Data Recovery Case Study: Water-Damaged HDDs

We recently received a three Western Digital hard drives that had been badly damaged in a flood. Thankfully, our data recovery team were able to recover most of the client’s data.

The hard drives had become severely damaged in flood water, meaning they were full of sediment as well as being water-damaged. The client had taken it to a local PC repair store, who weren’t specialists in data recovery techniques, and so they recommended us. The three drives arrived into our data recovery lab and were promptly catalogued and booked in by our logistics team. Then, they were taken into our ISO-4 accredited Class 100 clean rooms, to ensure they were worked on without the danger of further damage, which was especially important considering the condition they were in.

Hard drives aren’t designed to be taken apart, and are assembled in conditions rather like our data recovery clean room. Neither do they take kindly to being submerged in water for even brief periods, let alone extended periods of time in dirty river water. The sediments in the river water were a particular worry for our data recovery team. Once our technicians had taken a look at the hard drives, it became quickly apparent that they weren’t operational, and it was now a question of whether or not the data was salvageable. After more than 24 hours submerged underwater, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was impossible.

Unfortunately, the computer repair company the client approached prior to us had already opened the drive, making our job a little bit harder. The read/write heads in all the drives were badly damaged, and because they had been removed, the platters weren’t aligned correctly. In addition, the previous technicians had powered up one of the drives, causing severe damage to the platters – in effect, a giant head crash. Our technicians had to source read/write heads from our library of spare parts, which contains over 14,000 components. After donor sets were sourced, and a painstaking decontaminating of the platters was completed, the drive was safely powered up and imaged byte by byte. We were able to recover around 80% of the client’s data, which didn’t seem at all possible at the beginning.

We provided the client with a no-obligation quote, which is standard on most of our data recovery cases. They accepted, and we transferred their recovered data onto three new 1TB hard drives. Check out our promotional video below to find out more about how the data recovery process works.