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Data recovery from crashed heads

A 'head crash' occurs when the heads of a hard disk drive touch the rotating platter surface. The head normally rides on a thin film of moving air entrapped at the surface of the platter. A shock to a working hard disk, or even a tiny particle of dirt or other debris can cause the head to bounce against the disk, destroying the thin magnetic coating on the disk.

Since most modern drives spin at rates between 7,200 and 15,000 rpm, the damage caused to the magnetic coating can be extensive. At 7,200 rpm the edge of the platter is travelling at over 74 miles per hour (120 km/h), and as the crashed head drags over the platter surface they generally overheat due to friction, making the drive or at least parts of it unusable until the heads cool. Following a head crash, particles of material scraped free of the drive surface greatly increase the chances of further head crashes or damage to the platters.

Data stored in the media that is scraped off the platter is of course unrecoverable, and because of the way that data is stored, randomly over a disk surface, this data may be whole files or parts of many files. Often the effected data will be system files and the ensuing partial recovery will contain the user’s critical data.