The future of data recovery

On July 25, 2018, in Storage News, by Nick Parsons

Things have changed a lot since I started Southbit data recovery in 2010. A lot of the hard drives coming in for data recovery at our Cape Town lab were averaging around the 100GB mark. Quite a few were still IDE hard drives. A 160GB 3.5″ drive with 3 or 4 platters was the norm. Today a lot of the drives we get in for recovery are 2.5″ storing 1000GB (1TB) with a single platter. The progress is staggering. With progress come challenges, especially for data recovery engineers.

As the storage density increases, the limits of physics are pushed further and further which means that tolerances drop. Components become smaller, more fragile. What this translates to is a more difficult task when it comes to recovering data from newer hard drives. We have found that platters are more susceptible to damage, read and write heads are more easily damaged. A good example of this would be Seagate portable hard drives. The current Seagate portable hard drives you buy in a shop come from the Rosewood family. They have a completely different manufacture process to the older model they replace. Installing new heads on these new drives is a lot more complex. The heads are a lot more fragile. The previous family suffered from a common failure where the heads would stick to the surface of the platters if they were dropped. With the right technique, environment and tools, we could recover data off these drives by using the original heads. Recoveries in these instances were always highly successful. The opposite of this is true for the new Rosewood family. The original heads can not be used, they have to be replaced as any physical impact destroys them. Installing new heads is a difficult process with this new family of drive, and often you will find damage to the platter surface that will bring recovery efforts to a sad end.

Solid state storage is also becoming more prominent. USB flash drives, MicroSD cards, SSD drives, they also fail. The technology and techniques required to recover from solid state storage is completely different to hard drive recovery, and often the success rates are lower for many technical reasons.

In short, as technology moves on and storage devices push the boundaries, the recovery procedures required become more complex, more expensive and ultimately more challenging.




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