Data recovery on a Western Digital Elements 2.5″ USB 3 external hard drive – March 2016

 

The client brought their Western Elements external hard drive in to us for recovery after they had dropped it whilst it was in use. The drive was clicking when it was booked in, a sure sign that the heads were damaged with the possibility of media (platter) damage as well.

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The faulty WD Elements hard drive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon inspection in the lab, it was apparent that the heads were most certainly physically damaged. In order to recover the data from this drive, the first step was to remove the damaged heads and replace them with heads from a compatible donor.

Damaged heads

Damaged heads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The heads were successfully replaced in the lab, so onto the next step of converting the hard drive’s PCB from native USB to SATA. We need to access the drive over SATA in order to have the best chance of recovery, so a part of any Elements or My Passport recovery is the conversion to SATA. The ROM from the USB PCB is read and then written to a compatible SATA PCB.

Original USB PCB on the left, donor SATA PCB on the right.

Original USB PCB on the left, donor SATA PCB on the right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the conversion to SATA was completed, we could start imaging (recovering) the drive, as it initialised correctly with the new heads and PCB.

Data recovery in progress

Data recovery in progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we can see the telltale signs that the drive was dropped whilst powered on. There are unreadable areas (yellow and red blocks) of the drive in a regular pattern which would have been caused by the heads making contact with the platters when dropped, rather than flying just above the surface as they do in normal use.

Unreadable sectors in yellow and red

Unreadable sectors in yellow and red

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we generated a list of the folder structure of the drive, we successfully recovered the client’s photos followed by the rest of their data.

 

 

 

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SouthBit Data Recovery

SouthBit Data Recovery