Why DIY hard drive data recovery is a bad idea

On January 10, 2017, in Storage News, by Nick Parsons

Occasionally (more often than we like) we get hard drives in for data recovery that have already been opened up as the client has watched a YouTube video on data recovery 101 and decided to give it a bash himself. As a hard drive recovery specialist, watching these videos makes me cringe. The people who create these videos think they are doing the public a favour, unfortunately they are doing the exact opposite. The moment a hard drive has been opened by a layman on his desk or in his lounge it spells disaster. Once some tinkering has occurred it’s often game over.

Hard drives are incredibly high tech pieces of equipment. The read and write heads fly over the platters at the height of a few nanometers. To give you an idea of what that means imagine the read and write head is a Boeing 747 and the platter is the ground. The 747 would be flying 3 millimeters above the ground at full speed. With that in mind, imagine what fingerprint will do to a hard drive head. Any sort of contamination is much, much bigger than this tiny nanometer gap and will result in total disaster.

Apart from the contamination a bigger problem is when a DIY attempt involves handling the actual parts of the hard drive. Let’s give an example of a Seagate hard drive that had a ST1000LM024 hard drive inside it. This drive is notorious for failing if you unplug it whilst it’s still busy reading or writing data (see our other article on this exact problem). We get a huge number of these drives in for recovery with this problem and it’s a fairly routine data recovery from our perspective which always results in success. One of our clients had this exact issue and, rather than bringing the drive in for professional data recovery at our lab in Cape Town, he decided to research the problem and ended up following some instructions on DIY data recovery on YouTube. As you can see below, the results were catastrophic. The heads were completely ruined and the drive was then powered on. Instead of the heads flying above the surface of the platters they dug in and destroyed his data forever.

The moral of this story is not to attempt any form of data recovery yourself if it involves opening the hard drive. Even simple scans of a failing drive using commercial data recovery software can push a drive past the point of professional data recovery. Next time you have a failed hard drive rather book the drive into our data recovery lab in Cape Town for a free quote and assessment to ensure the best chance of recovery of your data.

data recovery from failed hard drive


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