Hard Drive Failure
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General Causes of Hard Drive Failure:
The hard drive in your computer stores digital data vital to its operation and the user. A hard drive failure means that its stored information cannot be accessed and this can have serious and catastrophic consequences for your work or your business interests. By rectifying fault conditions Datlabs technicians can in most circumstances recover your inaccessible data and transfer it to a new and more reliable data storage device, typically a portable hard drive or USB memory stick. Before we consider what causes hard drives to fail it is as well to describe the basic types of hard drive that are available on the the market.
There are two general categories of hard drive data storage device:-
Hard Disk Drives with magnetic storage media on rotating platters.
Solid State Hard Drives with electronic component storage in the form of chipsets.
There are also hybrid hard drives with a combination of the two technologies called SSHD’s.
Hard Disk Drive Common Fault Types.
Hard Disk Drive devices contain moving parts such as motors, read/write heads and magnetic actuators. These moving parts render the hard disk drive susceptible to failure as a consequence of misuse and normal wear and tear. These moving parts are under the control of complex electronics resident on a “electronic controller card ” which is also susceptible to failure. The following is a summary of the more common failures that effect hard drives.
- Logical Failure, corrupt file system data
- Electronic Failure, PCB + connector damage
- Firmware Failure or corrupt drive operating code
- Media Degradation, magnetic platter surface damage
- Mechanical Failure or moving part component failure
Hard Drive Logical Failure
If your PC gives you the “Blue Screen Of Death” or if your Mac just shows you a grey folder Icon and there are no unusual noises from your hard drive then you may be suffering from what is termed a logical failure. A logical failure occurs when one or more of the required system files has become unreadable. This can typically be a consequence of the system not being shut down gracefully during system related activity or due to a sudden power loss whilst the computer is writing or updating information to these areas.
Hard Disk Drive Bad Sectors
If your hard disk drive has bad sectors i.e. corrupt recording areas of the magnetic recording media , then the symptoms to look out for include; a gradual slowing of the system (takes longer to open programs than usual), difficulty in saving/transferring data from one device to another, occasional computer crashes when attempting to complete a task. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms then your hard disk may be suffering from bad sectors and at some point access to your data may be lost. If at any point you are able to make a copy of your critical data to another storage device then do this as soon as is possible. Should the worst happen and you loose access to your data before a back-up can be completed then be aware that this is not a fault recoverable by software alone. Corruption or poor read responses can be as a consequence of worn and or weak read write head transducers that once substituted for a good assembly may produce better read results. Substituting read write heads can often facilitate the recovery of your precious data.
Hard Drive Electronic Faults
Hard drive electronic failures are usually a consequence of a power surge, use of an incorrect voltage power cable or overheating. The symptoms that accompany a hard drive with an electronic failure include, no noise or attempt from the hard disk to power on, burning smell emanating from the device. If the hard disk does absolutely nothing at all then there is usually a fault with the printed circuit board which means the power is not reaching the required components. If you have a burning smell coming from the hard disk then it is likely that one or more of the protective components have blown. Both of these failures are situations where data is usually fully recoverable but specialist work is required on the printed circuit boards and in some cases a transplant of circuit board is required.
Hard Drive Firmware Failure and Corruption
A hard drives firmware module can be thought of as its own operating system that controls how the hard disk behaves. If your hard drive isn’t making any unusual noises, will not boot or is not recognized by the BIOS, then it potentially has a firmware fault. A hard disk drive suffering from a firmware fault remains in a busy state. A computer device will only recognize a hard disk drive when it is in a ready state. Recovering data from hard a drive with a firmware failure can be achieved with the necessary remedial equipment, tools and knowledge.
Hard Disk Drive Stiction
The term stiction refers to a condition whereby the read write head ceramic has become welded to the surface of the hard disk platters. This can be caused by the equilibrium of the heads being disturbed and then contacting the platter surface, overheating and literally sticking to platter. A drive suffering from stiction will commonly emit a faint beeping sound caused by the motor failing to rotate when the power is applied at start up. Recovering data from a hard disk suffering from stiction generally means releasing the heads cleaning the debris from the platters and replacing the read write heads. Results are however sometimes inconclusive and further advanced techniques need to be attempted to affect a recovery.
Hard Disk Drive Mechanical Faults
A hard disk drive suffering from a mechanical failure will be either dead due to motor failure or will be making a distinctive clicking or ticking sound. This clicking sound is due to the hard disk drive head actuator moving the assembly to the co-ordinates of the first recording track, the read heads failing to read any control data and then returning sharply to the park position. A number of re-tries generally follow which results in the ticking sound. this failure to read is symptomatic of a hard drive faulty read write head assembly.
The process required to recover data from a failure of this type involves dismantling the hard disk in our clean room environment, extracting the faulty components and replacing them with working donor components. Once these processes are complete we then need to place the device on specialist data recovery hardware in order to generate an image of the faulty device onto a stable drive.
SSD Failure and Data Recovery
Solid state digital data storage products are now standard fit for slim line computer products. SSD’s are inherently less prone to misuse than hard disk drives as used in similar circumstances. SSD failure is generally confined to discrete component failure, storage cell and service area corruption.
Recovering data from faulty SSDs is more of a feast or famine process exacerbated by a lack of standards. With poor standards definitions Datlabs technicians must treat each recovery as a unique case needing specialist techniques and knowledge involving the specific model they are working on. These specialist requirements add time and complexity to our procedures which unfortunately add to costs.
Datlabs Data Recovery from Failed Hard Drives
“Hard Drive Data Recovery” is a term used for the process of retrieving data from a failed hard drive. The faulty hard drive operational functionality is re-established, the raw data structures are extracted and transferred to a reliable environment. The retrieved data is then tested before being transferred to a another hard drive and returned to its owner. The fault type determines how to proceed with the recovery of your data. Datlabs technicians firstly inspect the hard drive in order to evaluate the fault condition/s affecting your hard drive. Once the diagnosis procedure is complete, an evaluation report will be prepared detailing the hard drive failure condition, the remedial work necessary to attempt the rebuild of your hard drive and also the possible retrieval of your data. The report will where practicable also indicate the timescales necessary to complete the work and any extraneous charge. For more information relating to faults and symptoms please read below.
Faulty Laptop Drive
Sam knocked Davids laptop off the bedside table and the hard drive was faulty. Datlabs recovered all our pics and emails. It was a close call but all’s well that ends well.