage had been sustained both to the read/write heads and the magnetic platters. Data recovery success rates with this kind of damage is considerably lower than logical failure or minor physical damage.

The first thing our data recovery technicians investigated was the PCB board, which is responsible for all communication between the computer and mechanical parts of the disk. The PCB board was isolated and tested to see if the fuse, transistors, capacitors or circuitry were damaged; these were all in full working order. The disk was then connected to an analysis machine where the ROM/firmware was tested, and again, this was found to be in full working order. It was clear, on inspection, that there was damage to both the platters and the read/write heads. From here, it became apparent that the data recovery would be a little more tricky.

The damage to the read/write heads was most likely caused by the misaligned position of the head assembly when the drive was not powered. Our data recovery technicians also found small particles of dirt on the read/write heads, that must have made their way into the hard drive when it was dropped. The actuator arms (which is what the read/write heads are attached to) and the heads themselves were chemically cleaned for maximum chance of realignment. The actuator arm was mechanically altered to prevent any further alignment problems, but unfortunately, these repairs were successful. In order to achieve successful data recovery, our technicians had to try another avenue.

An identical hard drive was sourced from our library, which contains over 14,322 donor parts that we’ve collected from old hard drives over the years. The read/write heads from the donor hard drive were removed and tested to see if they were suitable; they were. This donor set of read/write heads was then assembled onto the client’s hard drive and carefully aligned, which was successful. The drive was powered up safely, which allowed us to take a byte by byte image, creating a clone. Because there was some damage sustained to the platters as a result of the drop, there were some bad sectors, but we were able to circumnavigate these – data recovery was ultimately successful.

We then provided a quote to complete the data recovery, which was entirely no-obligation. When the client accepted, we supplied their data to them on a replacement 2TB external hard disk drive. While data recovery at home can be tried if the problem is logical, for physical problems such as this we recommend always consulting a professional data recovery specialist

Data Recovery