- July 15, 2019
- Posted by: Bernard Mallia
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When a hard disk drive, memory stick or SD card fails, it can do so in several ways. However, these may be broadly categorised into the two categories of software and hardware failures.
When it comes to software failures, files may corrupt or become inaccessible due to filesystem corruption, but the hardware is still working as it should. This can happen for a wide variety of reasons like power interruption during write operations, proximity to strong magnetic fields, software failure or malware. If this occurs, one should first attempt repairing any filesystems which are accessible and rebuilding the Master Boot Record. Many Linux distributions have tools for checking and repairing partition tables and filesystems like GParted (a Graphical User Interface tool) and fsck (a Command Line Interface tool).
The main issue in recovering data from a damaged disk is identifying which blocks are actually valid and contain useful data. This can be done by scanning over the disk surface for signatures that identify each block as either valid or invalid (bad). If this signature does not match what’s written in the metadata (e.g., filesystem tables) then it may be possible that it has been overwritten by subsequent writes and therefore contains invalid data; otherwise, it may have been corrupted while writing prior to being overwritten and therefore contain valuable information. The former case requires specialised hardware like magnetic force microscopes while later case can be dealt with more easily using software tools like ddrescue.
If everything looks well but problems persist after trying these options, then it’s time for more drastic measures. However, before you do, it is important to keep in mind that you should not write afresh on a hard disk with corrupted partitions as this will make the recovery more difficult or render it altogether impossible. Additionally, you should never put your hard disk in a freezer as some websites will suggest, as condensate that will form inside your hard disks due to Malta’s high relative humidity will make recovery more difficult or even impossible as well as soon as the disks are taken out of the freezer. In any case, if you are in doubt, please get in touch for a quotation and instructions on what to do.
People and organisations who keep backups using a good backup plan will probably not have much to worry about as they can simply reinstall everything and recover their files from the backup.
When it comes to hardware failures, one of the most common problems is that the platters aren’t spinning when accessed, and therefore nothing is heard from any hardware attached to the computer. This is known as the “spinning-platter failure”. Another common failure comes in the form of physical problems with one or more of the platters. This type of problem could cause read errors or even total loss of data on one or more contiguously addressed sectors. A third possibility to look out for is whether there’s something wrong with one or more of the magnetic heads. These could be damaged mechanically (such as by hitting something like a screw), but may also have issues with their read/write heads not being able to properly position themselves over the desired location on each track on each platter. Finally, there are cases where something happens inside an IDE cable, such as internally broken wires, which will immediately prevent anything from being recognised at all if no external power supply for the drive enclosure has been used (i.e. if you plugged the hard disk into your PC via USB). In the case of a dead hard disk, data can also fail when the drive’s firmware decides to stop working properly.
Solid State Drives (SSDs) also come with their own set of problems. SSDs degrade in performance over time, and they have a finite number of program and erase cycles. In order to maximise lifetime, it is essential to minimise the number of unnecessary write operations. It is also recommendable to monitor SSD health using specialised software so that you can avoid the cost and hassle of trying to recover data when it is too late. Some types of removable SSDs also suffer from mechanical damage possibilities that usually entail a severing of the interface (e.g. the USB) from the chip that stores the data.
Irrespectively of the fault and the type of disk, however, an attempt can always be made to restore inaccessible lost data and in the majority of cases, at least a partial recovery will be possible. If the hardware is still functioning properly, we can attempt to recover the data for you locally. The only exception where we cannot do it is in the case of TrueCrypt-encrypted data. This renders a reconstruction of the Master Boot Record impossible and in that case, we won’t be able to recover the data with the tools that we utilise. In case of hardware failure, we work very closely with data recovery centres in Germany and the UK and although the cost will be higher we might still be able to recover your data. We guarantee absolute privacy and data protection and will irrevocably delete all the data recovered and stored in a temporary location from our media after you have successfully been provided with a copy.
- HDD Data Recovery
- SSD Data Recovery
- Forensic Data Recovery
- Recovery of lost media (pictures, videos, music files)
- Recovery of documents and data