Emergency Email Data Recovery (Case Study)

A case came into R3 data recovery early one morning with a story along the lines of "laptop dropped need emails ASAP" so we sprang into action.

Deleted emails recovery

The hard drive was removed from the laptop and opened in our cleanroom to find the top platter surface slightly scratched from the impact of hitting the floor but considering the urgency we decided to undertake a head swap and a donor was sourced from our stock.

The head swap went fine with no drama and the hard drive was moved onto our diagnostic machine and powered up for the first time.. After some calibration noises the hard drive decided to behave and the proprietary Firm Ware was backed up and the cloning process begun.

With all data recovery from the technically simple to the multiple head swaps, priority files are always important as a damaged hard drive may only have a short life after such an accident so focussing on these files maximises the results in these circumstances.

In this client's case the email file was cloned the best possible considering the scratches and late that night the finished email file was uploaded.

A Customers Perspective: Extreme Anxiety to Elation in 48 Hours

I am a fashion photographer and I was on location shooting in Italy when one of my hard drives with my current work got damaged. It was showing the catalogue and list of names of the folders but not showing any of the images inside those files but still showed that I had used 500 GB of storage.​

I tried it in any computer and MacBook (It is a mac hard drive) I could get my hands on. I then started to panic because the computer would freeze when I tried to open it and on some computers it wouldnt read the hard drive at all.​

R3 Emergency Recovery Specialists in the UK

In a crying panic frenzy I googled data recovery UK and found an emergency number for a man called Andy Butler at R3 Data Recovery who soon became my favourite person in the world.

I was ever so slightly hysterical on the phone and he managed to calm me down and got me to explain what had happened and explained that it was likely to be an issue with the signalling between the catalogue and the data itself.​

I wasn't due back in the UK for another 4 days and was trying to think of what I could do or how I could get the HDD to him before then. I decided to book an emergency flight home the next morning because I couldnt sit and do nothing, especially not knowing how serious the situation could be.​

I flew to London and got a train straight to Sheffield where I was met by Andy and his charming driver who took me straight to their lab where I promised not to cry or touch anything and sat in the corner hoping they could work their magic. They sent me off for a few hours and said they would call me hourly with an update.​

I have to state that I initially called him on a Saturday night in a mess emotionally and this was Monday morning so I was like most creative people I know, quite last minute but he made time for me.

He told me there was a problem with the heads of a hard drive (I gained a lot of knowledge of the ins and outs of data and hardware that day) and they were replacing them with other heads and coding to try and talk to the data.​

Long story short after a couple of tantrums, lots of tears, travelling over 2500 km Andy and his team of geniuses managed to rescue all of my images in one day and they were all in order and in the correct files (I have been told sometimes when rescuing data it can get mixed up and in the wrong order/ folder).

I put all my work and faith in his hands and he didn't let me down and was completely charming and wonderful from start to finish of my mini meltdown data lost and found experience. What a brilliant man. I am so happy I found R3 data recovery but in the nicest way possible I hope I won't have to see them again too soon and that my technology will all be ok and my backups wont fail!

It did cost me £1000 (because I needed 2 new hard drives and I needed it all doing in 1 day and most people allow 7-10 days) but you can't put a price on your career and other clients work and it was worth every penny. I am so very grateful that he went above and beyond to help me and was at the end of the phone with every question I had.

Amelia - London

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 hard drive or any data storage device, we are the people to contact. Call us today on 0800 999 3282 for immediate help and assistance.

Vintage Macintosh Data Recovery (Case Study)

At the R3 lab this week we had a 25 year old Macintosh delivered, which is older than half of our employees. It contained a 120MB SCSI drive which in comparison to today’s hard drive has a miniscule storage capacity and relatively dated components. However this doesn’t make the task of recovering the hard drive any more easy.

Vintage Macintosh Data Recovery

First of all the interface on the drive was extremely old and due to the influx of jobs that we have that are predominantly modern hard drives and RAID arrays, we didn’t initially have the required SCSI adapter for the interface. After locating the adapter that we needed online and subsequently ordering it we awaited its arrival to the lab.

As the 25 year old SCSI drive that were housed inside the Macintosh were virtually exclusive to U.S sellers in terms of sourcing for parts, the adapter for the drive took over a week to arrive as it was sent from California. Once the adapter arrived it was passed to the engineer who had authority over this specific job and the cloning process of the drive was started. The drive only took a 20 minutes to clone as it was an extremely small capacity drive in comparison to modern HDD’s.

Once the drive was cloned it was passed for file listing and between the lab assistants and the sales team it was copied to an RM and the customer received the file list and was invoiced for the work. And ultimately everything ended on a positive note, showing that no matter how old or how unlikely a good chance of recovery a job may have, the R3 Team strives to make a successful recovery a reality. In this case that recovery was 25 years in the making.

If you suffer corruption of your data on RAID servers, hard drives, laptops or even on vintage devices and storage media, we can help you to safely recover your lost files. Experienced and qualified staff with over 30 years of experience. Call us today at 0800 999 3282 to get started with your unique case.

64GB Emergency SD Card Recovery (Case Study)

A customer who is from The Netherlands contacted us about a faulty SD card. The issue was that he had some trouble accessing the Card that was in his camera, it didn’t help that the device was full which prevented him from saving any more images to his memory card.

After a quick assessment and quote by phone he soon brought his SD card into the lab, as well as an external drive for the recovered data to be transferred to.

Emergency SD Memory Card Recovery

The Data Recovery Process

29/11 at 17:25pm - The customer sent in the SD card at 14:12pm, and after 3 hours the engineers managed to find the data and copy it to the customer’s external drive. The problem with the SD Card was a electornic fault on the printed sircuit board, the engineer had to do some tricky soldering to get the device working again.

30/11 at 10:09am - The customer’s data was copied to his external drive and a file listing of the data was also sent to him by email, this was so that he could check to see if the file headers were ok. (Screenshots were also sent due to the files being CR2s which had no distinctive file names).

4/12 at 16:20pm - The customer then paid for the recovery and came down to pick up the external drive with the recovered data on it, he was very satisfied with how we handled the recovery and said that he would definitely recommend us.

R3 Data Recovery is real British lab in the UK that deals with real disasters each an every day. If you have any sort of problem with a memory card or any data storage device, we are the people to contact. Call us today on 0800 999 3282 for immediate help and assistance.

Emergency 4TB Seagate Barracuda Recovery (Case Study)

A customer called us up to discuss a couple of 4TB Seagate 3.5" drives. The customer explained that he can't read anything from the hard drives neither can load them up successfully, and further mentioned that both drives had the statement:

You need to format the disk in Drive "blank": before you can use it.

This suggests that the drives both have bad sectors and that it is not the best idea to keep powering up the drive or the amount of bad sectors will accumulate leading to more problems with accessing the drive and data.


The Data Recovery Process

07/09/2017 13:01pm - Both Drives Quoted and Awaiting Arrival of devices - The customer had been quoted a reasonable price (for an emergency service) for both drives and it was a case of the customer arranging a collection so that the drives would be sent to us. We also stressed that the customer packages the drives well to avoid any physical damage to the drive inside and outside.

08/09/2017 10:34am - Received Drives - The drives had arrived the day after the customer accepted the quotation. We immediately booked in the drives to the database, picked a couple of image drives from the image cupboard and sent them through to the lab to be diagnosed.

08/09/2017 13:38pm - Diagnostic and cloning - At this point the drives had been booked in and the drives were diagnosed. There were a couple of SMART errors on both drives and also there were some firmware corrections that had to be done, but the reality was there was not too much wrong with the drives. After the problems had been corrected we could safely put both drives for cloning.

09/09/2017 11:21am - Cloning completion and Data Transfer - By this time both drives had finished cloning. The first drive finished with 6 bad sectors and the second drive finished with no bad sectors at all. It was now a case of transferring the data to a couple of 3TB external drives.

11/09/2017 17:05pm - Transfer completion and Awaiting Payment - The data from both drives finished copying to the external drives on 10/09.

14/09/2017 11:18am - Payment complete and Drives dispatched - Payment was received and both sets of data were sent out to the customer.

To conclude, given that there was a lot of data to clone and transfer, we managed to recover the data fairly quickly and on top of that get a satisfactory review from the customer.

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

iPhone 5S Data Recovery (Casey Study)

At R3 we get more than our fair share of recoveries, but recently we have been sent more phones/tablets due to either being dropped or water damage.

As for this job in particular, the customer sent in her iPhone 5S. When we saw that the screen was badly damaged we knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy recovery.

iPhone 5S damaged screen recovery

Upon further inspection, the engineer dealing with the phone found that as well as the destroyed screen, there were components that were out of place, the chassis was twisted, the battery was swollen and the logic was damaged since the Firmware recovery tool was identifying a lot of errors. The engineer also mentioned that it looked like the phone had been driven over.

It seemed like there was nothing more that we could do, we were weighing our options and to potentially get a recovery we found that we can recover data from the client’s iCloud account if we have the customer’s iCloud login details. So once the customer gave us the details, we were able to extract the data from the iCloud backups and iCloud shared photos, and we were therefore able to produce a File listing of the data.

So in short, since the customer only wanted iCloud photos and videos we didn’t need to actually try and repair the phone since we obtained the customer’s iCloud details and extracted the data from iCloud.

The recovery process took 3 days to complete which was well under the standard service time frame (7-10 working days).

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 your mobile phone or any data storage device, we are the people to contact. Call us today on 0800 999 3282 for immediate help and assistance.

EMC SAN RAID 5 Disaster Recovery Alert

An unknown number of EMC Storage arrays could be a ticking time bomb in the event the data on them is not backed up elsewhere.

An obscure bug in an EMC RAID controller is a rare discovery for any data recovery engineer but the team approach by R3 achieved a recovery that very few data recovery labs in the world have ever seen let alone recovered successfully.

​This is of interest and notable because most Dell / EMC technical / disaster recovery support engineers would just declare the data corrupt and unrecoverable, restore from a backup and not realise it is possible it will happen again.

EMC RAID Storage System in the Lab at Secure House Sheffield

​Cloud Backup Gone Wrong​​​​​​​

​A problem with a cloud backup meant that the only chance of saving months of work from being lost was to call a data recovery company.

R3 initially lost the job to a substantially cheaper / high risk data recovery / computer forensics investigators. The client did subsequent investigations and elected to retrieve the server from the competitors HQ in Wales and drive it direct to Security House in Sheffield.

The 15 Disk RAID 5 configuration included 1 hot swap disc, but 2 of the Seagate FC series fibre channel discs had failed.

The recovery was complicated at a number of levels but in summary:

  • A disc had failed
  • A hot disc did not work
  • Another disc failed
  • The resync to the hot disc failed in some unexplained manner

The discs were formatted 520bytes per sector which was common for enterprise class SAN but data recovery algorithms / software are most stable working with 512byte per sector formatting.

The client contacted a British / Global data recovery company who were unable to diagnose the problem or propose a solution and R3 were called to take over the case.

On the face of it solving the disc failures, imaging conversion, VMFS and recovery of specific data from within just 1 of dozens of VMs was complex enough.

But as the tasks progressed something was wrong and it just did not make sense.

During any disaster / failure there are a number of factors​ - each year I manage several of the larger disasters in UK and dozens of relatively routine for the R3 team recoveries with disc arrays in pools from as little as 4, 6 12, and others with 24, 55, 180 and recently a pair of 240x 4TB SAN with varying RAID combinations and Tables.

But this EMC RAID 5 was different, it not only had a very seriously degraded disk which had sustained a head crash but the resync had written as data not parity and prevented the data from the RAID being accessible.

In fact it prevented a RAID recovery being possible. R3 engineers were initially stumped because the last disc to fail was proving difficult to get a full image from and took a few days in itself to be recovered and its image converted to 512bytes per sector.

The first to fail disc initially was ruled out as one of the discs being needed because it was out of sync by several weeks.

But on rebuilding the RAID5 volume the VMs were showing as corrupt and all involved including the developers of RAID recovery software and hardware could not help and hit a dead end.

Later we realised just how unique this EMC failure was and that no one had identified a similar case ever.

EMC now part of Dell is "fairly good gear" R3 have worked on a number EMC data recovery cases where multiple disc failures have caused the data to be inaccessible but non that effectively wrote back to a RAID5 disc member in RAID0.

All involved had never seen anything like this on an EMC or on any hardware for that matter.

After solving this a bespoke system configuration was built and a script developed. All VMs were extracted in order of priority and the contained data extracted and tested by the client.

Apart from the normal server dirty shutdown problems needing some database file repairs it was a full recovery.

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.