iMac Data Recovery - Seagate 320GB Hard Drive (Case Study)

​Recently a 2008 iMac was sent to us to diagnose - the customer couldn’t access the data o​n the iMac in general​. On first look we found that the drive had no visible damage, and when it came to testing the drive it was reading without any errors, which made us think that it wasn’t actually the drive that was at fault but was actually the iMac itself.

iMac Data Recovery Case Study
  • 14/11 at 18:06 - The iMac was sent in and the engineers diagnosed the drive and started the cloning process, which finished overnight. The drive finished cloning with 0 bad/unread sectors.
  • 15/11 at 11:40 - The data transfer than began where the data was then copied to a 1tb external hard drive so that the a file listing and integrity check could be ran on the data.
  • 16/11 at 14:26 - We knew at this point that the hard drive was 100% ok, the data wasn’t deleted, it was actually a failure with the iMac itself, it had a failed PSU board and would not turn on. It also wouldn’t turn on due to the iMac itself overhearing due to the dust that had built up inside the unit.
  • 17/11 at 8:22 - The customer had requested the drive to be cloned to a 480GB SSD which arrived in the morning so we cloned our cloned drive to the SSD, and we slotted the SSD inside the iMac.
  • 17/11 at 15:00 - At this point the customer had paid for the recovery, so we did one last check which was seeing if the iMac would boot with the SSD inside, and we found out that it did in fact boot up, so we got it all ready to be sent back to the customer.
  • 21/11 at 17:26 - After the weekend we got the ok to send the iMac back to the customer, so we contacted our dedicated driver so that he could take it to the customer.

​If you think your iMac is failing or any machine you have why not get in contact with us here at R3, our ​expert team will be able to give you an over the phone assessment free of charge. We also offer free same day collection on a no data no fee service with prices starting from £129+VAT. Call us today at 0800 999 3282 to get started with your unique case.

A Firmware Affair (RAID 0 Case Study)

Firmware issues

Sometimes it is very difficult to correctly diagnose a drive: the symptoms one is facing can be confusing and can lead you in the wrong direction.

We received a RAID 0 system, made up of 2 drives. One of them was completely unresponsive, it had no sign of life when powered on.

In such situations, the first issue that comes to mind is a major PCB failure; so you have two solutions: replace it with a matching PCB that you know works, or try to repair the damaged board.

Well, this time the PCB swap didn’t help at all.

We checked all the other components and they were fine; at the end of a long process we found that the problem was in the ROM chip: the firmware had suffered a severe corruption.

The word Firmware is related to a collection of small programs, this is what “controls" the hardware to put it simply. Usually, such microprograms are stored mainly on a Read Only Memory chip and partly on the platters.

Nowadays almost all modern intelligent devices have a firmware onboard that oversees the proper functioning of the device.

Maybe you have experienced it with your digital camera or mobile phone: A Firmware upgrade results in a totally new behaviour (hopefully better) of your device.

Well, in our drives case, the FW damages prevented the PCB working at all.
Here come the real issues. Every Hard disk firmware stores some unique information, belonging to that specific drive, vital to its correct functioning: you cannot simply take a FW from another drive and overwrite it.

So, we started a real handcraft job trying to reconstruct the damaged FW modules cutting and sewing from other drives.

Our efforts have been rewarded: the customer was very pleased to be able to have his data back in fully working condition!

R3 Data Recovery is real lab that deals with real disasters each an every day. If you have RAID that has failed or any data storage device, we are the people to contact. Call us today on 0800 999 3282 for immediate help and assistance.

FreeNas RAID 5 Server Emergency Recovery (Case Study)

​The client needed help as his freeNas RAID 5 had a set of disks (4 disks) that had been formatted and needed assurance that the data will be recovered. Naturally we said that it’s most likely that we will recover the data but there may be a chance that we won’t be able to locate the data.

The client was still willing to pay the full payment before we had even started the recovery, which meant he had his complete trust in us and our work.

FreeNAS RAID5 hard disks set
  • Thursday 11:54am - Customer sending in NAS
    We agreed that we needed to get the NAS into the lab as quickly as possible so since the company is based in Rotherham, the client suggested that one of his staff members should drop the NAS off to us from Rotherham to Sheffield.

  • Thursday 16:22pm - Received NAS
    Once payment had been sorted out, one of the employees of the client arrived and dropped off the NAS. He then proceeded to give us all the information that we may need to help us with the recovery, he also filled in what his boss wanted as priority data just so that we could concentrate on that rather than the whole amount of data to speed the process along. We than booked in a took photos and noted all serial numbers of each drive.

  • Thursday 17:26pm - Diagnosis and Cloning
    Due to the fault being an issue of the drives being formatted, there was nothing wrong with the drives, we did some firmware tweaking for safety and began to clone the drive as quickly as we could.

  • Thursday 17:45pm - Client ​Advised
    At this point the client was advised that the recovery was under way and that we were cloning the drives. We also advised that there shouldn’t be anything wrong with the drives since the drives were just formatted and that there was nothing wrong with them mechanically.

  • Friday 10:00am - Cloning Complete
    All the drives had been patched and cloned 100% with no bad sectors. It was just a case of scanning the drives to check if we can visually see the data after the scans. It is also worth noting that the customer had used Recuva software on drive 1, so we concentrated on all 4 drives but we looked out for if anything was affected on drive 1 because of the Recuva software. Running data recovery software, yourself can work, the software may be able to find the data that you are looking for, but if you are unaware of how data recovery works and you begin to save your lets say deleted data to the same drive you’re recovering from this could lead to many problems as you may be possible overwriting the data you are trying to recover, which would make our job increasingly difficult and most likely impossible to do. This is why we always advice our customers not to run data recovery software as it could make the situation a lot worse than it actually is.

  • Sunday 02:04am - RAID configured and Data extracted to a 4TB external drive
    From Friday to Sunday, the transferring process was pretty straight forward, the priority data from the RAID was found after the scan and we managed to copy the data to a 4TB external drive ready for the customer to pick up Monday morning. Admittedly it was pretty tight in regards to time, as we were extremely close to the emergency service, obviously it didn’t help that we had to transfer over 3TB of data and that was quite a large part of why the recovery was longer than expected. Nevertheless, we managed to recover what the client had asked for and he and the company were pretty satisfied with the results.

​Get advice and assistance from Andy and the team at R3. R3 Data Recovery is real lab that deals with real disasters each an every day. If you have any sort of problem with a ​RAID or any data storage device, we are the people to contact. Call us today at 0800 999 3282 to get started with your unique case.

R3 recover and restore 50 year old programming

Regardless of how near or how far from R3 Data Recovery’s lab a disaster happens the team have a unique range of experience spanning 30 years of data migration and data / disaster recovery.

From large 360TB SAN running entire cities to single MB databases running £Billion supply chains or investments Andy has built the Security House lab in Sheffield to deliver what he designed it to do.

When an International client called out their long term IBM emergency support contractor to attend to the failure of an IBM AS400 they were obviously expecting a prompt restoration. With replacement drive in hand and backup tapes available all looked well. They did not however expect the engineer to pronounce the system not restorable.

The 22 year old system drives had failed with one severely degraded from numerous power interruptions and corruption to the data on the other drive. The spare drive was a 2GB drive sourced some years earlier for such a situation, the failed drives were 1GB SCSI Wide 68pin.

​It was at this point Andy Butler was called in to assist, ” I took the call and initially anticipated a relatively straight forward emergency disaster recovery engagement” having his own 30 years of experience and a team of engineers he has brought together and built R3 into the very best British owned data recovery lab with over 20 full time staff on 24/7 365 rotation. And capability to image up to 200 3TB Drives per 24 Hour period giving capacity to absorb fire, flood and datacentre gas drop disasters.

I have a worldwide reputation for handling server and storage infrastructure recovery engagements and routinely deliver emergency recovery in the fastest time frames across the UK and Europe”. What is little known about Andy, his team and his lab, is that they do this even where other DR companies have given up or suggested they have the drives shipped to the US.  What’s more Andy was quite literally on the door step of the client.

However even this unusual engagement hid a more complex situation that was going to be much more time consuming. Even the backup tapes could not restore the system.  The owners and Managers at the clients HQ were fearing the worst and planning for severe disruption, their ordering, stock management, delivery and invoicing was crippled and it was potentially commercially damaging.

“Although we had gained control of the failed drives and the replacement drive to be imaged to, we were facing 2-3 weeks of imaging” said Andy- Other donor drives were quickly collected from secure storage to work out why.

​As the R3 engineers continued with further investigation it was found that the IBM AS 400 drives were actually setup in S36 Minicomputer mode from the early 1980’s with RPG programming.
 
Worse the formatting of the drives is so rare that data recovery equipment and software needed to rescue the failing disks is no longer developed or supported. Most developers have retired and indeed the developer of the clients system who is now in his 70’s was also unavailable due to suffering a stroke in the previous month.  Andy commissioned bespoke scripts to be developed to enable improved read and write times saving several days and potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds of business interruption.

The R3 team worked through the weekend actually making 2 sets of disks ready just in case there were further complications to be encountered.

Mike Wainwright and Andy Butler delivered the disks back to the client the system-  said Mike, ” although the lab deals with other IBM mainframe type servers coming in for recovery, it is 16 years since I have been on an actual AS400 recovery and reboot in a production environment. The first AS400 systems I personally worked on was when I was decommissioning them 16years ago, even they were not operating in S36 minicomputer emulation” 

Andy had the task of pressing the power button whilst several concerned managers and staff were still asking questions - having believed the system was unrecoverable.

“I cannot tell you I was not nervous” we were anticipating a good outcome because of the approach we had taken, but a 35 minutes boot up sequence before the system was back online and testable is always one where patience and coffee helps!”

During the boot up routine it was a chance to reflect on 30 year old S36 system only to be told that actually it was an upgrade from a mid 1960’s migration from an IBM Mainframe containing development code and data once kept on punch cards and reel to reel tapes - making it the oldest data set and programming to be restored by Andy since building R3.

What’s more it proved successful right up to the point of failure.

This was not the first AS400 system to be recovered, another with 16x 500GB SAS drives was recovered by Andy in less than 4 days for an OIL prospecting company who needed the fastest recovery possible. Only R3 were able to deliver such solutions in the UK having one of the largest data recovery teams, range of equipment and donor drive stores of any lab in the UK - all  with the engineering expertise and experience to match.

The R3 lab and stores are based in Sheffield near the M1 and is relied on  by several hundred IT firms and disaster recovery managers every year as well as thousands of small companies individuals and students.

R3 Data Recovery have in the last 4 years brought together industry leading engineers and bought several other DR companies equipment, donor drives and websites as part of a an expansion plan to bring to the UK the very best affordable data recovery.

What an Achievement - Unrecoverable Drive?

Yesterday Mindaugus one of our data recovery experts completed the  final rebuild and last 10% of imaging to get a full recovery of a drive which failed over a year ago.  Despite the drive being declared unrecoverable and after several rebuilds in the past year and a relentless search for the several donors needed. This led to the client believing his data was beyond any chance of recovery but it was not abandoned,  instead it became one of our research projects of Security House. Since it arrived at Sheffield nearly 20,000 other cases have been handled.

The R3 Online support team and FME lab which has been developed in 2016 as the support company to R3 Data Recovery were key to the success and persisted in tracking down the donors needed.

After Joe one of the engineering support technicians had recovered the data from the image and completed  the file listing and integrity check he sent it through to Lyndsey in customer services. Lyndsey received an almost instant call from overseas from the client who in his own words was shocked to receive a file list and integrity report let alone see all his data was intact..  The browser based tour of his data showing almost every file from the previous 10 years is recovered in the folder structure he remembered and in good condition. He had written off any chance of a recovery being possible.

Such a failed drive would normally be declared unrecoverable by most labs because despite several matching donors and several rebuilds the problem drive refused to read. It is the team of engineers in R3 which along with Andys remit refuse to give in and secure recoveries other labs cannot.

A contributing factor was the donor stock of R3 continues to grow with R3 Online developing secure wiping end of service storage for clients.

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Mike Wainwright Operations Manager and his team have built a cataloging and testing / wiping system for the labs and a searchable online database to quickly find suitable parts from our own stock and stock of partners globally.

It has also helped R3 develop more positions for trainee technicians and engineers who are building the FME lab run by R3 Online. Paul and Ken have effectively built a new lab every year for 4 years during the rapid growth.

The R3  group of labs and scale of operation provides our engineers and partners accross the UK and Worldwide with good tested donors necessary to enable a recovery attempt. R3 have also built up the range and quantity of rare donors through purchase of other DR companies, secure wiping of drives and strategic purchasing from specialist suppliers in the US.

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This level of investment in supporting our engineers enables the R3 team to have greater success rates and an enviable reputation for overcoming adversity.

R3 Data Recovery and the Security House lab is already known in the industry and by tens of thousands of consumers and businesses as the right choice for complex recoveries. A real DR operation of a scale that makes R3 data recovery cost effective. The length of time taken is unusual but the unique solution developed in this case and unwillingness to not let data die was key to the success. This makes Security House and the R3 team a real data recovery hospital, and the R3 Online a real donor parts provider and evolving provider of low cost trade price data recovery for our partners nationally and internationally using spare equipment and engineering capacity and maintaining the capability to handle influxes of drives after flooding  or earthquake.

The entire R3 team is made up of 25 engineers, technicians and sales and support staff keeping the lab available 24/7/365

Expensive Cars, Hard drives and Photography

We recently recovered an emergency 2TB (Toshiba MQ01ABB200 2TB) drive for a student in London. Fortunately he didn’t need to go back home to Hong Kong or get charged the high rates of London, R3 has a team approach ensuring the fastest emergency data recovery in the UK and a full recovery of all the files back for him.

Photographing beautiful high-end cars is an appears to be an interesting past time but for Liu Chun Hei otherwise known as Rico its his part time job and he has over 40,000 followers of his work.

When your drive crashes and you lose that stash of expensive material the last thing you can do is go back to re-setup the shots, fortunately Rico searched for data recovery online in London, and did some research and then called one of the R3 advisors.

We couriered the drive from our London dispatch to our government graded security lab in Sheffield where the work began. One donor drive (courtesy of R3 Stock) later the technicians had rebuilt it and commenced mirroring the data across to a stable drive ready for creating a full backup to return, all within 3 days.

Liu Chun Hei was kind enough to leave a review in his home language.