Hard Drive Data Recovery: Hitachi Head Crash

We recently received a Hitachi hard disk drive that had been removed from a laptop by a client after it stopped working. They made the mistake of trying DIY data recovery, and it didn’t go well.

The client explained to us that, upon discovering his laptop wouldn’t start up, he tried swapping the heads with another drive. When it was powered up, the heads immediately started making a scratching noise, which is indicative of a head crash. As soon as the client dropped the hard drive off, it was booked in with its unique job reference number and handed over to our hard drive data recovery team to see if it was possible to recover the client’s data, and if it was, provide a free file listing and no-obligation quote. The drive was disassembled in our Class 100 Clean Room, where our data recovery technicians carry out all physical work. It was quickly apparent that the hard drive had indeed suffered from a head crash. Because a hard drive’s read/write heads hover just a few nanometres above the magnetic platters, even a small particle of dust can cause a head crash. Our Class 100 Clean Room – similar to the environment in which a hard drive is assembled in – ensures that there are never more than 100 particles of dust per cubic foot. In reality, though, there is typically much less.

A head crash is one of the most common physical faults out hard drive data recovery team see, and it required a new set of read/write heads to be fitted. From our library of spare parts that exceeds 16,000, a spare set of head was sourced and installed by one of our data recovery technicians using specialist head stack replacement tools. This enabled the heads to be installed with minimum damage. The hard drive was then imaged byte by byte to create an exact clone. Unfortunately, some sectors were unreadable due to the DIY data recovery the client had attempted – but we were still able to recover around 75-80% of the data stored on the drive. We provided the client with a free file listing and quote, which was accepted, and the final stage involved copying the data onto a new external hard disk drive.

It is unknown what the original problem was that caused the client’s laptop not to boot up correctly, but it was a huge mistake for them to attempt physical data recovery at home. Hard drives aren’t designed to be opened in normal conditions, which is why our data recovery team always work in our Class 100 Clean Room.

Data Recovery