Data recovery mythbuster

There are so many DIY data recovery forums that offer advice to the distraught user who has experienced data loss. Often our clients have already implemented the advice they have read and are left scratching their heads.  Freezing hard drives, giving them a ‘whack’ and changing PCBs are all common advice you will hear, but do they work? Although you might say we have a biased interest, emphatically they do not! Unfortunately most of these methods, simply exasperate the problem making the situation worse. This results in increased data recovery costs or even unrecoverable data.

Freezing a hard drive is one of the most popular DIY urban myths. Whilst it is true that heat is your enemy, freezing a hard drive will cause major contraction, followed by expansion of components. This is unlikely to realign everything to start working again and is much more likely to misalign parts that were not damaged. Similarly it will create condensation inside the hard drive which is almost always fatal.

Another piece of advice that we often see published is the ‘whack’ method. Your hard drive uses very delicate electronics and mechanics. An impact is only likely to damage these. Buzzing hard drives are not indicative of ‘stuck’ heads. This symptom normally indicates ‘crashed’ heads. A ‘whack’ does not help and merely serves to exasperate any damage.

Lastly, there is a lot of talk about replacing PCBs. Modern hard drives are very smart and can isolate bad sectors, amongst many other tasks. This information is stored on the PCB, meaning that they are unique to that particular hard drive. Hence a donor PCB is most likely to create more problems.

Of course there will always be instances where these methods will work and these are well documented. Unfortunately the failures are not well documented. If you want to attempt a recovery yourself, there are many better ways you can do this and we have discussed these in other blog articles.