Case Study: Seagate External Hard Drive

Our data recovery team recently recovered some data from a dropped Seagate external hard drive – but the attempts at DIY data recovery meant some of the data was unrecoverable.

The client arrived into our office with the hard disk drive in question – a Seagate Expansion Portable external with a total storage capacity of 500GB and data filling around 50% of that – and explained that he had dropped it. Upon powering it up, the hard drive emitted a scratching noise. This sound was the hard drive’s read/write heads coming into contact with the magnetic platters below. A hard drive’s platters spin at incredibly fast speeds, a fraction of a millimetre above the platters, on the tip of the actuator arm. Head crashes can be caused by general wear and tear – hard drives don’t last forever – or from a knock or bump. The client wasn’t able to access the contents of the external hard drive, despite hearing it powered up. Free data recovery software was then explored, but nothing the client downloaded was capable of even recognising the hard drive. The client then visited a computer repair store, who were similarly unable to recover any data from the external hard drive.

The hard drive was then catalogued with its unique job reference number, and passed to our hard drive recovery team for inspection. Based on the information given by the client, it was fairly obvious that the diagnosis was a head crash; this was confirmed upon inspection in our Class 100 clean room. A donor drive was sourced from our library of over 16,000, and the heads were swapped using specialist head stack replacement tools to limit any further damage to the platters. The drive was then imaged, and we were able to recover around 75% of the client’s data. A file listing was then sent to the client, along with the quote for the return of the data. Upon accepting, the recovered data was returned to the client on a new external hard drive, sent via courier the same day.

This case study highlights the dangers of DIY data recovery. The client made two big errors. It is understandable that you might want to check to see if your hard drive is damaged by powering it up. But using data recovery software following a likely physical fault is a recipe for disaster. The second mistake was consulting a computer repair store that lacked expertise in data recovery techniques. It is unlikely that a small high street store would have clean room facilities, which are vital for ensuring no further damage to the drive occurs.

If in doubt, avoid physical DIY data recovery, and consult a professional data recovery specialist over a computer repair store.  

Data Recovery