A Real Hard Drive Recovery Case Study

  • Drive Received - 13/09/2016 - 10:57AM
    Drive was received and booked into our database noting serial numbers and anything unique to the drive. The customer also informed of arrival.

  • Diagnostics - 13/09/2016 - 11:22AM
    Drive was diagnosed by one of our engineers. The engineer diagnosed it as stiction and put it in our clean room for an internal inspection.

  • Clean Room Inspection - 13/09/2016 - 12:04PM
    The clean room inspection confirmed the engineer’s thoughts and the drive did, in fact, have stiction. Stiction is when the drives read/write get stuck on the platters, normally due to an impact happening with the drive like it being dropped while spinning for example.

  • Parts Needed - 13/09/2016 - 12:25PM
    Jobs was then set to parts needed, a lab assistant was then given the task of finding a matching donor for the drive so that the engineers could do a head swap.

  • Parts Sent to Client - 13/09/2016 - 12:45PM
    Matching parts was found, tested and passed to the engineers to begin the re-build.

  • Cloning - 13/09/2016 - 1:30PM
    Head swap complete and successful, engineers now doing a sector by sector clone of the drive.

  • Cloning Complete/Data Transfer - 14/09/2016 - 03:43PM
    Cloning of the drive complete, image drive now passed to a lab assistant to begin the data transfer stage of the recovery i.e. copying the customer's data to an RM (Return Media)

  • File List Sent - 15/09/2016 - 02:33PM
    File listing an integrity check sent to the customer, all customers of R3 get a free file listing and integrity check. What this is a representation of the data we have recovered from your failed/failing device.

  • Invoiced - 15/09/2016 - 4:03PM
    The customer was then invoiced for the work carried out for him.

  • Paid - 16/09/2016 - 5:00PM
    Our accounts team then confirmed customer had paid the invoice and the drive was returned to them on the same day.

Here is what the customer email us just hours after receiving his data back:

Hi Will,

Just wanted to say a big thank you to you and R3 for the recovery - from what I can tell nearly all files are intact and usable, so a great result.

Thanks for your help, much appreciated!

This is just one of many jobs that we complete on a day to day basis even faster than the time frame indicates. We aim to get all jobs done as quickly as possible no matter the service level (Budget, Standard or Emergency). If you need our help give us a call on 0800 999 3282 or alternatively email us at [email protected]

Why Encryption Is Needed When It Comes To Data Recovery

Encryption is very important, especially with Data Recovery. Customer data is top priority and to make sure the data is 100% safe and secure, we would need to encrypt the hard drive.

Once data is recovered from a customer's hard drive, we transfer the data to one of our external drives and encrypt it with a password.

The reasoning behind encrypting external drives is so that the data can be stored as securely as possible, so if the drive is password protected then no one can access your personal or confidential data.

Importance of data encryption

There are many different kinds of encrypting software that you can use to encrypt your device (Symantec, McAfee, WD security if you have a WD drive and SecretZone if you have a Maxtor external drive etc). There are also ones that come as standard with the Operating system that you are using (FileVault encryption for MAC, Bitlocker encryption for Windows 7 pro/windows 10).

However, if you somehow forget your encryption password or if you try and encrypt but the hard drive crashes half way through encrypting then there's no way of accessing that data again, if you have another backup of it then you would have to re-format the hard drive and re-copy the data to it.

It's always essential for any IT business to have some sort of encryption, even if it is a business server that is password protected.

If you are struggling with the best way to encrypt a hard drive then click on the link below:


Data Recovery From An Extremely Old Seagate IDE Drive

This morning at R3 Data Recovery we received an extremely old Seagate IDE Drive.

It has been a while since we got handed a drive older than myself. The drive is around 23/24 years old, maybe even older and is from a PowerEdge server and was brought to us because it wasn’t recognised by the server any more.​

We immediately assumed that it had bad sectors, but to our surprise once the engineers diagnosed the drive they found out that it was more than just degraded, and that in fact it had stiction, so the heads were stuck to the platters.​

Under normal circumstances any drive that has stiction the engineers would do a head swap on the drive as the heads could be possible damaged. However, with this drive being so old and incredibly difficult to get hold of a donor the engineers had to use all their knowledge and clone the drive with its original heads. After monitoring the drive for most the day, the drive was cloned successfully and a full recovery done.

Extremly Old Seagate IDE drive

Visibly seeing and watching the drive be worked on was just amazing, and it just shows how advanced hard drive technology has become over the last 20+ years.

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.

Flash Memory vs Hard Drive

What is the difference between flash memory and hard drive and who will come out on top in this particular battle?

The clearest differences are fundamentally in their size, cost, longevity, operating speed, and their availability.

Flash memory storage devices such as Solid state drives are far more expensive than hard drives. This is due to the fact that the cost of manufacturing flash memory storage devices are higher, as it is generally a newer practice in the market. There are exceptions as you can buy cheap memory sticks and cards that do technically pass as flash memory but are nowhere near as fast or serviceable an SSD.

Generally devices that run on flash memory perform faster than those that run on hard drives. A good example of this could be a home desktop computer that is equipped with an SSD will boot in seconds, will access data very quickly, and transfer files and folders faster.

As opposed to these qualities a general hard drive be it external or internal takes a fair amount of time to pick up speed for normal use. This is basically because a hard drive has mechanical parts inside that work in unison with each other for the hard drive to function properly. And ultimately, the components read data of a platter that is always moving when the drive is powered on. The data can get fragmented over time and everything slows down.

Furthermore flash memory devices do not have physically moving parts, so in theory depending on use they should last longer. Also they are more secure from physical damage, if you were to drop an external hard drive for instance the damage to the mechanical components mentioned before could be catastrophic.

It is expected that flash memory technology will become more affordable and common in the future, and when that happens hard drives will be in danger of losing this very intriguing battle for good. But for now both have considerable pros and cons, and it is down to personal preference.

Both flash memory & hard drive failures require immediate action. You need fast, secure results, and R3 offers the solutions you need to effectively maintain your data and system after any type of failure. Call us today at 0800 999 3282 to get started with your unique case.

Seagate 2.5" Drive Recovery - Failed NAND Chip

We recently had a 2.5" Seagate drive sent in to us which was initially diagnosed as having bad sectors due to the fact that it was spinning but was running slower and slower on the machine to the point where it was not accessible any more. It was also a Laptop SSHD, so sourcing for a matching donor would not be easy since you have to match a certain firmware code which was only available on a certain amount of Seagate laptop drives.

Seagate 2.5 drive recovery SSHD laptop

As it turned out, this drive didn’t just have bad sectors, but it had multiple faults (Firmware, electronic and Mechanical).

This is what the engineers had to do with the drive:

  • Firmware was built from 2 ROMs to allow access to the hard drive and correct the errors and the damaged modules that were present on the drive.

  • Then since the NAND chip on the hard drive had failed, a 2nd Firmware had to be built and modified to ignore the failed chip.

  • We also had to perform a head swap on the drive, because once it had started to spin there was a clicking sound coming from it which suggests that there had been a head crash, so we had to find a matching donor and therefore change the heads.

  • Then a 3rd Firmware had to be built based on the other 2 Firmware’s to allow the New donor PCB (which was found in our stock) to be paired with the drive so that it would act as the original PCB.

  • Once the drive is paired then all the engineers had to do was clone the drive, which was an easy process compared to the above. Cloning completed only an hour after the drive was fully recognised. The drive finished cloning with 0 errors and 0 bad sectors.

It was a long process but the engineers stuck with it and managed to recover the data from the drive even though there were many problems with the drive.

Hard drive failures require immediate action. You need fast, secure results, and R3 offers the solutions you need to effectively maintain your data and system after any type of failure. Call us today at 0800 999 3282 to get started with your unique case.

How Compact USBs and HDDs Have Been In Recent Years

Technology has evolved on a mass scale from the latter part of the 20th century to the present day. In the past you would only be able to purchase hard drives with only MB’s of storage space, and would be a lot bigger in size. Now you can have hard drives up to 5TB in size that can fit in your pocket.

how compact and fragile hard drives and memory stick are

It’s the same with USB sticks, although the physical size of USB sticks have not changed too much, the amount of storage you can have in one device has changed drastically over a number of years. Like hard drives, you would have USB sticks that would only be MB’s in size, but in recent years they have had 8GB sticks up to 128GB. A few years ago they introduced a USB stick which would store up to 2TB of data. It’s amazing to think that you can put the same amount of data on a hard drive as well as a USB stick. Of course the 2TB HDD’s are considerably less expensive than the 2TB USB sticks. 2TB hard drives normally sell for £65-£75, whereas the 2TB sticks can be priced as much as £1200 due to how rare these sticks are.

How Fragile 2.5" Drives Can Be

Any sized hard drive can be fragile if used incorrectly or if used with a heavy hand, for example, a hard drive can be dropped which will cause the heads to possible crash and mangle.

With 2.5" drives, they are arguably more fragile than 3.5” drives, mainly because the heads are more close together than on larger drives, so it doesn’t take much to damage the heads or the platters inside the drive. For example, if you have a laptop and squeeze it with some force or if you accidently sit on it, then that can cause damage to the hard drive later on, when the laptop is pressed down then the hard drive is also pressed with some force so that in time can cause problems when turning on the laptop. The heads will stick more to the platters generating scratches on the platters. Also the heads would struggle to mount so you would hear a clicking sound coming from the laptop.

At that point you know there is a problem. If there are finger prints and rings as well as scratches then the chances of recovering data from that particular drive is almost none existent.

The most fragile drives (that have been sent to us) are Seagate drives, specifically the 2.5” Seagate 1TB mobile HDD drives (ST1000LM035), we have a lot of these drives that have failed due to either Media degradation or the more common Mechanical fault, and unfortunately when it comes to sourcing a matching donor they are tough to match. Although since we have had a lot sent to us, it does mean that we have a lot of working drives to choose from, so we are not short on stock supply.

If a 2.5” is dropped then it is more likely to click and have major damage to it than larger 3.5” drives, this is due to larger drives being sturdier and having a thicker shape and thicker lid.

2.5 inch drive damage

Bootable Clone?

Here at R3 Data Recovery we see lots of storage devices each day ranging from hard drives to USB sticks to 30 disk servers, it definitely varies from day to day.​

With each device comes a reason for failure. A lot of the hard drives we see are sent into us because the customer said​

"I can see the drive but can't access it"

"It's taking ages to copy data to it"

The usual cause of this is what we refer to as a build-up of bad sectors/bad blocks rendering the media on the drive degraded. This will cause the drive to become slow and eventually it will stop working and fail.​

So, if this is happening to your drive, we suggest you stop using the drive and contact a data recovery professional.

In our data recovery lab we have the ability to fix and read the bad sectors with our specialist equipment. This could mean that a full clone of the drive could be made meaning no missed/unread sectors. Obviously, this will also depend on the drive and if there are any other problems with it.

It is not always possible to get a fully cloned drive, however in the event that we do get a fully cloned drive, it is possible that we are able to create a bootable clone so you are able to plug your device straight back into your machine. This will only obviously work for a drive that contains an operating system on it and is used to boot a machine up.

Like previously said it isn't always possible to get a full clone in order to be able to create a bootable clone, it is down to how badly degraded the drive is and if we can read the bad sectors or not.

Do you think your device is failing due to media degradation? Call us today at 0800 999 3282 to get immediate help and advice from our data recovery specialists.

The Knowledge of Matching Donor Drives

Here at R3 Data Recovery, matching donors is a very important part of some recovery processes. As in some circumstances drives that come into our lab require multiple re-builds and donor parts. So having the experience and knowledge of finding these donor parts gives us a huge advantage. 

Wiped Seagate donor drive

Matching donors however isn’t always as straight forward as you may think.​

Obviously to look at two same model drives and their parameters laid out on the lid sticker it appears simple to match them. And sometimes it is, however some drives aren’t always what they say on the lid.​

Some drive for example may begin life as a 3TB, however when going through the testing stages at the factory, the drive is found to have too many bad sectors than normal and the drive therefore has to be changed to a smaller capacity so the drive doesn’t use the surface all the bad sectors are located on.

This means that a drive may look like a 2TB for example but it could have once been a 3TB or even a 4TB in its life time.

This becomes a problem when looking for donor parts as generally bigger the capacity of the drive the more read/write heads and more platter surfaces are used/needed. So, when coming to look for a part, it is possible that the drive we are sourcing a donor part for may not have the number of heads we would normally presume it has.​

This means that we would have to look for a drive that had the same number of heads, and had been downgraded from factory like the original device. This can be tricky as there is no way of determining this from looking at the device specifications like we would normally, we would have to use specialist software to be able to check how many heads a drive has, but then it may not be the right head geometry. 

However, with all the experience that our engineers and assistants have gained over the years, searching for parts in our huge parts stock is getting easier day by day, as we learn more and more about the drives that are coming in for recovery.

And with this knowledge the outcomes of each new job that we receive at R3 are becoming increasingly positive.

If you believe that you have a mechanically failed hard disk then get into contact with our sales team and get a free quotation over the phone. Call us today at 0800 999 3282 to get started with your unique case.

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.

How We Clone A Hard Drive In The Lab

​It is relatively straight forward to set a drive cloning providing of course that the drive doesn't have too many issues. For example if a drive has recently had a rebuild (head swap) and the drive is not in a particularly fit state then it won't be such a straight forward clone as there may be scratches on the drive or a couple of damaged heads, so in this situation the drive would need a lot more TLC.​

Although most of the time if a drive is stable and is degraded or has been electronically repaired then the cloning process is never too daunting.

There are two types of cloning machines that we use in the lab:

First cloning machine: These ones are basic machines which have DR-DOS version 7.03 installed. These machines are mainly used for wiping but we also use them for cloning degraded drives, logical drives and at a push mechanical drives (if they have had a head swap and then have been powered up with all the heads working).​

For the extremely complicated jobs we don't use these machines for cloning them as it would take twice as long to try and correct the errors.

Second cloning machine: These ones are more advanced and use a type of software that can be downloaded on any Windows 7 system with sufficient amount of RAM and a system that has the correct type of PCI express card.​

As for cloning on these machines, the cloning process is a lot quicker, a drive can be cloned up to 256MB/s whereas with the first cloning machines you can only clone at speeds of 120MB/s. These machines are also a lot quicker and a lot easier at targeting specific files and folders, this is due to being able to load up the file and folder structure immediately and therefore mapping the files and folders that the customer wants so we can concentrate on cloning them rather than cloning the whole drive and putting more strain on the drive.​

We normally use these machines for drives which contain a lot of unread sectors, or mechanically failed drives.