Hard Drive Failure, what to do when your hard drive fails

Hard drive failure is a nerve wracking event. But if it happens to you, all is not necessarily lost -- even if you don't have a backup to fall back on.
Hard drive failure occurs when the hard disk drive fails to function properly and information stored on your computer can no longer be accessed. Hard disk drives fail for a number of reasons, ranging from hardware life expectancy to human error.

Data Loss - What to do?

In the event of a hard drive failure do not panic; it is critical to remain calm and not to take improper steps which can lead to severe damage. If you begin to hear clicking noise, clattering, whirring or screeching sounds, or your computer S.M.A.R.T function indicates an error, we strongly recommend stop using the hard drive to avoid further damage and immediately contact a Data Recovery Labs specialist. Data Recovery Labs has a team of professionally trained data recovery engineers and operates one of the largest research and development centers in the United States, which constantly researches, reverse engineers and analysis all file system types and file formats. Our technicians and engineers have an extensive know-how and master the necessary procedures to perform physical and logical data recovery services. In more than 90% of the cases, we are able to recover the data; although note the 1st attempt is the most important for success. Furthermore, Data Recovery Labs carries thousands of hard drives of all manufacturers series in inventory to be used as spare parts which enables us to provide an immediate data recovery solution in the event of an emergency.

Data Loss - What you should NOT do under any circumstances!

Do not restart! Turn off the computer.

In almost all cases of data loss, it is important to turn off and not to re-activate the system. This is true for all types of systems whether PC, Apple, Server, NAS or RAID.

Logical Damage

Even with logical damage, such as the accidental deletion of files or directories, reformatting, running OS recovery or file system errors, a reboot can lead to fatal consequences. As you operate the computer the system creates temporary files and swap data. This can overwrite critical data sectors necessary to complete a successful data recovery. It is highly recommended to stop using the computer and immediately contact a data recovery specialist.

Freezer Trick

A common online myth! Do not place your hard drive into the freezer in hope to be able to recover the data. The consequences can include circuit board (PCB) short as well as misaligned read/write heads and motor failure.

Opening hard drive seal

Hard drives should only be opened in dust-free clean room lab facility! If a hard drive is opened outside of a professional data recovery lab, the damage can be massive and the cost of data recovery can be many times higher not to mention can lead to permanent failure.

RAID is not failure proof!

The engineers at Data Recovery Labs have more than 30 years of server and RAID reconstruction experience. One thing is certain: RAID is not failure proof whether you are dealing with RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6 or RAID 10. Our engineers reconstruct RAID arrays daily on those considered safe systems. The simultaneous failure of multiple disks, incorrectly configured systems or simply bugs in the RAID controller firmware can result in RAID systems data loss. Just in case of failure of a RAID system, the pressure on IT managers is enormous: Often a business or group is shut down thereby. The understanding that a RAID system can fail, is not usually given. The result is panic reactions: hard drives are swapped, rebuilds started and disks forced online. The manufacturer's support recommends the worst case to delete the RAID configuration and attempt to re-create the raid - resulting in a fatal error (this is actually regularly reported by our customers)! Another point through which is worse in a RAID failure, damage are so-called "fatal rebuild". These arise, when the RAID is forced online and a rebuild starts causing Data to be overwritten in the worst case on all disks.

In case of failure of a RAID system:
Four basic types of hard drive failures:
The most common causes of hard drive failure:
  1. Heat: The primary cause of hard drive failures is hardware overheating. Inadequate ventilation and cooling in and around your computer hardware can cause severe damage to the equipment. Overworked hardware with little or no downtime and smoke or fire damage can wreak havoc on a system.
  2. Physical damage to your computer: Any type of physical force, such as bumping, jarring, or dropping your computer may lead to physical damage to the hard drive. If your computer is in use at the time of the impact, the read/write heads may touch or gouge the disks, causing damage to the platter’s magnetic surfaces where the data is embedded. This is known as a head crash, and the damage can be significant. Even if your computer is powered down, the likelihood of jarring your computer’s components is still present.
  3. Power Voltage Surges: A power surge can be caused by lightning strikes, interference with power lines, or by any event which causes the flow of energy to be interrupted and then restarted. Power surges can result in data loss when the read/write heads fail to function properly, and in the worst case, a complete computer crash.
  4. Water Damage: Moisture caused by flooding or even by spilling a liquid onto your computer is almost assuredly bad news. The casing that holds the hard disk drive is not designed to be a barrier against water penetration. Water will have damaging effects on a computer’s electronic parts and disk components, possibly even causing unwanted electrical currents which can further damage your computer.
  5. Corrupted files: Improperly closing a program, turning of your computer before closing files, and installing new software can cause files to become corrupted. Power failures and accidental computer shut downs can contribute to corrupted files, and causing damage to the hard drive.
  6. Human error: The functions of the hard drive can be impaired by human tampering with the system files. Accidental deletion of files imperative to the disk drive is not uncommon. Improper installation and removal of files from your computer can cause the hard disk to malfunction. Activities conducted during a forensic investigation of a computer may also compromise the hard drive.

These common destructive forces can destroy your hard disk drive in an instant, and recovery of important information may be difficult. Backing up your data, and using simple preventive techniques can help to save you from the headache of a hard drive crash and prevent having to contact a data recovery specialist.

What does Data Recovery Labs specialize in?

Complex RAID and Enterprise systems

Failure of multiple disks simultaneously, reconstruction and recovery of destroyed logical RAID systems, rescuing damaged virtual servers, data recovery for damaged Logical Volume Managers (LVM), reconstruction and repair of damaged file systems, restoring defective databases.

Mechanical hard disks

Swapping read / write heads, repairing stuck or damaged motor assembly, repair of surface damage, replacement of a defective hard disk bearing, transplanting whole magnetic disk stacks, troubleshooting electronic defects, correction of firmware errors, PCB/controller repair.

SSDs and other flash storage media (USB stick, compact flash)

Correction of electronic errors in controllers, desoldering individual memory cells (also in sandwich construction) and the reading of the content and composition in valid user data (keyword wear leveling).

Optical media

Reading defects (eg scratches, sunlight).

Tape media

Reconstruction in mechanical defects of tapes (for example, cracks, wrinkling, misalignments).

Floppy, floppy

Reconstruction mechanically defective disks or floppies.

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