Formatting Your Hard Drive Correctly

How To Format Your Hard Disk Drive

When a hard drive comes into the lab at R3 they can be internal, external, or part of a larger multi-drive set up, such as RAID or NAS.

To format a drive (hard disk, floppy disk, flash drive, etc.) basically means to ready the chosen partition on the drive to be used by an operating system (Windows, Mac etc.) It deletes all of the data on the disk already (if there is any) and sets up a file system. For example the most common file system to support Windows is NTFS. For Mac its HFS. However FAT 32 or exFAT can be used and supports both operating systems.

It’s important from the R3 lab’s perspective to find out what operating system the customer is using and therefore what filesystem they need, ideally before we have received the job. This allows the process of data transfer to be seamless and done as quickly as possible. If this information is not known the data could be transferred onto a hard drive with a particular file system, and then the hard drive be sent back out to the customer for use after the recovery and the customer then cannot access their data as it is not recognised by the operating system.

Wrongly formatted drive

This then causes issues for the customer, especially if they need their data back urgently. The only way to resolve a situation like this is to start the transfer of data again to a correctly formatted hard drive. Which in some cases depending on the number of files could be not hours but days.

An example recently of this, was a job we received last week. The hard drive was out of a water damaged MacBook. The recovery was thankfully relatively straightforward. As the data we recovered was from a MacBook the filesystem was HFS. So the recovered data was transferred to a new external hard drive that was formatted for a Mac operating system. This was sent back out to the customer. However what the customer didn’t inform us was that while the hard drive was at R3 getting recovered, they purchased a new laptop. It was a Windows laptop. So when they tried to access the data we sent back to them, it wasn’t recognised by the operating system on the Windows machine.

Ultimately here at R3 this is a rare occurrence. But it can happen from time to time. And when it does it isn’t ideal for either party concerned, as it generates more work and more time for things to be resolve. So something as simple as formatting a hard drive can have a big effect on jobs. Everything can go smoothly until the drive with the recovered media returns to the customer on a wrongly formatted disk. This is why formatting your hard drive correctly is important.

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.

All Hard Drives Fail

All mechanical devices eventually fail. It isn't a matter of how it is simply a matter of when.

On a side note though, solid state drives (SSD drives) are becoming more and more popular with computer users. First of all, they have become more affordable over recent years and their capacities have increased gradually. But ultimately SSD's have been highlighted as one of the most efficient ways to speed up your PC. Users love the speed increase in boot times and general performance whilst navigating your desktop.

It's also important to point out that solid state drives also fail. However, as it stands, and in the case of jobs we receive here at R3 Data Recovery, Mechanical hard drives still have the best opportunity of having their data recovered, and if looked after properly generally have more longevity to them.

Errors on hard drives

What Causes Errors On A Hard Drive?

From talking with our engineers at R3, an accepted cause of your hard drive failing is heat. Irrespective of how you feel about the role heat plays in wear and tear of the drive, you should take the approach of trying to limit the amount of heat your hard drive is exposed to, everyone knows the effect of heat on a PC's components, i.e. GPU, CPU, its only logical that it extends to your hard drive.

Physical damage of a hard drive can almost always leave it useless. In a brief explanation of the inner workings of a mechanical hard drive (HDD drive) it's basically made up of an aluminium platter that spins up once the device has power. The hard drive has a set of heads that accesses the data on the platter. As the platter spins, the heads move over it reading and writing data. Obviously by physically dropping your hard drive or dropping something onto it can cause the heads to become misaligned and by extension cause damage to the platter when they attempt to access to read/write from it.

Data recovery engineer

Hard Drive Clicking Sounds

A symptom of physical damage is a clicking sound once the drive is powered up. That particular noise you hear is the heads repetitively striking the platter which causes more and more damage and therefore makes the chances of recovery more difficult.

Furthermore, the age of a hard drive is also a significant aspect in regards to the health of the drive. Mechanical drives have many internal moving parts. These parts begin to breakdown over time, which causes the hard drive to degrade.

In most cases, the drive fails gradually. This is a clear advantage of having a mechanical hard drive. It will often start to show signs and symptoms that will give a preliminary warning to back up your data, not always of course but generally. In contrast to a mechanical hard drive, an SSD can often fail without warning. In addition, as we often find at R3 recovery from solid state drives is often complicated, and almost impossible in some situations.

How To Monitor Your Hard Drive

Awareness is essential when it comes to maintaining your hard drive. Amongst the most important of how long it takes to perform simple tasks. The first warning sign that the drive is starting to go degrade is the speed of data transfer becomes extremely slow. Your hard drive may be approaching the end of its life cycle if it takes an extended amount of time for you to transfer a small file.

As mentioned previously mechanical hard drives are made up of tiny moving parts. All of these parts move very rapidly in order to function. So obviously hearing out for unusual noises/vibrations and clicking is a sure-fire way of knowing your drive is failing or failed.

Another way of monitoring your hard drive is through software that tests for hard drive problems. Solid state drives and hard drives both have the capacity to use Self-Monitoring Analysis Reporting Technology (SMART) to test whether the memory storage equipment is functioning properly. Basically, by preforming a SMART test you can detect read errors, reallocated sectors, failing block count, wear and lifetime usage statistics that may be suggestive of significant issues. SMART hopefully will give you time to replace or recopy your data before the hard drive fails entirely.

Finally, and to reiterate, it's imperative to try as best as possible to keep the hard drive cool to extend its life cycle. People can take it for granted, but by purchasing and setting up a fan nearby to circulate the air around the unit may be very beneficial.

Ultimately, and what we here at R3 Data Recovery always encourage whether the outcome of recovery is positive or negative is that the best thing you can do is to back up your hard drive. It's the simplest and most cost-effective way of retaining your data as all hard drives eventually fail.

If your hard drive happens to fail, contact our team of experts at 0800 999 3282. Our skilled professionals will be able to reliably recover data on your hard drive and provide industry-leading turnaround times which give you the confidence that's necessary to develop a solid, effective recovery plan.

The Danger of Head Crashes

During the normal operation of a hard drive the delicate read/write heads float over the rotating media. The arm that holds these heads is shaped almost like an aircraft wing to provide this lift. This novel approach reduces the overall mass of the delicate assembly allowing higher transfer speeds but also because there isn’t contact between the two components then the life span of the hard drive is greatly improved.

Rings on a hard drive after head crash

The media used in modern hard drives is a Cobalt Alloy which is very soft so is protected by a thin layer only microns in depth of a lubricant that acts as a buffer if the heads ever were forced onto the media due to misuse of the hard drive.

This condition is referred to as a head crash, and the media will survive a number of these during its normal working life. However if this crash is severe enough that a scratch is created then the debris will be picked up by the heads and dragged around causing more damage and so the condition can quickly escalate into a huge problem.

It is important that when a hard drive has been abused and the data contained is very important that the hard drive isn’t powered.

The constant power cycling in desperate attempts to access this data can reduce the chances of a successful recovery and in extreme case render the hard drive beyond repair.

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.

What's a HDD - Basic Description Of A Mechanical Hard Drive

The Basics of Hard Drives

A hard disk drive is a computer device that allows data to be stored permanently. A hard drive (HDD), stores data even when it is powered down making it non-volatile, an example of volatile memory would be RAM which does lose data when it is powered down.

Parts Of The Hard Disk Drive

  • ​​​​Read/write head(s) - Just as the name suggests the heads are the physical part of the disk that writes data to the platter surface, reads the data already written to the platters or deletes the data on the platters.
  • Actuator arm - The actuator arm is the part of the disk which holds the read write heads.
  • Case/chassis - The chassis is the metal casing which contains all the internal parts of the disk as well and holding the external circuit board.
  • Spindle - For mechanical hard disks the spindle holds the platters and allows them to spin at high speed.
  • Platter(s) - The platters are the disks contained within the hard disk normally made using aluminium or in some cases glass that contains a ferrous surface which holds magnetic charge which is how the data is stored on them.
  • Circuit board - A printed circuit board which contains chips and other electronic components which control the hard drive as well as the interface that connects it to a computer.

How Do They Save Data?

Data is written to a hard disk in the form if a magnetic signal in the surface of the platters, platters are broken down to specific areas.

How Does It Connect To The Computer?

Hard drives connect to a computer using a bus through an interface most often IDE or SATA although there are other interfaces such as SCSI and Fibre Channel.

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.

How To Package Your Hard Drive Before Sending To a Data Recovery Lab

Every week at R3 Data Recovery there are many hard drives delivered for recovery.

Each drive can have different faults, generally they are mechanical or media degradation.

In the hurry to get the drive into the R3 lab for recovery to begin and the lost data to be recovered, the last thing on the mind of a customer is how adequately they should package the drive.

This sometimes can be a fatal and costly thing to overlook.

A drive with a fault such as media degradation can turn into a mechanical fault.

This can happen by neglecting something as simple as wrapping the drive up in a few layers of bubble wrap. Or packaging the hard drive without a cardboard box. Many drives over the course of a year are delivered to the lab in jiffy bags fit only for a USB stick at best. Or in extreme cases wrapped in a single sheet of newspaper inside a plastic bag from a supermarket.

This may seem outlandish but is in fact more common than you would believe. And even before the hard drive has arrived at the R3 lab for diagnosis, its chances of recovery has been drastically reduced.

All that is needed to ensure that your hard drive has a healthy and fair chance of recovery is to take a little extra care and thought, and package your hard drive securely. Use an anti-static bag for internal drives or ones removed from enclosures, use a generous but not extravagant amount of bubble wrap and make sure the hard drive is not free to move around inside its package.

Following these simple guidelines can make more of a difference than you realise. And allow the engineers at R3 Data Recovery an improved chance to recover the hard drive.

Ultimately this is what everyone involved wants.

If you'd like to learn more or speak directly with our engineers, please call us at 0800 999 3282

Why packaging is so important
Hard disk in bubble wrap
Hard drive in a card box