Getting your Data Back after a Head Crash

Head crashes are the most common cause of physical hard drive damage our data recovery team see, and one we’ve written about dealing with extensively before. But what is a head crash, what causes one, and how can it be dealt with?

Within a hard disk drive (HDD), there are several moving parts. Magnetic disks – also known as platters – store the data, and the read/write heads hover a fraction of a millimetre above the platters. These heads pivot over the platters on the tip of the actuator arm, while the platters spin at speeds often in excess of 10,000 RPM. HDDs are manufacturer in clean rooms, which ensures an absolute minimum chance of dust or debris getting into the drive. Parts are also cleaned in ultrasonic baths before being assembled, ensuring they are completely free of grease and other contaminants.

This might seem a bit much, but it’s necessary. Because the read/write heads hover so close to the magnetic platters, even a small particle of dust can come between them, and potentially cause a head crash. If any contaminant gets in between the head and the platter, the head will hit the surface and cause more debris to be scraped off, which causes the screeching noise that is indicative of a head crash. Sometimes, rather than a screeching noise, you might head a low clicking noise, and this is indicative of a pending head crash. In this instance, immediately power down your HDD. So if hard drives are assembled in such controlled conditions, free of dust and other contaminants, how do head crashes occur?

One of the most common causes of a head crash is just time. Hard drives have a limited lifespan, typically only around three to five years, after which the chances of failure are significant. When a hard drive is reaching the end of its lifespan, wear and tear of the components can lead to particles becoming lose in the drive. This doesn’t necessarily mean that this will occur after five years; well-made hard drives can last in excess of ten years. Fluctuations in temperature can also cause excessive contraction and expansion of the drive’s components, and can potentially lead to premature failure. Physical shocks like knocks or bumps can also disturb the delicate internal components of an HDD, causing a head crash. Our hard drive data recovery team deal with a lot of dropped laptops and external hard drives that have suffered from head crashes.

In the event that your hard drive has suffered from a head crash, you should immediately power it down and take it to a professional data recovery specialist. Attempting data recovery at home after a head crash will only ensure that your data is lost forever. Our hard drive data recovery team work in a Class 100 Clean Room environment, which ensures there are always fewer than 100 particles per cubic foot. These conditions that our technicians work in are similar to those in which hard drives are assembled in.  

Give Data Recovery Specialists a call on 0800 223 0162, or fill out the form on our contact page, for a free, no-obligation quote.