Author Topic: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!  (Read 4792 times)

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Offline jr2

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Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
For all those of you who have lost hard drives and their data:  (log of edits at bottom of post)

Find and Mount (limited to 512 KBytes/sec unless you buy for $43.95 - just let it run all night, the limited version works fine)
I have used Find and Mount to recover stuff off my flash drive when it went wacky and decided it hated life.  It should work excellently on hard disks, too - I just haven't had the opportunity to test this yet.  EDIT 7/30/2011: Works great on hard disks, so I bought the full version for better speed recovering.  Could use this in combination with freezing / ice packs.

PC Inspector File Recovery I have used this to undelete stuff, but it can recover quickformatted and damaged partitions, too.

Recuva I haven't used this as much but hey... it's free and maybe better than the others, who knows.. I don't care as long as it gets the job done.

SpinRite 6 I have used this software as well for a few years. $89.00, but it was money well spent.  This software can recover hard disks that most would consider unsalvageable without thousands of dollars to do a professional recovery.  Read the testimonials, it works.

Finally, if your hard disk won't even spin up, or the BIOS won't recognize it, try buying a new PCB for it (the circuit board on the bottom).  The way I do this is to purchase one from the seller PCBSolution on eBay.  (Any seller will do, just be sure he/she has like a thousand+ ratings with a positive ratio of like 95-99%).  I have used him two or three times and have always had the hard disk come back with a new board.  Check to be sure the PCB is 100% the same as yours - there are numbers on one of the main chips on the board that will tell you - PCBSolution has instructions with his items' description, check to be sure whichever seller you use has a way for you to verify besides just the model number.

Now, what may be the sign that you are doomed:  The click of death.  However, if you manage to replace the faulty component without damaging the platters (I would search online to get direction, it's rather tricky - I tried once and failed rather miserably), then your data should be safe.  Perhaps getting a used and working hard disk of the exact same type on eBay and swapping parts would do.  But, ironically, there are very powerful magnets in the hard disk - and if you aren't careful, they can make your job extremely difficult if you have to replace anything connected to them.

I really hope that this information is helpful to you guys and that I see less "I lost all my data again" threads and more "I had to recover my stinking hard disk so I had to take a few days off the project" threads.  :D

If any repair techs with experience in this area  :cool: have input  :o / corrections  :doubt: / suggestions  :nervous: / additions  :P , post away!  :nod:  I'll try to quote your stuff up here so it will be in the first post.   :pimp:

EDIT: Oh, and if your OS simply won't boot, try using Hiren's Boot CD 9.8 FalconFour's Ultimate Boot CD / USB 4.5 based on HIren's 13.0 (which I use now) or Hiren's Boot CD 13.1 - you can boot Win XP off of that CD and get your data off any WinDOwS drive.  If you have linux, you should know what to do.  :P Just boot off of an ubuntu (or whatever distro you prefer) liveCD - these can also get data off WinDOwS partitions, but it could be tricky if you aren't familiar with Linux.  Macs never crash.  What?  Well, I don't know, but I would try a Linux Distro liveCD unless Mac has their own live CD.  I know Windows won't read it.

If you "swap out" the faulty electronics, you may also replace this firware data (fleshed to an EPROM) too. You just ensured that the original files could never be recovered!

The filesystem, if I understand correctly, stores information about where disks' files are located.  Thus, true, you would not know that sector xxx2 was bad, but you WOULD know that there is currently NOTHING stored there and that your file is located at sector xxx3 and be able to read it.  If you were to resume use of the drive, true, you would need to do a full format (not quick format) or use another drive software, to map the bad sectors out into the filesystem to recreate what the firmware already had.  Or you could use the drive manufacturer's tools and do a manufacturer recertification scan.  I know for a fact Maxtor releases these tools and I do believe every other drive manufacturer does too.

... I also recommend NOT to use any of this with CRITICAL DATA.

What you are saying is correct about not doing any of these practices with valuable data.  If your company can afford $2,000 a pop to do it, by all means, use the professionals and don't get stuck trying any of this.  I meant this post for home users who lost their models, documents, programming source code, etc. and can't afford $2K to fix it.  It's much better than throwing it in the trash and... -bonus-! half the time it works!!

Occasionally, the click of death (severe cases where the disk won't even read) can be temporarily reversed by putting it in an ESD-proof bag, wrapping it in a dish towel, and throwing it in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Don't ask me why, but it works - I've done it.  Ultimately, the disk will still die, but this may give you enough running time to pull the data from it.

Again, don't try this with critical data - send those to a recovery center.
Yes, I have heard that.  I have also heard that warming it up to operating temperature works, (the guy tried putting it in a pot and that pot in another pot with water and heating it up in a pot) so try heating too if freezing won't do it.

If your drive won't spin up at all but tries to (bad bearings?), one of the computer techs I know that works for a college had an old drive he used to show people the inside of drives with - he had to start it with his hand.  I would save that for a last-ditch effort right before giving up or trying to swap out internal parts of the hard disk though.  The thing worked like a charm with no errors last I knew, too... very cool considering he ran it with the top off.  (Of course, he had nothing on it so he didn't care, it was just professional curiosity on his part to note that it behaved as such.)

I have personally gotten data back (tried 3 times with 66% success rate) by freezing the drive overnight, wrapping it in something to keep the moisture away from the drive (I used a towel), and putting a freezer pack (actually I used frozen hotdog packages and exchanged them when they started getting warm) on top of the towel which is on the drive, and hooking it up to the computer.  That way it stays cool while you're getting data off of it.  I'd try this one before boiling it.

EDIT log: 4/27/2011 Added links to Hiren's 13.1 and F4's UBCD 4.5 and suggested freezing.
EDIT log: 7/30/2011 Edited to update Find and Mount Pro -- works great so I bought the Pro version
« Last Edit: July 30, 2011, 04:39:05 pm by jr2 »

 

Offline Mongoose

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
Great info. :yes: I had the original hard drive in my machine perform the Click of Death, but thankfully, it somehow still managed to keep itself running for a few months until I could get a replacement.  Most important advice of all?  Make sure everything you have on there that you couldn't stand to lose is backed up.

 

Offline Nuke

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
also its a good practice not to put your data on the same partition as windows. makes it many times easier to reinstall the os without killing your data (also its a cleaner install that not formatting, assuming the os supports overwriting the old install). of course that doesnt protect you from drive failure, the only way to do that is to backup to other drives or dvd.

ive never attempted rebuilding a dead hard drive. i do kinda have a hard drive that needs recovery, its a laptop drive that wont initialize or spin up. its not mine so its no big deal to me if i dont recover it. some bioses wont recognize it unless i manually enter the drive parameters. then disk management claims it wont initialize. i really dont want to spend money on parts either.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2009, 05:42:14 pm by Nuke »
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Offline Flaser

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
... I also recommend NOT to use any of this with CRITICAL DATA.

Stuff like what your company has been working on for several months. (In that case you should already have a backup... but IT is never perfect, especially when the management wants to cut corners).
In that case what you should most vehemently ask for is professional help - experts who work top dollars.

Whaaat? You ask me to pay money to do what I could do? Yess.
In all likelihood that data is worth more than what the price tag of the repair will be. (That's how you decide whether the data is critical. If it's worth the repair bill, then yes, you should call them and pay).

Expert data recovery firms will physically access the drive's surface, read the data with their custom built devices and do the same with the drive's firmware. Only once all recoverable data is archived and therefore secure do they do *any* tempering or experimenting with the data.

The above "magic mushroom" software doesn't provide such guarantees (...and insurance payment in case they *do* screw up).

If you ever have critical data on a faulty device, don't attempt any software repairs on your own, and whatever you do NEVER ATTEMPT HARDWARE REPAIRS.
One thing that's missing from the first post is, that modern hard disk can't use all their surface. By technology limitations (and budget) it can't be ensured that the whole surface is usable. Instead manufacturers do a deep-scan of the drive and map out the usable parts (...or the unusable, this is usually only a tiny fraction of the disk). This data is then written to the drive's firmware.
If you "swap out" the faulty electronics, you may also replace this firware data (fleshed to an EPROM) too. You just ensured that the original files could never be recovered!
"I was going to become a speed dealer. If one stupid fairytale turns out to be total nonsense, what does the young man do? If you answered, “Wake up and face reality,” you don’t remember what it was like being a young man. You just go to the next entry in the catalogue of lies you can use to destroy your life." - John Dolan

 

Offline jr2

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
If you "swap out" the faulty electronics, you may also replace this firware data (fleshed to an EPROM) too. You just ensured that the original files could never be recovered!

The filesystem, if I understand correctly, stores information about where disks' files are located.  Thus, true, you would not know that sector xxx2 was bad, but you WOULD know that there is currently NOTHING stored there and that your file is located at sector xxx3 and be able to read it.  If you were to resume use of the drive, true, you would need to do a full format (not quick format) or use another drive software, to map the bad sectors out into the filesystem to recreate what the firmware already had.  Or you could use the drive manufacturer's tools and do a manufacturer recertification scan.  I know for a fact Maxtor releases these tools and I do believe every other drive manufacturer does too.

... I also recommend NOT to use any of this with CRITICAL DATA.

What you are saying is correct about not doing any of these practices with valuable data.  If your company can afford $2,000 a pop to do it, by all means, use the professionals and don't get stuck trying any of this.  I meant this post for home users who lost their models, documents, programming source code, etc. and can't afford $2K to fix it.  It's much better than throwing it in the trash and... -bonus-! half the time it works!!

The above "magic mushroom" software doesn't provide such guarantees (...and insurance payment in case they *do* screw up).

If you ever have critical data on a faulty device, don't attempt any software repairs on your own, and whatever you do NEVER ATTEMPT HARDWARE REPAIRS.

The comment about magical mushroom software.. well, I suppose you could compare that to cars.  If you have a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti Special Edition you wouldn't want to bring it to the local Tom and Harry auto shop.  Yes they could fix it most likely... and yes it would be kind of dumb.  If you have something worth that much, you want to be sure it's safe.  However, Tom and Harry would probably have a few choice words for you if you implied that they don't know how to replace the valve cover gasket on your VW Jetta.  Just saying... ;)  I've had several years' experience working with this stuff.  No, don't use it to try to get back your company's only copy of the designs for its new flagship product.  Yes, use it to recover your photos / FSO gems. :yes:

 

Offline MP-Ryan

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
Occasionally, the click of death (severe cases where the disk won't even read) can be temporarily reversed by putting it in an ESD-proof bag, wrapping it in a dish towel, and throwing it in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Don't ask me why, but it works - I've done it.  Ultimately, the disk will still die, but this may give you enough running time to pull the data from it.

Again, don't try this with critical data - send those to a recovery center.
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Offline jr2

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
Yes, I have heard that.  I have also heard that warming it up to operating temperature works, (the guy tried putting it in a pot and that pot in another pot with water bag and heating it up in a pot) so try heating too if freezing won't do it.

EDIT: If your drive won't spin up at all but tries to (bad bearings?), one of the computer techs I know that works for a college had an old drive he used to show people the inside of drives with - he had to start it with his hand.  I would save that for a last-ditch effort right before giving up or trying to swap out internal parts of the hard disk though.  The thing worked like a charm with no errors last I knew, too... very cool considering he ran it with the top off.  (Of course, he had nothing on it so he didn't care, it was just professional curiosity on his part to note that it behaved as such.)
« Last Edit: December 26, 2009, 12:44:03 pm by jr2 »

 

Offline Flaser

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
jr2 the reason why I stressed the importance of the firmware is that this is low-level data that the drive stores internally and you can't access without the manufacturer's proprietary software. This data is used when mapping the drive and hence if it changes the mapping itself could be misaligned compared to the physical reality of the disc.

Still, with proper software one can redo the low-level format (which is most of the time impossible to do nowadays as most manufacturers don't provide the necessary software) and use the drive once again. However from a data-retrieval prospect the whole "electronics swapping" is very much suspect.
"I was going to become a speed dealer. If one stupid fairytale turns out to be total nonsense, what does the young man do? If you answered, “Wake up and face reality,” you don’t remember what it was like being a young man. You just go to the next entry in the catalogue of lies you can use to destroy your life." - John Dolan

 

Offline Nuke

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
more than likely a hard drive dies due to mechanical failure than electronics failure. i can imagine neodymium magnets pwederizing inside the unit littering the platters with magnetic dust happening long before the controller board dies. figure theyre under constant stress, and ive seen neodymium magnets turn to dust in electric motors before. once the crhrome plate comes off they corrode very fast it seems. then theres the issue of heads smacking into the drive unexpectedly. berings can fry, coils in the stepper motor can fail and so on. the only thing that can really maybe destroy a hard drive's electronics is esd, and youd get oddball behavior such as data loss or intermittent shutdowns of the drive and so on long before it dies.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2009, 09:04:01 pm by Nuke »
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Offline Thaeris

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
The neodymium magnet thing makes a lot of sense as that particual element is a Lanthanide... which will corrode quite quickly when exposed to the atmoshpere. However, I doubt you'd be dealing with elemental neodymium, but I still assume the given compound would still oxidize fairly rapidly...
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Offline jr2

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
more than likely a hard drive dies due to mechanical failure than electronics failure....

Usually a power surge or somesuch does it - I've seen it a lot.  (And yes, it is puzzling - but I live where storms etc with the accompanying power surges / spikes / outages are common.)


jr2 the reason why I stressed the importance of the firmware is that this is low-level data that the drive stores internally and you can't access without the manufacturer's proprietary software. This data is used when mapping the drive and hence if it changes the mapping itself could be misaligned compared to the physical reality of the disc.

Still, with proper software one can redo the low-level format (which is most of the time impossible to do nowadays as most manufacturers don't provide the necessary software) and use the drive once again. However from a data-retrieval prospect the whole "electronics swapping" is very much suspect.

You must match the chip type, I know that.  I asked the supplier that I use about this, we'll see what he says.  I do know that is what his eBay store does, and he has 100.0% ratings out of 1042 and has been a member since '07.

 

Offline Nuke

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
i can see more surge failures in stormy areas, yes. but with proper surge protection and a surge resistant psu that shouldnt be a problem. but my expirience with those kinda failures its the psu that gets burned out, not the rest of the hardware.
I can no longer sit back and allow communist infiltration, communist indoctrination, communist subversion, and the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

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Offline jr2

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
i can see more surge failures in stormy areas, yes. but with proper surge protection and a surge resistant psu that shouldnt be a problem. but my expirience with those kinda failures its the psu that gets burned out, not the rest of the hardware.

xD I'll take a picture for you guys - I still have the old PCB from my last (successful, BTW) repair.

 

Offline Nuke

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
ive seen some pretty cool **** fixing computers. i remember one time i had a voltage regulator explode on me, it blew itself off of the motherboard and flew across the room in a massive fireball. it landed in the recycling bin and almost caught the damn thing on fire. i remember a long time ago in my high school electronics somone put their hard drive ribbon cable on backwards and the thing turned into a fog machine, we had to get a couple large fans from the emt/firefighting class to clear the smoke. there was also the dust bunny incedent. one of my old computers needed some work so i took it to one of my computer repair classes for a tuneup. apparently the dust bunnies became self aware and were plotting to take over the world, unknowingly i let them out and they started attacking people. it was funny, we managed to fight them off with several cans of compressed air.
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Offline jr2

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
Quote from: PCBSolution
Hi Joshua,
Thank you very much for recommending me on the forum, I really appreciate it.
I think you are talking about the post with Flaser right?
 
There is firmware on the circuit board, it is stored on the EPROM like he says, however, it is not unique to the hard drive. The Seagate EPROM has a size of 512 Bytes, this is half a KB, and of course nobody will be store any unique hard drive information on this chip. (WD drives use a ROM that is 1024 Bytes, the biggest I've seen on current drives are 2048 Bytes, or 2KB). Basically this firmware tells the circuit board how to interact with the hard drive internals. The replacement circuit board must have the same firmware as the original, but the firmwares are far from unique. How to match the circuit board firmware depends on the hard drive model. Older the drive, the easier it is to match.
 
There is another part of the firmware, the hard drive specific part, written on the platters itself. This contains all the S.M.A.R.T. info (which parts are bad, what flaser was talking about) etc. Changing the PCB will not affect this firmware obviously. Nobody needs to access the this part of the firmware unless it is damaged, but that is a different topic completely.
 
Lastly nobody can read data with special equipment from the platters directly, that is CSI stuff on TV shows. Data recovery companies simply repair or replace what is broken, this is a lot harder than it sounds when the damage is internal, which is why the price is usually very high.
 
Please let me know if you have any other questions, and happy new year!
 
Best Regards,
Kevin
 
PCB Solution - Hard Drive Circuit Board Specialists

@Nuke:  :lol:

I've got pictures of a couple of PCB boards here: (damaged areas are most plainly seen at around 8x zoom)

Power surge: - 3rd largest chip above the power connector, just to the right of the topmost board "indent", is crispy.



Blunt trauma: (someone got upset?) - chip just above the power connector is.. well, 'chipped'!


 

Offline jr2

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
EDIT: meant to edit and hit quote.  :rolleyes:

 

Offline Mika

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Re: Methods to attempt recovery of your lost data - there is hope!
The best I have so far seen is putting DIMMs in a wrong way the memory slots. And yes, it pushed out smoke and made sparks. Later, I had to check if it really was possible to put those chips wrong way in the memory slots. It was, since the motherboard bent under, and this actually didn't need much more force than putting the chips in the right way.

The best thing was that it was my little brother who did this since I had a cast on my hand. He is an electrical engineer, and this incident resulted in a month long mockery of being able to do that thing in the first place.

But attaching a HDD cable wrong way???

EDIT: the end result was pretty much looking like the first picture jr2 attached.
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