If you have only lost a few files from your Hard Drive you may want to look at our File Recovery page however if you have serious file loss or disk damage we recommend you go to our Data Recovery Services page and suggest you do not try a DIY fix using Data Recovery Software.
How Data is Stored on a Hard Disk
A hard disk stores your data and programs on rotating disks called platters by magnetizing tiny spots on the platters as either North or South (we usually refer to this data as Zero or One) each individual area is called a Bit. Unlike the internal computer memory this data will be saved even after the computer is turned off or loses power. The magnetic patterns are created and read from the disk by a tiny electro-magnet on the end of a ‘Read Write head’.
The Read Write head sits only a few microns above the platter and is only held above the platter by a cushion of air. Due to the speed of the head assembly and its sensitive construction, the head assembly is susceptible to damaged caused by knocks, environment and wear and tear.
Because hard disks have mechanical parts ALL hard disks will fail at some stage, hence the need for a good backup and recovery system and the market for hard disk recovery service companies.
If you want to know more about Hard Disk theory you can check out this Seagate article called “Everything you wanted to know about hard drives”
Common Types and Causes of Hard Drive Failure
Typically there are many reasons for data loss on a hard drive:
Typically caused by viruses and deleted or corrupted files. Expect to see signs of disappearing files, disk errors and a sluggish system when experiencing a logical error.
These failures are created when a physical component of the hard drive stops working. This could be caused from natural wear and tear. Computer crashes and frequent freezing could be signs of a mechanical failure.
Files may become inaccessible when the drive is struck by power surges or outages or when the drive is supplied with the wrong amount of voltage.
A portion of the magnetic surface of the platter has become damaged over time causing the data to become inaccessible in certain areas. The disk has either developed bad sectors or it has become impossible to read the platters. Sometimes it is only the Index that has got damaged and the file is still complete. A good data recovery company will be able to create a new index.
This is the most common failure type. It is caused when the head assembly comes in contact with the disk surface. Usually this is caused by knocks and shocks to the computer. This cause physical damage to the magnetic disc surface. Data in the damaged tracks will be damaged however a good file recovery specialist will be able to copy the remaining data to a new disk drive.
Firmware is a dedicated operating system built into the harddrive. It allows all parts of a hard drive to operate smoothly and provides access to the contents of the disk and its communication with the computer. If the firmware is corrupt, the drive will fail even if there are no electronic and mechanical issues. A competent hard disk recovery center will be able to reprogram the firmware or copy the data to a new disk.
PCB component malfunction
The PCB (Printed Circuit Board) holds the firmware. A high voltage spike or a component or joint failure could cause failure and could cause a total drive failure. Replacement of this device should only be conducted by an experienced hard drive data recovery professional.
Drive Failure Warnings
Often when a drive fails the user gets no warning but sometimes there are advance warnings:
- Occasional start up message – not initialized
- ChkDsk startup warning message (windows) or Disk Utility message (Mac)
- Excessively hot hard drive (you will only notice this on a laptop)
- Abnormal noises, clicking, ticking or grinding
- Excessive and noisy disk access when saving or reading large files – usually takes a long tome to read or write.
DIY Recovery – Hard Drive Data Recovery Software
Warning – you should not use DIY methods of Data Retrieval unless you have a high level of expertise or you are confident that the cost of professional disaster recovery will cost more than the value of the data. Note the average computer technician does not have sufficient expertise to ensure that they will not cause further damage to your valuable digital assets.
It is possible to use recovery software in order to repair a hard drive. However, be sure to limit the use of recovery techniques that will minimize drive access. Many free options exist and can be beneficial for simple file loss eg corrupted index.
The best and most popular free option is Recuva which can help recover files from hard drives, external drives, CD/DVD/CD discs and memory cards. This software can even undelete files from the recycle bin.
As soon as you are aware of data loss you should turn of the computer or device and decide on your best course of action using a different computer to investigate.
Be very wary of a general IT technician offering to attempt to retrieve your lost data or to repair a disc drive that has been physically damaged. As this does not form part of their everyday work many will not have the expertise that will maximise your chances of complete data restoration. Whether you need internal hard drive recovery, external hard drive recovery, RAID Recovery, NAS recovery or recovery of data from any medium you need to evaluate the value of the data vs the cost of recovery. Specialist data recovery experts are not cheap but could be much less expensive than complete data loss – many companies go bankrupt after complete data loss.
that can be provided by a professional data recovery services specialist who will increase the chances of data recovery and minimize further data loss.
Some things to look for when selecting a company to recover data from hard drive or retrieve your data from other media:
No data, no fee
This sounds good, but it is only useful if it is combined with the expertise to have maximum success.
It is possible to make a bad attempt at disc recovery, damage the disc then tell you ‘no fee’ In some cases it is better to pay an initial non refundable estimate fee.
Low-cost evaluation plus return fee
Some companies offer a fixed fee evaluation and charge for return shipping
If a company is going to put more effort into investigating your issue this can be a cost effective way to evaluate if you should pay the full fee for restoring data.
Avoid broad estimates
Although a specific diagnosis is not always possible, professional data recovery companies should be able to give you a fixed estimate or maximum quote after their initial investigation.
Clean room facilities
We have already described the very small gap between the disk platter and the read write head. Without clean room facilities it is nearly impossible to open a hard drive and close it up again without some contamination getting on to the disk surface, which will inevitably cause future problems.
Professional Services – Using Software
Data recovery professionals use processes and software that are designed to recover data from all operating systems. Only non-destructive hard drive recovery processes are used and they typically work using drive sectors cloning. Drive sectors cloning is the practice of pulling data from the drive sector by sector. This ensures that the drive is not damaged further and that a second image of the original data can be obtained if needed. Typically this process takes three to five days, but can take longer. With the correct equipment this can be done even if the drive has a physical or controller failure.
Not all data recovery specialists are the same and some steps may be omitted in order to lessen the cost of the service. Fewer steps in the process usually reduces the chances of maximum the chances of recovering data from hard drive. When choosing a specialist be certain that initial work will be completed to help determine if the data is still accessible by the engineer. If the data is still recoverable, the company should work to restructure the data by studying the low level pieces of the data down to cluster, byte and bit level if necessary.
Professional Services – Hardware Recovery
Hard drive recovery involves replacing failed components and may involve restructuring the data if the electronic or mechanical failure has damaged the data. Professional disaster recovery companies should be certified to ISO standards and be approved by storage device manufacturers should to open sealed drives in accordance without voiding the original warranty.
These data recovery experts should have clean triage area where drives were all contaminants and debris are totally removed prior to entering the cleanroom. The recovery specialist should use cutting edge tools and techniques that can quickly find the source of the failure and help to recover as much data as possible. The use of clean rooms creates exceptional air quality and is vital for protecting sensitive internal components of hard drives.
The benefit in using a specialist data retrieval service is the amount of information that can be saved.
Logical failures can be corrected, using specialist recovery tools, to retrieve good data and even data which has been deleted in many cases.
Mechanical failures can be corrected by repairing or replacing the damaged parts, however a quality recovery specialist will first clone the data on the platters before replacing components to ensure that further data loss does not occur.
US vs International Spelling:
Hard Disk – Always used in the US, used in many countries
Hard Disc – Primarily the UK spelling but also used in other countries, but Disk is also used as it is the universal IT spelling