18 Aug

Physical Media Damage – Is Data Recoverable From My Hard Drive?

Physical media damage, a.k.a physical damages to hard drives that can make data unrecoverable, is something every computer user should know about and take precautions against (especially if your profession requires you to work with sensitive information).

Hard Drive data recovery Toronto

Causes for damage may include anything from dropping your hard drive off the desk to having one withstand fire and then being put out with water which was then spilled on the hard drive by the sprinklers.

In this post, we will learn the basics of physical damages and what it means for the data on your hard drive.

What is Physical Media Damage?

The term physical media damage, or PMD, is used to differentiate from data corruption which can occur on media that physically is in good condition.

PMD may occur in other storage mediums such as CD’s and DVD’s, Zip disks, and magnetic tapes often used in enterprise backup systems. Our engineers have experience in all these areas.

How Can This Happen to a Hard Disk Drive?

Inside a hard disk drive are moving parts that are made to operate at extremely tight tolerances. Any disruption to these mechanics can lead to operational failure, but not necessarily data loss.

Though it’s easier to imagine damage from dropping a hard drive on a concrete floor, PMD may occur from overheating or even from normal usage. All mechanical devices have a lifespan, hence redundancy (RAID systems with multiple drives) and regular backups in mission-critical systems.

How to Identify Physical Damage in a Hard Disk Drive?

Some warning signs may be similar at first to data corruption (which our experts can also help with) and may include more “sounds” coming from somewhere they shouldn’t.

  • Computer or server failing to boot or not operating as normal
  • Delays when opening files
  • Data access error messages, or system locking up
  • Clicking noises on data access; a typical pattern includes pauses, followed by the drive stopping and restarting again
  • Silence. No spin-up. No vibration. Nothing to indicate operation

Is the Data Recoverable?

The answer depends on the severity of the damage. Make and model of the drive also are a factor. Once inside the cleanroom, an engineer will open the drive for assessment.

Minor crashes are barely apparent to the naked eye. If the damage is in the system area, the drive may not become ready and accessible as before, but the chances are that the data is still recoverable.

Visible damage may indicate a drive is unrecoverable. However, experienced engineers may be able to “image” the drive, making an exact copy sector by sector, reconstructing the file structure, and rebuilding links to data. Extraction of data is performed to external storage.

The worst case occurs when the magnetic coating is damaged on the platters, and there is no data to recover (the magnetic coating holds the data).

Do Not Try This at Home! (or at work)

Once a drive has been opened, the slightest scratch, dent, or dust can put your data at even more risk. A sterile environment and professional help are necessary for your best chance of data recovery.

What to do Next?

If you believe your hard drive to be damaged, turn it off immediately to avoid further potential harm.

Anytime you have a hard drive fail, send the drive to an expert data recovery company even if it feels like things are not salvageable. Do not open the drive! Do not bang it on the table and hope it starts again.

For any data recovery services, be it hard disk drive PMD or data corruption, or other media types, give us a call right away, and we will step through some questions together and determine the best plan for recovering your data! For help recovering data from your damaged hard drive, please feel free to contact Taking It Mobile at 888.877.5002 (1-888-Call-TIM) today!

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