Trusting the Experts on Salvaging Data From a Drive
by Ethan Page on July, 26 2021
The average day for the internet will result in over 463 exabytes of data created within the next five years. That includes emails, messages via social media, and advertising. These are all essential for any business, which is why it's so important to protect content, whether it's in the cloud or on a hard drive.
Paying a company to safeguard your data is a pretty smart idea, lest you require services dedicated to salvaging data after the fact. With the resurgence and renewed dedication of hackers, though, you might want to stick with physical copies of your information.
What happens, though, if you experience a hard drive crash or run into serious errors with your equipment? Well, that's where salvaging data comes in. Don't fret too much, as there are a variety of ways to recover your information!
Read ahead for everything you need to know about salvaging potentially lost files.
What's at Risk
Perhaps you're not convinced by the benefits of cloud storage, and prefer physical copies. That's fine, but you should consider some of the risks that come with the latter.
Whether it's a solid-state drive or a common hard drive, the purpose is the same: storing and protecting information that you can access at any given time. It's the foundation for any computer, where the operating system sits, and where family pictures and videos reside.
Essentially, a broken or otherwise damaged hard drive prevents access to previously stored information. This includes all aforementioned files.
At a personal level, this can be devastating. Losing content with sentimental value is awful. In some cases, though, things can get worse.
Data and Business
If you run a business, for example, data loss can do much more than ruin your day. Without access to essential information, there's a chance for monetary damages.
Without certain files, you can lose out on profits. Information on customers, third-party staff, and projects is necessary to maintain a proper workflow. One broken link in the chain and everything can fall apart.
Types of Hard Drive Damage
So, sure, you can understand why data loss is a major issue. But, what kind of problems can you run into with a hard drive? There are quite a few, actually.
The variety is somewhat impressive, even if the results are negative. There's plenty to watch out for. Some examples include corrupted files, malware, physical damage, and improper installations.
For a better look into each type of hard drive damage, read ahead.
One factor for damage to a drive has a plethora of its own factors to consider. A corrupted file is any data on a computer that causes some sort of malfunction. This can lead, of course, to an out-of-service hard drive.
Here are some things that might produce corrupted files:
- Shutting down the computer during an installation
- Malware-infected applications
- Closing a program while it's running
- Unplugging a USB drive while it's reading or writing data
Like many other complications on this list, there are ways to recover any lost information. Salvaging data is one example.
A lack of ventilation or a dysfunctional fan are two things that can overheat your hard drives. In some cases, this is apparent due to noises like clicking. The result is usually damaged mechanisms and melted components.
This is one of the most dangerous issues you can run into with a hard drive. As things stand, no software can recover data from storage that's undergone serious physical damage. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.
You may encounter errors while trying to access a hard drive. One cause can be manufacturing defects. This is completely normal and happens every so often. It's important not to panic here because most of the time a technician can recover the potentially lost data.
Security and File Protection
Some programs are built to protect your information. However, these can be flawed and often don't consider human error. There are applications that request a password for access permission on a drive. If you forget the code, you might be locked out forever.
Besides physical damage to a hard drive, this is another example of a process that is nigh impossible to reverse. In most cases, you'll need to contact the manufacturer's support line.
Viruses, worms, malicious crypto mining software, and other types of malware are a nightmare. A majority of these malicious programs are built to extract your personal information for monetary gains. Others threaten to destroy your PC unless you pay a fee.
Ransomware, for example, locks you out of your computer for an indefinite period of time, unless you pay a ransom via an anonymous payment method. While you should never send money to hackers, some fall for the scam. In the end, though, it makes no difference.
Hackers tend to ignore users that pay and destroy a user's computer anyway. You should avoid opening sketchy emails, downloading files from unknown sources, or visiting websites that lack credentials.
Physical Damage from Mishandling
Moving a hard drive from one PC setup to another is a relatively simple task. Accidents happen, though, and can result in terrible situations. Dropping a drive from significant heights, for example, has the potential of destroying the unit entirely.
On rare occasions, static electricity can permanently damage a drive. Dropping it into water, a fireplace, or other similar hazard produces the same result. Try to be careful when handling any PC components.
Improper Installations and Tinkering
Installing an operating system, or almost any program, is a delicate process that involves important system files. If you interrupt it before it finishes, you might brick your drive. There are some parts of your PC you can protect and maintain but abstain from taking things too far.
Tinkering and toying with system information is another common mistake. You've likely heard of system32, an essential file for the Windows OS. Do not delete it, as doing so can destroy your computer and, sometimes, your drive.
How File Deletion Works
What happens when you send a file to the recycle bin and subsequently permanently delete it? You'd think it's removed entirely from your system. That's not the case, though. In fact, most of the original data is still there.
Most operating systems keep the files and store them at different locations. Then, they're spread through multiple data clusters. This can be in a continuous pattern or scattered throughout a drive.
From the computer's point of view, all you've done is provide permission to reuse those chunks of data. So, until they're overwritten, they remain completely intact. It's comparable to swapping the color of the text in a document to match the background; the text is still there, but you can write over it without realizing that you are.
Some users report overwriting previous information over 35 times to ensure full deletion. Even then, though, computer forensics teams have methods to trace every action to find the original data.
Damaged Drive Recovery
Hard drive recovery can be either a simple process or extremely complicated. Retrieving data that's repurposed for future installations, for example, is one thing, but finding information hidden deep in a system is a different story.
A damaged drive presents two primary problems. The first is a lack of access for users. If you can't gain entry into the drive, you can't solve the issue. The second is the actual process of finding the content. The former begets the latter, while the latter can exist on its own.
Of course, the operating system and type of hard drive are important to consider, regardless of the type of damage it's been through. There are three primary types. These are internal, external, and laptop drives. The most common manufacturers are Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba, and Samsung.
The OS matters more, most of the time, but the type of drive and related brand can play an important role, as well. This is what professionals will look at during diagnostics. In the recovery phase, though, things get a bit more complicated. Salvaging data has many more variables to consider.
How Salvaging Data Works
An expert keeps the problem of access and the process of finding files in mind when approaching each case. A good assessment is paramount, as it precedes the choice of equipment. Depending on which components are broken down or damaged, certain physical tools are used to make progress in retrieving data.
If the stem of the issue involves corrupt files, malware, or issues during installation, the steps change accordingly. Here, instead of physical equipment, an expert will install or use already existing software on another computer. They'll then connect, via USB or a similar method, to the damaged hard drive and attempt to retrieve the lost information.
Before anything else, though, they'll diagnose your PC to identify whether the problem is the hard drive or not. This is almost exclusively for problems related to software or corrupt files. Hard drives with physical damage don't usually take too long to diagnose. Take a look at what you can expect below.
Diagnostics for Physically Damaged Drives
Physical damage is usually noticeable to the naked eye. However, in some cases, internal physical damage can go unnoticed. To diagnose and remove this suspicion, experts refer to the following list of typical symptoms for internal physical drive damage:
- Doesn't turn on
- Makes strange noises
- OS doesn't recognize the drive
- No access to files
- OS doesn't detect correct storage capacity
Keep in mind that physically damaged drives require expert assistance a majority of the time. Attempting to fix it on your own can further the damage and void warranties.
Diagnostics for Intact Drives
When a technician steps in to assist, the first thing they'll do is run diagnostics. Even if the drive is intact, this process usually involves a plethora of tools and specialized equipment. They'll typically use some of the following depending on the operating system:
- One or two separate PCs
- USB cables
- USB-C cable
- Thunderbolt 2 cable
- Firewire cable
- Universal drive adapter
- SATA cable
A mix of these components lets an expert determine whether the files in the hard drive are accessible and are still intact. This is just the start, however.
Removing the Drive
First, they'll remove the drive with the intent to plug it into another computer. This is done via a universal drive adapter and tool kit. If communication between both devices is possible, they'll move to the next step.
Copying Accessible Content
Once an expert can dig into a hard drive's storage, they'll transfer as much as they can to another computer to create a backup. This can take quite some time, depending on the type of drive you're salvaging and the one receiving the copied content.
This serves two purposes. First, of course, it's an attempt to recover anything you're missing. Second, however, it's another way to see if the hard drive is at fault, or whether another component in your PC is causing problems.
Recovering Lost Data
While chunks of information might be immediately available for recovery, some might remain behind damaged and corrupted portions of the disk. This is where experts come in with software built for hard drive recovery.
With these programs, they proceed to scan the drive in question for data that's still available for recompiling. This is, essentially, identifying and grabbing all the portions of a piece of information to recreate the original. Even if a few portions are missing, some technicians can piece it back together in a readable format.
This is done for every partition on the drive. Additional tools and settings, like the filter option, make it easier for technicians to find the most important content that you want to recover. This is usually done as soon as possible, just in case other issues crop up later in the process.
Trusting the Experts
Besides manual HDD recovery for physical damage, salvaging data is possible for one to do at home. This comes with many downsides, though. First and foremost, it's highly unlikely you'll have the proper tools at hand to do the job right.
Most importantly, though, there's a chance you might ruin your chances to recover lost data. Imagine jumping in with excitement and hope, only to find out you've missed a step and completely ruined your shot at recuperating your essential files.
Prepared and Ready
Don't let anxiety get the best of you. Just get in touch with an expert. They'll have the proper equipment along with not just the knowledge on navigating hard drives, but also experience with a plethora of common HDD malfunctions that probably includes yours.
Some Great Upsides
There are some awesome upsides to hiring a service repair team with experts to solve your hard drive recovery problem. A few of them seem obvious, but they're worth mentioning.
First of all, it saves you a lot of time. Yes, some services charge quite a bit. But, knowing that your information is in good hands, you can sit back and relax instead of freaking out while trying to follow a guide you found on an online forum.
You can watch. In many cases, the technician can visit your place and follow through with a fix while you watch. On rare occasions, though, the expert might have to take the hard drive to a lab facility to perform the recovery.
Doing it yourself can be an engaging experience, and perhaps save you some money, but the end goal remains the same. Risking valuable information for an adrenaline rush and savings isn't worth it. An expert is much more likely to recover your files, even if it's a less exhilarating experience for you.
The Few Downsides
Leaving a fix to the experts has a few downsides. These are concerns regarding their capabilities and your privacy.
When you reach out to a technician a few doubts might pop into your head. You might wonder if they're certified or capable of following through with proper recovery procedure. To be safe, consider requesting certification and look for a track record of 90% or higher with testimonials that you can actually contact.
Another problem involves personal privacy. Whoever you hire will be diving deep into your hard drive and all of the files stored in it. This means that your pictures, videos, and anything else you've saved is viewable by the technician.
But, if privacy is a real concern, consider watching while they work. Even if they run into something that might be personal or embarrassing, you can nudge them and keep them from staying on one file for too long.
Prevention Comes First
Considering that more than half of businesses aren't prepared for data loss, spend an average of $11,600 per minute on downtime, and an existing correlation of a 400% increase in data loss in the last ten years, perhaps investing in prevention is a viable option. You can't stop everything, but taking a few precautions can save you time, money, and a lot of effort.
Funnily enough, the opportunity to avoid problems in the first place still involves an expert in the field. You can invest in a plethora of devices and software to safeguard a hard drive, but professionals can provide invaluable advice on preventing issues in the future.
The Simple Steps
If you're short on time, here's a look at some quick changes you can make to protect your valuable information before trouble strikes.
Consider investing in multiple hard drives if you have a desktop computer. Install the operating system on one, and use the others for saving and accessing other information. Additionally, you won't have to partition a single storage unit, which means they'll run faster as well.
Software is another barrier to potential errors or malfunctions. A program that prevents corrupted files from bricking a hard drive, for example, isn't a guarantee that you won't run into problems, though. Rather, it's just another step you can take in the direction of prevention.
The final recommendation is to purchase an external hard drive. Use it exclusively for storing vital information. The likelihood that this device will break down is usually lower, which means your most important data is somewhat safer than it would be on a drive that's accessed repeatedly on a daily basis.
If you really care about the information stored on your hard drive, reach out to an expert for a consultation. They can provide invaluable advice and tips on how to properly prep your drives to prevent a catastrophe.
Additionally, they can take a look at the hardware you currently own and help you optimize it for performance and security. You can also ask for alternatives they recommend. In the end, though, an experienced person in the field is the best choice for preventing data loss and recovering content from damaged drives.
Salvaging Data is Possible
Luckily, the recycle bin isn't the final resting place for files and a broken hard drive doesn't mean your data is completely gone. Preventing a catastrophe that results in lost content is the best way to go, but isn't always possible. Sometimes salvaging data is all that's left.
Don't fret too much, though. With the right tools, software, and guidance, it's highly likely that you'll find a solution that involves proper restoration. You can run diagnostics to find out whether the issue is physical or logical, check for errors with different programs, and follow the steps that a technician would. But, it's not overly recommended.
The best advice? Stick with the professionals. Give us a call, and we'll produce fantastic results with a fast turnaround. We can have a hard drive back in your hands within 36 hours and, in some cases, with 99% of the files recovered.