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A Walk Through the Hard Drive Recovery Process

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the it's-dead-jim dept.

Data Storage 238

Fields writes "It's well known that failed hard drives can be recovered, but few people actually use a recovery service because they're expensive and not always successful. Even fewer people ever get any insights into the process, as recovery companies are secretive about their methods and rarely reveal any more information that is necessary for billing. Geek.com has an article walking through a drive recovery handled by DriveSavers. The recovery team did not give away many secrets, but they did reveal a number of insights into the process. From the article, "'[M]y drive failed in about every way you can imagine. It had electro-mechanical failure resulting in severe media damage. Seagate considered it dead, but I didn't give up. It's actually pretty amazing that they were able to recover nearly all of the data. Of course, they had to do some rebuilding, but that's what you expect when you send it to the ER for hard drives.'" Be sure to visit the Museum of Disk-asters, too.

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Their secret revealed... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23385920)

A hard drive shaped freezer.

Re:Their secret revealed... (5, Interesting)

iMaple (769378) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386006)

That's actually not to far away from a working solution. You can normally make a failing/failed harddisk work for around 5 minutes by freezing it and then immediately using it. Don't try to boot off it, just connect it as an external drive and you can probably get that code you were working on before the drive failed. Its worked for me all 3 times I've tried.

Re:Their secret revealed... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386118)

That only works if you have "engineers wearing specialized, certified cleanroom garments" that place the drive in the freezer. And don't forget to charge $1500.

Re:Their secret revealed... (4, Interesting)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386194)

That worked for me - I recovered an entire hard disk drive (Hitachi Travelstar) using the freeze and sudden twist method. Basically you freeze the hard disk drive to get whatever it is that sticks, to become brittle, and then give the drive a sudden twist to free the platters. This will last as long as the drive motor keeps running. Blogosphere theory is that it is the oil from the platter bearings that leaks and hardens.

Nice Theory But... (5, Interesting)

Gates82 (706573) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386872)

Blogosphere theory is that it is the oil from the platter bearings that leaks and hardens.

That is a nice theory but there is no oil in the bearings of a Hitachi (formerly IBM) drive. They ride on an air bearing. I have heard of faulty temperature sensors being reset through the freezing method, but whatever the reason I have seen the freezing method suggested by several sources. For me I believe that it has to do with moving the drive. Shorts or binds will often be resolved by moving the drive around.

When I worked for IBM I did a fair share of data recovery. My favorite drive that I saved was a laptop drive with a stiction problem. It would get caught during spin-up. I put my ear to the drive and would listen to it and kept rebooting and shaking the drive until it finally got past the rough spot. Recovered all the engineers data who was extremely happy he didn't have to waste $500 bucks with Ontrack.

--
So who is hotter? Ali or Ali's Sister?

Re:Their secret revealed... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386376)

I had a hard drive that were going dead. Reporting bad sectors all over the place. Then I recovered what data I could, and then used dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hdb. And then I did dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/hdb. After that I formatted the drive and it worked fine. This worked on two drives that failed within a year of eachother, and I've been using them for at least 2 years. I'm not sure how it fixed anything, but it seemed to work for me.

Re:Their secret revealed... (5, Insightful)

Snover (469130) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386798)

All modern disks ship with some unused spare sectors that are used to remap onto failed sectors. This occurs all inside the drive's firmware, so even though the computer thinks it's addressing the same sector, in actuality the drive is pulling data from the remapped spare. The firmware is smart enough to only remap sectors when you try to write to a bad one, though, because if it decided to remap a bad sector that had data on it that you needed, you'd not be able to get back that data even if the disk was eventually able to read the sector.

Re:Their secret revealed... (5, Informative)

AgTiger (458268) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386444)

I had a primary hard drive fail in a linux file server I have at the house. The backup hadn't been taken in a while (yeah, I got lazy), and I really needed the updated files.

A friend of mine told me this method, so I tried it; it worked. I got more than 30 minutes of operation out of the drive, enough to pull ALL of the files off (30 gigs of data) successfully.

1. Put masking tape over the data and electrical connectors of the drive.
2. Immerse the drive in a ziplock bag of minute-rice, with the data/power connectors sticking up. This can't be regular rice, it MUST be minute rice. This acts as a poor man's silica gel later in the process. Close the zip-lock.
3. Freeze the bag of rice with the hard drive in it in the deep freeze for 24 hours. You want it completely frozen, patience is a virtue.
4. Remove the bag from the freezer, and take it to a pre-prepared computer where the drive is ready to be received and plugged in (longer data cable, longer power cable, etc...) You should have another big data drive in the system ready to receive the data from the frozen drive.
5. Leave the drive immersed in the minute rice except for the data/power connector. Remove the tape. Plug in the data and power cables. Try to re-seal the zip-lock bag as much as possible so you don't have rice grains escaping.
6. Orient the drive so it's laying in as natural of a position as possible with as much frozen rice around it.
7. Fire up the system, and try to access the frozen drive. This is the moment of truth. If you're lucky, it'll identify and respond, and you'll have access to the file system.
8. You now about 20 reliable minutes to copy data. You may get more if you're lucky. Copy copy copy. Note: The drive WILL be slow at first, and will speed up as it starts to warm.

Why the minute rice? It performs two functions: First, it keeps the moisture from condensing on, and in the drive's metal parts. Moisture's the killer when you power up a frozen drive. Second, it provides an additional thermal block of "cool" to help keep the drive at a lower temperature while you perform the copy.

After I got the data, I scrapped the original drive I froze (literally, out came the platters and they sit in my stack of platter-shame.) No sense courting disaster a second time.

I've since used this method 2 more times successfully with other people's hard drives. I suspect the recovery specialists use a similar trick, only they'd be smart to use a sub-zero frozen room with no moisture to do their "cold start and copy" process.

Re:Their secret revealed... (4, Informative)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386698)

A better version of the poor man's silica gel is crystalline kitty litter (which is just rebranded silica gel).

Re:Their secret revealed... (3, Informative)

Cal Paterson (881180) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386478)

You can normally make a failing/failed harddisk work for around 5 minutes by freezing it and then immediately using it.
It only works for a certain kind of broken hard drive. Fortunately, these kinds of breaks, due to poor workmanship, account for around 40-50% of failures! Hurrah!

Re:Their secret revealed... (2, Interesting)

Crispy Critters (226798) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386562)

I couldn't get freezing to work on my dead drive. The trick that worked was: Let sit on the desk for two months and then try it again. It still made noise, but it worked long enough to find and retrieve the files that weren't backed up.

Re:Their secret revealed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386690)

Like my NES cartridges.

Summary (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23385962)

"It's well known that failed hard drives can be recovered"

[Citation Needed]

Hmmm. (5, Insightful)

vancondo (986849) | more than 6 years ago | (#23385976)

The cost for recovering data from a drive with severe media damage, like mine, is about $1900. An average single drive data recovery costs about $1500.


Wouldn't backing your data up be cheaper?

--
http://vancouvercondo.info [vancouvercondo.info]

Re:Hmmm. (3, Insightful)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23385984)

Yeah, if you manage to do it pre-disaster. Afterwards, well, you learn an expensive lesson about doing backups.

Re:Hmmm. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386032)

Amazingly, my company has learned that lesson twice. If I weren't working part time then I would probably have noticed that they had added extra areas to their file server that weren't on the backup list. RAID arrays are not cheap to recover :(

Re:Hmmm. (2, Interesting)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386094)

Note: I am now working there full time (while I was part time a couple of engineers were mostly responsible for IT support and I was doing coding, but now I basically take care of everything - one of the general office workers thankfully takes care of a lot of the easier IT support stuff while I *coughwastetimeon/.* code), and as well as the tape backup, I decided to hook up an external SATA HD on the fileserver that works as an extra backup each night, and makes recoveries a bit quicker than using the last tape if someone comes to me the same day that they lost their file, as well as meaning we have something quick and dirty in place to connect to another server if the fileserver server develops any major issues. A properly scheduled and maintained backup system is truly a thing of beauty :)

Re:Hmmm. (5, Insightful)

Slashdot Suxxors (1207082) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386206)

A properly scheduled and maintained backup system is truly a thing of beauty :)
That's the geekiest thing I've read today. ;)

Re:Hmmm. (4, Funny)

mortonda (5175) | more than 6 years ago | (#23387046)

Ah young love. ;)

Yes, once a geek discovers the beauty of a good backup system, he/she has stepped into a new world.

My backup/archive server is my most lovingly maintained system. It has saved me several times, and recently had to go through a hard drive replacement. That had me nervous.

Re:Hmmm. (4, Interesting)

Sanat (702) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386132)

That is a good point about not listing everything that requires backing up.

I was on a customer's site one day in Detroit showing a new engineer about installing a mini-computer from the company we were working for at the time.

On another mini-computer located about 50 feet away a customer did a sector by sector backup to another disk and in the process copied the wrong way and lost all of their information that represented two years work.

He immediately panicked and looked around to see who he could blame the error on and decided to blame us... it was really pathetic because the other workers there knew he did it but he could not bring himself to admit it.

We finished the installation and left so I never did here what happened to him.

He was a doctor that specialized in bone deterioration and apparently the data could not be reproduced or re-keyed for some reason.
 

Re:Hmmm. But, you can bet that doctor made a (-1, Flamebait)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386368)

LOT OF BONES about it...

He probably was ACHING to his bones.

Backups must've been a BONE of conTENTION for him.

I guess he was bone-headed..

Re:Hmmm. But, you can bet that doctor made a (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386640)

That was really stupid.

Re:Hmmm. (0)

sdnoob (917382) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386224)

...has learned that lesson twice...
TWICE? once should have been more than enough.

Re:Hmmm. (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386078)

Yeah, if you manage to do it pre-disaster. Afterwards, well, you learn an expensive lesson about doing backups.
I learnt that lesson. Worse still I learnt that (at least in Australia) Apple won't let you keep your fried hard drive when they replace it under warranty. By the time I found out they had already sent it overseas to the manufacturer.

Re:Hmmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386488)

That policy (and it noting being IT dept. serviceable) is keeping their hardware out of many larger companies.

Re:Hmmm. (1)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386244)

Absolutely. The cost of an external 250GB USB hard drive is around $160, so it's a lot cheaper to just do a quick 'tar' every day.

Re:Hmmm. (1)

nihaopaul (782885) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386406)

under 90usd now for a 2.5" WD in a case, rsync is my choice

Re:Hmmm. (4, Interesting)

asdfghjklqwertyuiop (649296) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386940)

Until one day you find the files you're taring are corrupt...

Re:Hmmm. (3, Insightful)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386280)

Wouldn't backing your data up be cheaper?

Absolutely, just like wearing a condom is cheaper than having a baby but sometimes don't take all necessary precautions.

LK

Re:Hmmm. Cheaper... well, I s'pose the depends (1, Funny)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386396)

on where you are, and that determines how hard condoms are to come by... (Careful... I'm watching my prepositions, and not necessarily the pre-positions....)...

But, in the vein of hard drives, i guess a not having protection can cause a bunch of thrashing about in the end... (buns, umm, PUNS intended...)

Re:Hmmm. Cheaper... well, I s'pose the depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386598)

I dont care who you are, but that there's funny.

Re:Hmmm. (1)

Thirdsin (1046626) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386314)

FYI, Here is a related slashvertisement (sry). Staples offers data recovery services in partnership with Seagate. In this person's case for a physical failure it would be a flat fee $1,500. If the data is recovered, it is sent back in an external hard drive. If the data cannot be recovered there is no charge, period. RAID configs unfortunately do not fall under this flat pricing.

Re:Hmmm. (1)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386700)

Of course, I have had clients that after telling them to backup, lost drives and paid $3200 for the data from a 200gb drive, they HAD TO HAVE IT, so they paid DriveSavers their exorbitant fee.

Some people need to learn, others need to learn more than once. 'Oh so THAT'S what you meant?' :)

Remember, you just can't fix stupid.

If you need this service... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23385986)

then you fucked up your backups...or you don't have one...or you don't give a shit - which is my issue. If it's important I have a piece of paper, an electronic backup, and another electronic backup somewhere else...and then some...

This may be a dumb question... (2, Interesting)

TomRK1089 (1270906) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386014)

...but are flash drives prone to the same sort of catastrophic failures disc drives are? And are the same recovery techniques workable with both? My gut tells me it's not nearly that simple.

Re:This may be a dumb question... (4, Insightful)

Shadow-isoHunt (1014539) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386260)

IME flash drives don't fail catastrophically, they go bad one part at a time, and generally only writes fail, you can still read without problem. I've seen a few drives fail all together, but they stopped registering as USB devices all together. The same recovery techniques can be used, and they need not be expensive. There's MagicRescue, and foremost that kick absolute ass. Free recovery software rawks.

Re:This may be a dumb question... (1)

TomRK1089 (1270906) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386298)

All right, thanks for the info mate. :D

Re:This may be a dumb question... (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386538)

Then how do you explain the failed sticks I have in front of me? HINT - if the controller circuity fails the data is in most cases gone.

Re:This may be a dumb question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386584)

If you would have bothered to read parents post, he point out that he seen a few fail, but that they stop working all together and arent even recognized when you plug them in. IC less likely to fail than flash itself.

Re:This may be a dumb question... (3, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386842)

HINT - if the controller circuity fails the data is in most cases gone.

Have a look at this photograph [wikipedia.org] .

The chip on the left is memory. That's where your data hides. The chip on the right is the memory controller. If that chip fails, but the memory chip is intact, your data may be recoverable.

Surface mount chips are hard, but not impossible to swap out.

Re:This may be a dumb question... (3, Interesting)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386312)

And likewise, if you have data you need to get rid of, how easy/hard (compared to magnetic HDDs) is it to permanently blast data off a flash drive if you don't want the data found?

Re:This may be a dumb question... (3, Funny)

bonhomme_de_neige (711691) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386736)

how easy/hard (compared to magnetic HDDs) is it to permanently blast data off a flash drive if you don't want the data found?
Much easier - 10 minutes with a mortar and pestle pretty much guarantees recovery will be impossible. That method would take a lot longer (and require more equipment) for hard drives.

Assuming, of course, that if hiding the data is that important, the cost of a flash drive is a sacrifice you're willing to make. ;)

Re:This may be a dumb question... (1)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386388)

I am not an expert in these matters, but from what I understand, they're completely different. Flash drives can only do so many read/write cycles, after which they fail. Also, if e.g. they go through the wash, there's nothing you can do--the stored charges are gone. If you're just talking about damaged filesystems, that sort of data should be recoverable. The idea of load leveling seems like it would make it easier to recover old data, and generally delete operations don't wipe out all of the file information, so as long as there isn't a hardware issue, I would suspect that it would be about the same degree of difficulty with any other storage technology.

But I don't know a whole lot about this matter, so someone may need to correct me on this.

Re:This may be a dumb question... (1)

TomRK1089 (1270906) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386442)

Ironically, the reason I asked is because a flash drive of mine -- one of the thumb-sized ones -- did go through the wash, and while it still worked afterwards I was curious what I could have done if it hadn't.

Not really. (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386500)

Flash itself is all one chip. The equivalent of a hard disk controller failure would be a failure in the read/write circuitry in the flash chip. Unless you're thinking of flash chip microsurgery, you're SOL.

Of course if only the USB interface chips are broken, you could potentially unsolder the flash part off the bad unit and onto a good unit and recover it.

How do you backup (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386016)

a slashdot advertorial?

Re:How do you backup (2, Funny)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386220)

Google cache?

Never had any luck with recovery (2, Informative)

a_nonamiss (743253) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386036)

In my professional career, I've sent around 10 drives out for recovery, (various companies) and none of them were able to be successfully recovered. I think that most of these companies use some variation of R-Tools [r-tt.com] so that they can quote amazing statistics on their websites. (Over 99% of all data is recoverable!)

Sure, I suppose if the drive has bad electronics AND the head hasn't crashed, you might have some luck, but I never seem to get any of those cases. As far as people accidentally formatting their drives or deleting files, I can recover that stuff myself.

Re:Never had any luck with recovery (1)

sfbiker (1118091) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386116)

You might try reading the article linked in the parent posting for a case where the drive had both bad electronics *and* the head crashed yet they still recovered 80% of the data.

Unless your 10 drives were all run over by a truck or incinerated in a crash, then you're sending your drives to the wrong company. Oh wait, even if the drive has been incinerated in a crash, the data could still be recovered [slashdot.org] .

Re:Never had any luck with recovery (1)

a_nonamiss (743253) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386158)

The point of my post is that I have trouble believing the validity of the claims of these companies. I read the article in its entirety, and said in my post that I have personally never had any luck. Just because a company uses some extreme examples (we recovered data from a hard drive that was run over by a tank!) doesn't mean that, in fact, a user with a head crash has a high probability that they will recover data.

Re:Never had any luck with recovery (2, Insightful)

sfbiker (1118091) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386330)

What's so hard to beleive? That it's possible to recover data from drives that have a physical or electrical problem?

So you think that the original article was a fabrication? Or maybe that Drivesavers took the guys $1500 and just ran r-tools to recover his data (and scrapped 20% of it just to make it look like it was hard)? What about Kroll Ontrack? Did they fleece NASA too with the Columbia disk recovery? Or maybe NASA made up the whole thing?

In spite of the article sounding like an advertisement (they probably offered the author a discount on his fee if he published his experience), I don't see anything extraordinary in the article that makes the data recovery hard to believe.

I've had one personal experience with data recover services -- it wasn't my drive, but I saw the dead drive, it would not even spin up though the green light on the circuit board was blinking.

They sent the drive to a recovery firm and $750 and 2 weeks later they got a DVD in the mail with the missing data and an explanation that the drive guts were fine, but the circuit board had some fault, so they just replaced the board (or maybe just some component) and were able to do a full recovery.

Re:Never had any luck with recovery (3, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386448)

I had a drive with a mechanical problem that wouldn't spin up. It didn't have anything critical but it did have my last x weeks worth of software downloads which would have been a pain to re-download. I tried banging it, freezing it, you name it. What worked in the end was making sure it was upside down when it was powered up and giving it a little tap to get it spinning. Got it running for 24 hours - long enough to get all my data off. About 200Gb. Obviously a mechanical failure and obviously pure luck that I got it working again.

Re:Never had any luck with recovery (1)

missing000 (602285) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386692)

the circuit board had some fault, so they just replaced the board (or maybe just some component) and were able to do a full recovery.
This is about as complicated as drive recovery typically is. In fact, you can save your $750 and some time by just ordering a new PCB from the drive manufacturer themselves in most cases where temperature variation doesn't do the trick.

Re:Never had any luck with recovery (2)

JoshRosenbaum (841551) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386740)

While I haven't sent in 10 drives, I have sent in one to Ontrack and it could not be recovered.

Here is my previous post on the subject in the Ontrack Columbia Article. [slashdot.org]

I'll add it here so you don't have to go and read it:

I think this is false. I sent a hard drive to them and they sent it back (and made me $100 poorer) and told me they couldn't recover anything.

The story of the drive: I had my computer (tower) at a party in college and one of the sides was off. I also had one of my storage (not boot) hard drives (which contained various art, pictures, and other valuable stuff to me) laying on the bottom of the 'puter. A buddy came flying out of a door, hit my hand which contained my beer and the beer went flying into the case and all over my hard drive. Needless to say I was pretty well "gone" at that point and toweled the inside/drive off, but left it running. At that point my computer was the party machine pumping loud music and it couldn't be stopped. :P Anyhow, let's skip to the next morning where I go and power down the computer and check out the drive. Well the chips on the controller card were fried. (Physically melted.) :(

So the moral of the story is that if you want to make your data unrecoverable, have a party. Space shuttle explosions will not do the trick. Oh, and backups are good. :) And probably about 20 other morals too. :P

Needless to say, I sort of hope that one day I will find a company that can recover the data, because if they can recover a hard drive from a space shuttle explosion, you'd think a little beer would be nothing. :P

Re:Never had any luck with recovery (2, Funny)

mpaulsen (240157) | more than 6 years ago | (#23387010)

"You might try reading the article linked in the parent posting for a case where the drive had both bad electronics *and* the head crashed yet they still recovered 80% of the data."

80%? People get paid for this?
Guessing 1 or 0 for every bit will successfully recover 50% of the data, assuming the ones and zeros are equally represented.

Once you've got it 50% recovered it's a simple matter to flip the bits in the remaining 50%. 100% recovery.

Re:Never had any luck with recovery (5, Informative)

mkiwi (585287) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386594)

My father had a failed hard drive many years ago and we sent it to Drivesavers. To say the least, I was not impressed. Not only did they manage only to recover 1/100 of his important powerpoint presentations and research, but they used Norton Utilities to do it. I know this because a few months later I bought Norton Utilities (Mac) and only the types of files recoverable from Norton were present. Also, the icons in the resource fork of each file had the exact same (some non-standard) icons for things like .doc, .pdf, etc. It was against the Norton Utilities EULA to use it for commercial purposes like these guys did. He was using a PowerBook and Mac OS X so maybe they didn't know what to do at the time.


Needless to say, I was disappointed with the experience and in hindsight we should have never spent several thousand dollars to get almost nothing back.

Now I have my dad's computer hooked up to an external hard drive using Time Machine. Unless our house burns down, which would be far more catastrophic than a hard disk failure, I don't anticipate having ever to do that again.

Sorry if this comes off as overly negative, but as this article essentially an advertisement and people need to know customer experiences.

DriveSavers (5, Insightful)

DanWS6 (1248650) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386040)

DriveSavers can save your dead drives so check out DriveSavers today and see their other link about DriveSavers and did I mention DriveSavers.

The recovery team did not give away many secrets, but they did reveal a number of insights into the process.
Cool article, just wish it didn't read like an advertisement.

Re:DriveSavers (0)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386308)

DriveSavers can save your dead drives so check out DriveSavers today and see their other link about DriveSavers and did I mention DriveSavers.

The recovery team did not give away many secrets, but they did reveal a number of insights into the process.
Cool article, just wish it didn't read like an advertisement.
You mean like your post?

Nah Nah Nah Nah (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386052)

the first post From James!

That's not an article, it's a long ad :( (5, Informative)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386058)

Having read the article, I can't help but think that it doesn't really read like an article of "Oh, this happened, and then this happened" especially considering that it is about hard driver recovery.

Short of "sending in a zip lock satchel" and "using methodology" what exactly did this article cover in regards to recovering hard drive information? Not a lot. Sorry to be a bit of a drag here, but considering that the company was mentioned more than once, with links and so forth, it just made the whole thing read like a glorified infomercial with the added bonus of being surrounded by advertising. :(

Re:That's not an article, it's a long ad :( (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386084)

Also the change of narration from "my brother in-law's drive" to "my drive" is a give away. The lazy author of the ad couldn't even bother to keep the details/made-up-story straight.

Re:That's not an article, it's a long ad :( (3, Informative)

momerath2003 (606823) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386374)

On top of that, I'm pretty sure those were stock images in the "article." I've seen the first one on their advertisements before.

Good call.

Re:That's not an article, it's a long ad :( (1)

bogie (31020) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386900)

What, you mean telling you they swaped the parts and then utilized "proprietary technology" wasn't enough insight for you?

This article was crap, pure crap wrapped in a fancy bow which only momentarily gave the impression that it might not be crap. But in the end, pure crap.

Re:That's not an article, it's a long ad :( (2, Insightful)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386984)

I feel bad now for clicking on the "be sure to check out the museum link" at the bottom. Somewhere some jackoff is smiling at all the hits they are getting...
I hope I remember never to again read a story submitted by fields and most likely never read a story posted by kdawson

Re:That's not an article, it's a long ad :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23387024)

This was posted biefly earlier today. Somebody had the good sense to remove it then, and I hope it gets the same treatment now/soon.

Just a Slash-Ad (5, Insightful)

daniel23 (605413) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386082)

The summary says Be sure to visit the Museum of Disk-asters too. and I did. It is pure advertising. Zero facts, instead boring emotional angle with mom and pop hugging as all their iMac data got recovered.

That stuff on the front page? Bahh! Instead of 15 modpoints twice a week give me 5 article mod points to vote this one down to -1 overrated.

Re:Just a Slash-Ad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386602)

You actually get 15 mod points twice a week?

Nice freaking advertisement (5, Funny)

meeotch (524339) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386108)

"Although there was severe media corruption on this drive, DriveSavers engineers were able to successfully recover the majority of the critical data by utilizing our proprietary software and methodology."

I'm sorry, but that was the most content-free load I've read on /. in a while. And no, I'm not new here - I just usually don't RTFA. ;-P

Re:Nice freaking advertisement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386334)

You must be new... damn!

Um...

I'm new here you insensitive clod!

No, I'm New Here (3, Funny)

New Here (701369) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386646)

No, I'm New Here

Defcon 14 had a talk about this (5, Informative)

thule (9041) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386136)

Video of the talk:

Defcon 14 - Hard Drive Recovery [youtube.com]

Basically it talks about making a clean box and how to change out the read heads or the PCB from a drive that is the exact same model. Really cool stuff!

Re:Defcon 14 had a talk about this (1)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386412)

Mod parent up. Great presentation on HDD recovery.

Summary of Article (5, Informative)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386142)

Recovering hard drives is a 3 step process:

1) Mumbo Jumbo
2) Put drive platter into otherwise identical drive
3) proprietary secret stuff (sound like they used Windows to get the data off and then burn to DVDs.

Now you don't have to read the article.

Re:Summary of Article (3, Funny)

cojsl (694820) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386352)

you forgot:

4. profit!

Does he get paid for this sh** ? (1)

budword (680846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386160)

"There is no there there." Why post it at all ? Shouldn't the editors read the stories before putting them on the front page ?

a walk through the planet/population rescue kode (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386166)

it's totally newclear powered, way user friendly, absolutely bug free/foolproof & there's never any payper liesense issues. let your conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071229/ap_on_sc/ye_climate_records;_ylt=A0WTcVgednZHP2gB9wms0NUE
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080108/ts_alt_afp/ushealthfrancemortality;_ylt=A9G_RngbRIVHsYAAfCas0NUE
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/28/vermont.banning.bush.ap/index.html

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html

& pretending that it isn't happening here;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece

Any *REAL* information out there? (2, Interesting)

ziah (1095877) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386200)

Are there any *REAL* guides out there that will show you how it's done through purchasing hardware from a store? It'd be nice to be able to do this all yourself if you have the right tools...

Re:Any *REAL* information out there? (4, Informative)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386328)

There's tons of information out there. We'll omit details about how your data should have been backed up. The rest of it's pretty simple, and it depends on your filing system, but marginally.

1) find out what's wrong with the drive (logic board or drive motor board)
2) get an identical drive; put the old platter assy into the new drive's guts, or just move the good drive's electronics over
3) use a sector editor to find the FAT, journal, or whatever, or restore the MBR and use your fav OS (Kunbuntu, here)
4) painfully gather files (actually, go out back while they're retrieved for you)
5) collect fat (as in BIG) check with lots of kudos, thank yous, and appreciation
6) repeat

You don't have to backup, as long as you have a fat wallet.

p.s. TFA really does sound like a commercial.

Re:Any *REAL* information out there? (2, Informative)

number11 (129686) | more than 6 years ago | (#23387004)

get an identical drive; put the old platter assy into the new drive's guts, or just move the good drive's electronics over

That's the hard part. "Identical" means not only model, but often revision as well. Once I did get lucky and find another drive from the same batch, and successfully trade circuit boards. But a couple of other times I failed to find the same rev. number, and the transplant didn't work.

I've been successful a few times freezing the drive (sometimes extending runtime with a can of freeze spray, an aerosol like canned air but gets a lot colder, intended to help techs find thermal problems). And mechanically abusing it (twisting it to start the platter spinning, or just whacking it.

Always have everything ready to go, if you do get it started it may work for ten minutes and quit. Maybe you'll get it started a second time, maybe not.

When the problem has (apparently) been data corruption rather than a hardware problem, I've been successful with software a few times. Once with OnTrack EasyRecovery [ontrackdatarecovery.com] , several times with File Scavenger [quetek.com] . Including once where the problem was obviously a head crash, the drive made a horrid screeching sound. Couldn't get all of the data, but got some of it.

There's a pdf [hddrecovery.com.au] at http://www.hddrecovery.com.au/ [hddrecovery.com.au] that's got some other suggestions. (I have never tried that company's recovery software so have no opinion on it.)

I've never had anybody who was willing to pay to have the data recovery pros do it. But often they'd be willing to go a few hundred bucks for me to have a shot at it. Sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes we don't.

Re:Any *REAL* information out there? (2, Interesting)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#23387076)

We recovered numerous ones, especially in the easy old days.

A few of our techniques:

-Slam an ST-225 onto a table to get the heads off the drive, a condition known as 'striction'
-Recovered a Novell-formatted drive by using an identical one's logic board, and a few well-placed jumps to its table
-Used a sector editor to hand copy one copy of a FAT to the primary table
-Figured out, then wrote a master boot record from one drive to another (in SVR4) doing the recalc on the drive geometry
-Found a MBR virus, including epithet, on an early laptop drive; we x-d it out and the machine finally booted to the point where we got to the place where we could write a new partition table.

These days, we just backup things furiously. Bad hard drive? Take out back to the trash. Restore. Repeat.

Advertisments (2, Insightful)

doomy (7461) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386232)

Well I for one now know what Driver Savers is (since I RTFA), but the whole thing lacks details. A story in /. should have more details than a glorified advertisement for a hard disk recovery job. There is a company down the street from me that does similar work for NASA and thus I don't think this is a unique field that no one on /. has ever heard of.

Here is what I'd like to see (to submitter), maybe you should have gone to the corp with your drive (since you did spend 2k on recovery.. why not fly over?). Then you should have taken pictures of the whole process and even a video (instead of using stock images), and most of all you could have avoided all this by using backups.

But this story would have been truly /. worthy if you (submitter) bought an identical harddisk and tried to swap platters etc and tried the recovery on your own. I've seen people do this and it's not hard to recover data even if you have physical damage on the drive.

Heck, I'll share my secret (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386270)

Here [newegg.com] it is. Nothing helps a hard disk recovery like 500 Gigs of mirrored backup goodness.

Data recovery using Open Source tools (1)

alriode (1161299) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386278)

I know these people handle very delicate cases (i.e. physically damaged media beyond all recognition).

As for simpler situations (accidental reformatting, not-so-extreme disk failure), the are some useful Open Source utilities like MondoRescue, GParted, fdisk (or cfdisk) and dd ("disk dump").

The most simple rescue method implies mounting the damaged partition onto another media, for instance an external hard drive, using Knoppix.

I recall having rescued a NTFS data partition using this method (the hard drive had spun very badly due to an electrical outage).

What is a good DIY success rate? (5, Interesting)

thogard (43403) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386402)

I've done a few platter swaps and have had good luck if I can find the right donor drive. So far I've gotten data off most of the disks I've tried but sometimes the recovery rate can be as low as 25%.

I recommend that people buy drives in pairs. That way you have a good drive to use as parts once the data has been moved off to a newer drive.
I do repairs in my house so there isn't a clean room in sight.
If the board is fried, a board swap tends to do the trick but the bad sectors are stored on the board so the mapping will result in some bad data.
I start with the hard drive in the freezer (using a external firewire case) trick first. That tends to get noisy bearings about 3 hours which is enough to copy data over.
If that doesn't work, I do a platter swap. I disassemble the drive and I've found that normal printer paper works great for lifting out the platters with out scratching them. Just make sure you put them in the donor drive in the same order and don't flip them. Once the platters are in, it appears that the drives have a few days to live before they stop working. With head crashes, you might want to consider only putting the good platters in. I have yet to find a good cleaning solution so with crashes you have a very limited amount of time but head crashes seem to be rare these days.

Once you can read the disk, use DD to copy the data to a new disk. Don't try to mount it to look for a specific file unless you only need one file and mount it read only. For data file recovery, I use a mac program Data Rescue by Prosoft which is good except it sometimes is too good and pulls out the internals like pictures out of flash and office docs.

If your going to do this at home, take apart a few older disks first. Keep in mind they designed these things to be assembled quickly so there is a way to retract the heads completely off the platter so hunt around for it. There are some people who use vacuum cleaners to try to remove dust and others will use a shower to steam up a bathroom and wait until the steam clears with the hope of taking the dust away. I just open the drives on my computer desk.

Re:What is a good DIY success rate? (1)

grommit (97148) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386726)

I recommend that people buy drives in pairs. That way you have a good drive to use as parts once the data has been moved off to a newer drive.
Or, better yet, set up those two drives as a RAID mirror and have your recovery handled before the failure even occurs.

Unless you really enjoy swapping out drive platters that is.

Where's the beef? (3, Interesting)

hurfy (735314) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386408)

A little light on content as others mentioned :(

Nothing as interesting as the crash on our old mini-computer ages ago either. One of those 12" drives with 4-5 platters had a head crash and repurposed itself into a metal lathe quick nicely one weekend. At least it didnt burn down the building but it left several pounds of aluminum confetti all over the computer room after it blew out the filters on the drive. It seems you just can't filter air by the pound :( One head crashes and causes a chain reaction after the aluminum shavings clog the filters or interfer with the others. Luckily the software forced you to backup on the removeable platter each day. Only loss was a couple software mods (that the writer had a copy of) cause the system platter backup was kinda old, had to added back in.

Needless to say, that had a zero chance of recovery. Only time a insanely overpriced maintainence agreement ever paid off...Drive was almost $20k to replace plus cleanup and setup on 200lb drive.

Only other one that might have required a recovery service turned out to be electronic issue only and i sacificed a matching computer for the HD circuit board to repair the 'server' from a remote warehouse. Only some memos and spreadsheets and stuff and not worth the huge quote for recovery so i got to try it and fixed it the next day :)

PS. always found it interesting the the edge speed was the same as current drives at around 105mph. The head hit a platter going between 50 and 105 mph.

What the hell are the moderators doing ? (5, Insightful)

ymenager (171142) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386422)

This article is such a blatant fake / advertisement, how could the moderators let that be published on the front page ?

As noted by many, no real technical information. Whoever wrote it might have tried to sound 'grassroot', but the whole thing still reads very much like a marketing material... 'Be sure to visit the Museum of Disk-asters too' ? Especially when such page contains nothing but marketing stuff ? Give me a break !

And how many people would go pay 2000$ just to get back some music and photos of the family ???

Slashdot needs a system so that people can RATE THE MODERATORS, because anyone who lets something such blatant fake-grassroot marketing material on the front-page should not be in that position.

The whole thing is just an insult to our intelligence

Hard drives fail much more often than claimed (1)

webplay (903555) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386468)

The big issue is that you cannot take the word of hard drive manufacturers about drives' reliability at a face value. Google's study (PDF) [google.com] and CMU's study [usenix.org] show much higher real-life HDD failure rates than you would get from manufacturers' MTBF claims. RAID 1 or higher is not the full solution - multiple failures, controller failures or data corruption can still occur. Your drives will most often fail without any warning.

rockin (1)

Danzigism (881294) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386510)

regardless of what some are saying about this article being more about advertising, the hard drive recovery process is very interesting and something people should take the time to learn about. Not cheap by any means, but I will say that I am a DriveSavers partner and their work is superb. For being a reseller/partner they give you 10% of the data recovery fee for anyone you refer. And on top of that, they also give your customer a 10% discount as well for the referral. Well worth it for those people who drop their laptops in the ocean or those careless DJs that have the tendancy to spill their beers. Not to mention they can recover encrypted data and respect people's privacy. Mostly government agencies. And I mean c'mon, they rescued JIMMY FREAKIN BUFFET'S DATA! Now THAT'S saying something!!! well.. maybe they shouldn't of done that.. we could have dealt with one less Jimmy Buffet album.. damnit why the hell did you recover that data!!

Not always a good job... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386532)

About eight years ago, I used one of these data recovery companies [can't remember which, I'm afraid] and I was not impressed. I had a dual boot windows/linux machine whose hard drive died. They managed to recover almost everything from two different windows partitions but ***nothing*** from any of the six linux partitions. I was never convinced that they even tried to get stuff from those partitions. Perhaps their software was FAT orientated, but I don't know.

Re:Not always a good job... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386636)

You should know that most of the companies don't know a thing about software or hardware. They just plug in the drive and hit a button. Its sad but it seems like most of those companies are the McDonald's of the computer industry, you don't have to know anything beyond Windows and how to use a mouse to get a job there and judging from the odd looks I get whenever I mention anything outside of Windows (such as Linux, *BSD, Etc.) most of them don't.

privacy concerns? (1)

sakura the mc (795726) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386604)

what if there is data on the hard drive that i do not wish for the recovery technician to access?
what if the data is of questionable nature (warez, movies, political literature, etc)? are there policies that allow the company to report certain content?
how can one be assured that the data on the hard drive will be transferred back to its owner without anyone seeing its contents?
are there recovery outfits out there who do not discriminate and compromise your data?

oh, in before ENCRYPTION

Screwdriver + dd (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386722)

Make a clean box, swap the platters, dd the data to a file, run various types of fsck on loopback until you get it right, mount loopback file, read data.

3. Profit. /meh

Advertisement warning... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23386800)

So in exchange for clicking the link and getting a full page video ad before getting to the article, I learned some amazing things about hard drive recovery like...

1) First they take it into an ultra-cool clean room.
2) They do something to it. Must be ultra cool.
3) Recovered for $1900!!!

I'm sure /. did a good job at helping him recover all 1900 of those dollars spent...

For everyone else, don't bother with the link, my summary really is all there is to the article.

Re:Advertisement warning... (2, Funny)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 6 years ago | (#23387052)

I don't think Class 100 really qualifies as "ultra-cool" in the clean-room world, but it *does* however have a certain cachet of inconvenience as far as having to take a non-trivial amount of time to get into the bunny suit, walk across the 50 feet of sticky mats, through the air showers and into the actual clean-room area only to discover *then* that you have to take a leak. I've had it happen more than once.

Let's review. (3, Interesting)

dmarcov (461598) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386828)

It's well known that failed hard drives can be recovered, but few people actually use a recovery service because they're expensive and not always successful

Yep. The article helpfully points out the $1500 charge for a medium sized hard drive. It might have been more interesting if the article demonstrated a time when it wasn't successful.

Even fewer people ever get any insights into the process, as recovery companies are secretive about their methods and rarely reveal any more information that is necessary for billing.

So, just like this article? Got it. Something involving putting old platters into new drives by people wearing bio-hazard suits.

The recovery team did not give away many secrets, but they did reveal a number of insights into the process.

Wowsers. You can say that again, but insights? I defy anyone to name any insight that wasn't in their last press release ... much like this article.

[M]y drive failed in about every way you can imagine. It had electro-mechanical failure resulting in severe media damage.

Doesn't "elctro-mechanical failure" describe anything that could be wrong with a device that is .. err .. mechanical and electrical? You mean the reciprocator was caught in the optical refraction? Now that's worth $1500.

It's a good thing space on the interwebs is free. Someone should run this past the kids that edit airline magazines.

Wow, thanks for the ad (2, Insightful)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386868)

I actually use a number of drive recovery companies, and thanks to this slashvertisement I will never use this company nor will I read Geeks.com

The sad part is that I rarely even read Slashdot anymore since it is a sad shell of what it was... Pitiful.

Article is useless, comments are good (5, Interesting)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386946)

I found an unusually large proportion of the follow up comments here to be (+1, Informative) and (+1, Interesting). TFA itself was total infomercial-tastic tripe, however.

AFM-based recovery? (1)

Compuser (14899) | more than 6 years ago | (#23386998)

Has anyone tried recovering data by putting the platter under an AFM and using a magnetic tip?
I did surface probe microscopy for a living for many years and to me it seems trivial. You can rent time at a university on a decent AFM and you should be in business though it might be slow going.
Has anyone tried it?
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