What is a Class 100 Clean Room?

If you’re considering opening your hard drive at home in order to recover your data, think again! Hard drives should always be opened in a clean room environment. But what is a data recovery clean room?

One of our facilities that is frequently discussed is our Class 100 Clean Room, where our data recovery technicians undertake all physical work. But why exactly are these conditions necessary for a successful data recovery? Although data recovery from a physically damaged hard drive is perfectly possible thanks to decades of research, hard drives are not designed to be opened up, let alone repaired, and when they’re assembled by manufacturers, they’re done so in the strictest of conditions. If the environment in which a hard drive is assembled isn’t completely clean and free of contaminants, it can lead to damage down the line. Contrary to popular belief, the inside of a hard drive isn’t a vacuum, but it is free of dust and other contaminants. When a hard drive is opened up by our data recovery team for repair, they need to ensure that the exact same conditions in which it was assembled are replicated. This is where our Class 100 Data Recovery Clean Room comes in. But what is a ‘clean room’, and what does the ‘class 100’ part pertain to?

Put simply, ‘class 100’ simply means that throughout the room, the air is filtered in order to ensure no more than 100 particles of dust per cubic foot. In reality, however, our standards are much higher, and thanks to other measures like sticky mats, there are normally way fewer particles of dust in the air. Nonetheless, there will always be less than 100, and these are the optimum conditions for disassembling a hard disk drive. But why is all of this necessary? What can a few minute particles of dust do to a hard drive? As it turns out, it can be catastrophic; even a single particle of dust can interfere with the inner workings of a hard drive. A mechanical hard disk driver contains a spinning magnetic platter, and read/write heads hovering a few nanometres above them. With such a small space in between the platters and the read/write heads, a small dust particle can potentially cause a head crash, which can render data recovery possible. If you imagine the size of a particle of airborne dust, it’s more than possible that one could get in the way of the drive’s read/write heads and cause a head crash.

Not all data recovery requires the hard drive to be opened up, but around 60-70% of the hard drives we see do require the use of our Class 100 Clean Room. Some data recovery will just a require a simple firmware fix, in which case, the hard drive won’t need to be opened up. You may even be able to get your data back all by yourself, using free data recovery software. But if you detect any abnormal noises from inside your hard drive, don’t open it up!

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