What happens when I drop my hard drive

On March 24, 2014, in Storage News, by Nick Parsons

We deal with all sorts of different cases where a client’s hard drive is in need of data recovery. Hard drives can, and do, fail for a number of reasons. There are different ways of categorising hard drive failures, but let’s look at instances where a drive suffers what is known as ‘media damage’ or platter damage as a result of being dropped or knocked over.

Before looking at platter damage as a result of  client induced hard drive failure, we need to know the basics of how a hard drive works, and why this is important when it comes to data recovery. You can refer to the article on our page, inside a hard drive, which gives a more detailed run-down of the inner workings of a hard drive. The point we try to highlight in these instances of media damage is the manner in which hard drives read data by means of read/write heads which fly nanometers above the hard drive platter surface. These extremely delicate heads read data at high speed whilst the drive platter spin at up to 7,200RPM. When sensitive parts, moving at such high speed, come into contact with each other as a result of a knock or a drop, the result is disastrous. The now damaged head/s are scraping over the platter surface at high speed instead of flying on a thin layer of air as they should be. Instead of reading your data, the heads are grinding into the data surface and destroying all hopes of data recovery.

Let’s have a look at the example below. This laptop hard drive, from an Apple Macbook, was dropped whilst still in the Macbook machine. It was subsequently powered on and all hopes of recovery destroyed. There is an obvious dark circle around the outer perimeter of the disk platter. This was caused by a damaged head (as a result of the fall) which was allowed to move over the platter and grind a groove into the user’s data. The major problem with cases like this is that even when replacement heads are installed, they fail the moment they hit the damaged area of the hard drive platter.

Hard drive damaged dropped

Cases like this are unfortunately quite common. If you value your data, ensure that you have sufficient backups. If you ever drop or damage your hard drive, rather bring it in for a free assessment rather than risk losing everything like the example above.


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