How do HDD and SSD Data Recovery Techniques Differ?

Data recovery techniques employed by our technicians will vary depending on the fault at play, and more importantly, the type of storage media they’re dealing with.

Despite the significant rise of the solid-state drive (SSD) in recent years, our data recovery team still primarily deal with hard disk drives (HDDS). These are mechanical data storage devices that contain moving parts, in contrast to SSDs, which contain no moving parts. The NAND flash chips found in SSDs are also used in USB flash drives and SD cards, so a similar approach is taken here.

Data recovery from mechanical HDDs takes place in our class 100 clean room, to ensure it is free from contaminants. Class 100 simply means that there will always be fewer than 100 particles per cubic metre, although in reality there will be far fewer due to other protective measures our data recovery technicians employ. Hard drives are assembled in very similar conditions to that of a data recovery clean room, so it makes sense to take them apart in a similar environment.

Within a hard disk drive, there are multiple moving parts, including the spindle motor, magnetic platters, and the actuator arm, upon which the read/write heads sit. Because these components are working in tandem, a small knock or a bump can cause damage, even with active hard drive protection technology. The read/write heads hover a fraction of a millimetre above the spinning platters, and if they make contact, it can be catastrophic. Even a small particle of dust can cause this, which is why our data recovery technicians undertake all physical hard drive recovery in a class 100 clean room.

You should never attempt to open a hard drive in your own home, as this can cause further damage and potentially render the chances of a successful data recovery impossible. Once in the data recovery lab, your hard disk drive will be given a free diagnostic test, and if data recovery is possible, will be carefully imaged to get your data back.

Flash-based media such as solid-state drives, USB flash drives and SD cards are completely different, and our data recovery technicians employ different techniques. SSDs contain no moving parts, and are thus much less susceptible to physical damage; however, they are not indestructible and should be kept away from direct heat. With SSDs, a common fault our data recovery technicians see is media degradation and corruption.

Chip-off and JTAG are the two most common techniques when undertaking SSD data recovery. Chip-off involves removing a memory chip from the circuit board and reading, which requires de-soldering with precision. For this reason, our data recovery technicians always work under microscopes when undertaking de-soldering work.

Another SSD data recovery technique is JTAG, a lengthier process but doesn’t involve removing the chip from the circuit board. Our SSD data recovery team work with PC-3000 Flash Spider Board Adaptors, which use numerous specialised pins to connect to the SSD’s pinouts, allowing direct interrogation. This technology is steadily improving, and as the hard drive starts to decline, SSD data recovery should become a lot simpler.

Data Recovery