Data Recovery Case Study: Seagate Head Crash

Our hard drive data recovery team recently helped a client out of a tight spot when they dropped their Seagate external hard drive. Here’s how the data recovery process went.

The client approached us after he dropped his external hard drive – a 1TB Seagate backup plus – from a height of around four feet. Upon powering up to make sure the drive still worked, a scratching sound was emitted. Powering up the hard drive in the first place was the first error that was made, and could have potentially lost the client’s data completely. The hard drive had suffered a serious head crash, caused by the shock when it was dropped. The read/write heads in a hard drive read data from the spinning magnetic platter below, and as such, hover only a tiny fraction above. Even a small knock or bump can misalign the heads and cause a head crash. The head crash is among the most common of data recovery diagnoses we see, with around half due to a knock or a drop, and the rest down to general wear and tear – hard drives don’t last forever!

The second mistake that the client made was taking the external hard drive to a local computer repair store on the high street, which had no experience with hard drive data recovery. Data recovery software was ran on the hard drive, which caused further damage to the platters. While there are many pieces of great free data recovery software out there, running software on a hard drive that’s physically damaged won’t yield any results. In fact, it will actually reduce the chance of a successful data recovery when the professionals get their hands on it.

When the client explained what had happened to the drive, it was obvious to our data recovery team that it had suffered from a head crash. The hard drive was booked onto the system, and given a unique job reference number. The drive was then disassembled by one of our hard drive data recovery engineers in our Class 100 clean room, which ensures no contaminants are in the room. A clean room environment is similar to those in which hard drives are assembled, so all of our physical data recovery work is undertaken in here. Our clean room allows our data recovery technicians to safely open hard disk drives without compromising the data stored on them. As suspected, a head crash was behind the scratching noise coming from the hard drive, which required a new set of read/write heads to be fitted. Our library, which contains more than 16,000 spare parts, was searched for compatible heads. As the model of external hard drive was one we see quite a lot, sourcing heads was easy. Specialist head stack replacement tools were then used to install the new heads and limit any further damage. When the heads were fitted, we imaged the drive byte by byte, and were able to recover 90% of the client’s data. While there was the odd file of importance that was unrecoverable, most of the data the client wanted was able to be recovered.

If in doubt, don’t try data recovery at home!

Data Recovery