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Replacing Hard Drive Heads (Video) August 25, 2017

Posted by Greg Johnson in Drive Repair, education.
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The video below from HDDSurgery is an example of a repair or diagnostic procedure where a hard drive with damaged heads might have the heads replaced by purchasing another new identical drive and pulling the heads from that drive to replace the defective ones.

While this video makes the procedure look quick and easy, it’s actually a very detailed and delicate process that must be performed meticulously in a costly cleanroom environment. If dust particles, clothing fiber, or hair were to get into the drive, that would likely result in further damage to the drive later. For this reason a specialized and costly clean room must be used.


Below is a screenshot image from the above video showing the internal components of the hard drive.



Data Recovery: What You’ll Need March 6, 2014

Posted by Greg Johnson in learning.
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Operating System Restoration

To restore your existing computer, you should have your original software disks. For Apple computers, this isn’t necessary because the operating system installation media is available for free. For Windows computers, if you don’t have your original media disks, you may need to purchase Windows 7 or Windows 8 installation software. Click here for a list of various versions.

Microsoft Office Software

If you’re a user of Microsoft Office products, like Microsoft Word, you’ll need to purchase Microsoft Office installation software (view software) or subscribe to Office 365. Alternatively,  you can use the online versions of Microsoft Office programs for free. Some people choose to use a free Microsoft Office alternative suite of programs called LibreOffice.

Replacement Hard Drive

Assuming the existing internal drive in your computer is mechanically damaged, you will need to purchase a replacement drive. A good choice would be a hybrid drive. Hybrid technology uses traditional drive platters as well as solid state memory for very high speed access to frequently used data. View drives on Amazon:

Data Storage

When data is recovered, it needs to be copied to a reliable drive for safe storage and retrieval. Click here for a list of top selling external drives on Amazon. You may already have an external drive, but it probably doesn’t have enough free space to store all your pictures, music, videos, and other files.

Data Recovery Software

There are several data recovery programs to choose from. However, unless you’re getting into the business of data recovery, you might save money just paying someone to do the recovery for you. In addition to needing some expertise and experience, you’ll need a computer dedicated to the data recovery process. Scanning a corrupted or partially defective drive can take many hours, or days. If the drive has mechanically failed, it will likely need to be sent to a clean room facility where it can be repaired before recovery can be attempted.

Hard Drive Damage and Deciding on a Data Recovery Method April 11, 2013

Posted by Greg Johnson in Uncategorized.
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There are many possible causes of drive errors and data inaccessibility. These are reviewed in the document Data Recovery Scenarios Causes, Solutions, and Cost Estimates. In general, the following is true:

  • Low cost data recovery approaches ($200-$500) are adequate for many data recovery scenarios. However, in some cases these have less success and in some rare cases (explained below) could lead to further damage of the drive.
  • Expensive data recovery methods ($800-$1500) can reduce possible damage to the drive (when applicable) and result in more thorough data recovery. This is explained in more detail below.

For the person who feels their data isn’t worth $1500 to them, and they aren’t worried about possibly losing a few additional files in the process of recovering everything else, the low-cost solution is okay.

Further Reading

Corrupted Data. Generally speaking, when drives have file corruption (logical errors), but no mechanical/physical damage, recovery is possible using a purely software-based recovery method. File corruption often impacts only a few files. Deleted files are also recoverable using software. These methods can be time consuming due to lengthy scan times, but they are relatively inexpensive.

Physical Damage. When drives have mechanical/physical damage, it’s usually necessary to resolve/repair circuitry problems and/or replace drive components. There are four general categories of physical drive damage:

  1. Heads Damaged. The heads in a hard drive float on top of high-speed spinning metal platters to read data. If any of these heads are broken, turning the drive on may cause further scratching of the plater surface resulting in permanent data loss and/or corruption. In these cases, the best choice is having the drive physically repaired first, then recover the remaining readable data. This is a very expensive approach and can cost up to $1200-1500.
  2. Drive Not Spinning. Drives can stop spinning for a variety of reasons. When this happens, the only choice is to have the drive physically repaired first, then recover the remaining readable data. This is a very expensive approach and can cost up to $700-1500.
  3. Circuit Board Failure. The electrical components in a hard drive can fail due to excess use, poor quality, or overheating. When this happens, it may be that the rest of the drive is mechanically okay and the data is not harmed. When this happens, only choice is to have the drive circuitry repaired first, then recover the remaining readable data. This is a very expensive approach and can cost $700-$1500.
  4. Damaged Sectors. If a drive is bumped or dropped while powered on and spinning, damage to the inside spinning metal platers can occur. This usually is in the form of heads scratching or skipping across the surface of the drive platters and damaging the surface, thus harming the data. If the other drive components mentioned above are still working, and only a small area of the hard drive surface is damaged, it is possible to avoid the excessive cost of data recovery mentioned above. Software can thoroughly scan the drive to recover all readable files and skip over (or partially recover) files harmed from hard drive damage.

Deciding on a Data Recovery Method. There are basically two choices for data recovery from drives with hardware issues:

  1. Keep Costs Down. If a drive has one or more damaged heads, but is still working and mostly readable (despite some errors and corrupted files), it may be possible to continue with file and data recovery using software. However, there is a risk that this may cause further damage and file loss. If a person knows their budget is limited to $200 to $300 (for example), and they can’t spend anything more, then their only choice is this time consuming but less expensive software scan and recovery. However,
  2. Maximize Data Recovery Results. To maximize data recovery results, if a person is willing to spend $1500 for their data recovery, then the best choice is to have the drive hardware thoroughly examined in a clean room, perhaps at a microscopic level, and refurbished if needed. Then, any further recovery will likely be more successful and less likely to cause further damage.

The data owner needs to make a decision based on their budget and the value of the data to them.

Data Recovery Scenarios Causes, Solutions, and Cost Estimates April 9, 2013

Posted by Greg Johnson in education, learning.
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The graphic above shows the variety of causes for lost data and the general costs for recovery. [Click image above to enlarge]

The prices shown are based on an estimate of $70 – $90 per hour, and going clockwise, the estimated time required for recovery increases.

When drives have a mechanical or circuit board failure, then additional equipment and time is required to perform the recovery. The extend of drive damage will determine the cost of recovery.

These are estimates only. The actual cost may be above or below these estimates.

About 10% of the drives submitted to us have severe mechanical damage, and those get shipped to our cleanroom partner group.

Consumer Warning: Don’t Format and Reinstall Windows Just Yet! June 21, 2012

Posted by Greg Johnson in learning.
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A common mistake that people make is to assume their files are lost if their computer won’t start.

Even technicians who should know better will sometimes advise a customer to format their hard drive and then reinstall Windows – telling the customer that their hard drive is “corrupted” and their files are lost.

Many hard drive crashes are actually just a result of corrupted system files. It’s still possible to retrieve the file by removing the hard drive from the computer and placing it in an external hard drive dock like the one pictured below. [buy now] This allows the drive to be connected by USB to a working computer for the files to be extracted.

Causes of System Crashes June 19, 2012

Posted by Greg Johnson in learning.
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These are a few common causes of system crashes:

  • Mechanical Drive Failure
  • System File Corruption
  • Virus Attack of System Files

While these situations are not entirely avoidable, there are some preventative measures one can take to help reduce their occurrence.

  • Purchase the highest quality enterprise-grade hard drives. This can help reduce the chances of  mechanical failure.
  • Make sure your computer has completely shut down before turning off the power switch or surge strip. It’s essential to allow the computer to release any essential information that was partially in memory back to the hard drive. Also, files that are being updated and written to must not be partially written.
  • Use a high quality up-to-date anti-virus program.

Causes of Backup Failure June 18, 2012

Posted by Greg Johnson in learning.
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by Greg Johnson

There are a variety of reasons why a backup may fail to provide a useful recovery:

  • The correct files weren’t being backed up.
  • The backup was on a schedule, but nobody ever checked to make sure it was still running.
  • The backup file is corrupted.
  • The last known good copy of a file to be recovered was overwritten when the daily backup ran because it presumed you wanted a backup of your current files and it doesn’t keep revisions.
  • The data files were backed up, but the operating system, program files, and configuration information was lost. So, everything needed to be reinstalled from scratch.

The backup procedure we recommend addresses the above issues.


Iowa City Hard Drive Repair and File Recovery June 18, 2012

Posted by Greg Johnson in learning.
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by Greg Johnson

We’ve been providing computer and technology support to the Iowa City area since 1983. Our parent organization, ResourcesForLife.com, is also based in Iowa City.

For our existing customers, we make every effort to avoid costly data recovery fees by implementing reliable backup procedures, configuring systems proactively, and by selecting the best quality computer hardware.

“Online backup services are helpful in catastrophic situations when an off-site backup is required, but they can be slow when restoring an entire system. Data recovery can be performed more quickly from a local backup. We recommend both methods for redundancy and to gain the advantages each offers.” ~ Greg Johnson, Senior Technical Specialist

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