Data Recovery from External Hard Drives – Symptoms and Solutions

In the 30 years since IBM launched their personal computer, data and data storage devices have become such an integral part of people’s lives that it seems almost unbelievable that in the 1980s very few people had their own computers at home. In 2009, the Office for National Statistics reported home computer ownership in the UK was 75%, rising to 98% in the highest income bracket. Data and its secure storage have therefore become an increasingly high priority in people’s lives, and the technology industry has responded to this need by creating ever-increasing storage capacities in both personal computers and external hard drives (EHDs).

EHDs offer many benefits to the user; they can protect a user’s data by providing a backup capability for the main computer, they are useful for storing and archiving large multimedia files and the increasingly popular compact portable versions are especially useful for data transport. However, despite all their advantages, we have to be careful with these drives. EHDs are among the most common devices sent to data recovery companies. There are two main reasons for this:

1. EHDs are vulnerable to human clumsiness. Desktop EHDs may have liquid spilled or accidentally pulled or dragged on the floor by leaving data or power cables hanging behind each other. Portable EHDs are often placed in pockets or bags that can sit on or otherwise be damaged in transit.

2. In their efforts to keep EHDs as compact as possible, manufacturers often omit the cooling fan that would always be present in the hard drive of a PC or laptop. EHDs are therefore at risk of overheating which can affect the stability of the data stored on the disk.

So, how do we know when and why our EHD has failed? And more importantly, what can we do about it? Well, in addition to spinning the disk and then dying or not being recognized in the BIOS, there are several noises that corrupted EHDs can make including screeches, beeps, beeps, ticks, knock and buzz. We will take a closer look at some of these symptoms and describe the underlying causes:

* Beeps, beeps and screeches: Many manufacturers use Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB) technology instead of ball bearings, because the discs run quieter and have better shock resistance. However, our research has shown that when the disc is turned on from a cold state, the fluid takes time to reach its optimum viscosity, and during this time it is vulnerable to vertical vibrations. This can lead to read / write errors and a resulting beep or beep sound.

* Buzzing: EHDs contain a spindle responsible for spinning the plates. Only a small portion of the spindle comes into contact with a relatively heavy part of the drive, and a sudden impact or shock to an EHD can cause the spindle to lock up and cause the drive to not be recognized by the computer.

* Tap or Tap: In EHDs, there is an arm of read / write heads that, as their name suggests, reads or writes data to and from the platters. If there is damage to the heads or the motor, the arm can bump into other components in the drive while it is constantly trying to read the data, causing a regular ticking sound. In our experience, this is usually caused by the EHD being dropped or knocked over.

* Slow running and sudden death: This may have accompanying noises (such as a repetitive scratching sound) and is caused by overheating due to lack of ventilation around the disc.

There are therefore many problems that can happen to EHDs and it is important to prevent them by taking good care of the drives; However, should disaster strike, the crucial advice of the data recovery industry is to shut down the drive immediately and not risk running a repair program that could further damage access to the stored data. Renowned data recovery companies use specialized equipment and cleanroom laboratory conditions to retrieve valuable data. Their expertise and experience is reflected in the prices they charge; Unfortunately, there are many companies, usually at the lower end of the market, who greatly exaggerate their capabilities. Prospective customers would do well to carefully research the reputation and skills of data recovery companies before entrusting them with their critical files.