Data Recovery Projects

2TB Western Digital WD20NMVW Model USB Hard Drive With Bad Heads Recovered

A teacher at a local college needed the data off this 2TB Western Digital drive. This particular WD20NMVW drive had the USB port built onto the printed circuit board of the drive. So instead of being able to connect it to my PC-3000 and diagnose the drive, the first step was to get a new printed circuit board (PCB) with a SATA connection that was compatible.

Once the donor board arrived I moved the ROM over from the old PCB to the new. This allowed me to see that 1 out of the 8 heads was not responding. A visual inspection showed no damage being caused to the platters, so I continued with recovering as much data as possible on the drive. The total recovered with the single bad head was 88%.

I gave the customer the option to stop at the 88% recovered mark for the Standard+ Rate, or continue with a head swap to go for all the data. Because the data was important they decided to continue with the head swap and get as much data back as possible. I placed the order for the donor head stack drive.

Once the drive arrived that contained the donor heads I found although everything seemed to match, the heads were not compatible due to a difference in the pre-amp. You can view the pre-amp information using the PC-3000 and viewing the ROM module 0a. You can see that the pre-amp is different in the pictures below.

Here are two 0A rom mods – patient and donor. the 4th character in the line after the model is the pre-amp. So in this case the |N| S J M, and |N| S S R

0A rom mod
0A rom mod

I had to order a second donor drive and requested the pre-amp be double checked before shipping. The second donor arrived and everything was in order and I continued with the head swap. Once the replacement heads were installed I was able to get back the missing 12% and ended up recovering 100% of the sectors on the drive!

I moved the data to a new drive and I was able to meet the client at the coop in Arlington! They were pleased to get all their data back.

If you need help recovering your drive, please request a quote and I will get back to you with what I think would need to be done to get the data off your drive.


Data Recovery Projects

Buzz Sound on Seagate ST4000LM016 4TB Drive

This drive was mailed in from Burbank in Souther California for data recovery. The reported issue was a buzzing sound when you first plug it in for a split second, then another short buzz sound, then another, then silence. The drive would not spin up and would not be recognized by any machine.

The first step is to open the drive in our clean room environment to check the platters for damage as well as check the drive heads. The platters looked good, but the heads were not parked where they should be, which means they were stuck! Stuck heads on a drive usually do cause a buzzing sound as the motor tries to spin the platters and fails.

There are special tools made to safely lift the heads off the platters so you can move them to the parking area. It is important to inspect the heads carefully with a microscope for any damage as well. In this case I was able to move the heads over to the parking area and found no signs of damage on the heads or platters.

The PC-3000 showed all heads functioning properly, so I continued to the imaging process. I was able to image 100% of the sectors on the drive so I continued to the data transfer process. It was a 4TB drive, so it took a while to image all those sectors!

This drive had a Time Machine backup on it. Apple uses a special kind of linking of files in their backup system, so when you go to recover the drive, you will recover the same file over and over for every backup the computer completed. To get around this you have to use a cloning software like Super Duper. Super Duper will allow you to transfer all the data over to the new drive including time machine backup data.

There are times when the drive fails and causes corruption in the data about where files are stored and what their names are (often called the catalog file), often times that corruption will cause programs like Super Duper to fail during the clone process. This was not the case on this drive, but when it does happen there is a method that has worked for me well in the past:

  1. I start by creating another image of the data, it is always good to have a backup of the recovery when you are going to be doing repair attempts on the data.
  2. I run whatever software recovery application is best for the situation and recover everything EXCEPT the Time Machine backup folder (backups.backupd) to a temporary drive.
  3. I delete all the data on the recovery drive EXCEPT the Time Machine backup folder. Note I am only doing this after having an additional imaged drive of the recovery so I can easily start over if I need to.
  4. Once everything is deleted except the Time Machine backup, I run a program called Disk Warrior. Disk Warrior can usually fix the issues with the catalog file and allow me to clone the Time Machine backup folder.
  5. I clone the Time Machine backup folder using SuperDuper directly to the drive that will be given to the client with all the data.
  6. I transfer all the recovered data I got earlier from the temporary drive onto the customer drive.

It sounds like a lot of steps, but once you have done it a few thousand times it is super easy! The end result is having as much data as possible as safely as possible.

Again, with this particular recovery the data all transferred without an error using Super Duper so that process was not needed.

The end result was 100% of the data on the drive was recovered and mailed back to Burbank to a happy customer!

I would love to help you with your recovery! Please request a quote or contact me and I will answer any questions you have.


Data Recovery Projects

Slow Fix Western Digital 500GB WD5000BPKT Recovery

This drive was referred by a shop near Partridge, Kansas. It was thought to have some kind of heads issue as it wouldn’t read on a computer, but you could hear it spin up and start seeking. This particular model is known to have a firmware issue called the “Slow Issue”. The fix has been used so much it is now called the “Slow Fix”.

The issue with the firmware is that a particular firmware module gets corrupted. This module must be read by the drive during use, so when it is corrupted the drive may read and write incredibly slow, or not read and write at all. And by incredibly slow, I do mean very very very slow. Like moving a single picture could take a day or two to complete.

In order to fix the slow issue you have to write a good copy of the firmware module to the drive to replace the corrupted module. The process is usually pretty straightforward with the PC-3000 as long as you have a compatible firmware module available, but sometimes there can be hiccups and the repair can be more difficult.

In this case I did not have the correct firmware module already available for this particular drive, but I did have another donor drive that was compatible! So I just had to backup the good firmware, and write a copy to the bad drive.

Once the firmware issue was resolved, I was able to image 100% of the sectors on the drive. The client was pleased to get all their data back without having to pay for an expensive heads swap as he had been quoted for in the past.

Please let me know if you have any questions about a data recovery project. I love recovering data!


Data Recovery Projects

Seagate Momentus Thin 500GB ST500LT012 With 1 Bad Head Recovery

There are some times where recoveries just work out better than you expect! This drive came in as a referral by a local computer repair shop who had diagnosed it as likely a heads issue. During diagnosis I confirmed that while there wasn’t any platter damage and the heads looked good physically, one of the heads would not read.

This Thin model of the Momentus 500GB drive only has a total of 2 heads, so the most I can get without swapping the head stack is 50%.

Because the non-functioning head wasn’t causing any damage I was able to image 50% of the drive with the other working head. Once I completed the first 50% I turned the bad head back on in firmware and it it started to read! I made sure to not power cycle the drive and just started imaging the “bad head” right away.

Having a head that tested bad start working for no reason at all is very rare, but I have had it happen in the past. In this case, 100% of the sectors were recovered, no head swap necessary! I am happy because the recovery was easier than I expected it would be (finding donors for head swaps on older drives is time intensive and expensive), and the client was happy because the total was far less than originally quoted!

It is important to note that you should not image a drive partially without checking the heads for any signs of damage. You don’t want the platters under the bad heads to get damaged during the imaging process before swapping out the entire head stack.

I work with a lot of shops that send customers to us for recoveries they are not able to complete themselves. We have a couple options for referral programs, so please contact me if you are interested in referring recovery clients!

If you have a drive you need the data recovered from, please contact me or request a quote and I will answer any questions you have.


Data Recovery Projects

WD MyBook WD40EFRX 4TB Drive Recovered With Multiple Issues

A local customer came to us with a 4TB MyBook that had been mailed to another data recovery company which had reportedly quoted $1500 for the recovery. The customer declined that fee and had it returned so they could bring it into us for a second opinion.

Initial inspection showed that the PCB had burned chips visible which I hoped would be the only issue. The drive had been opened by the previous company so I opened it to check what it looked like inside. Unfortunately the heads were physically damaged so they would need to be replaced before a recovery attempt to be completed.

PCB of WD MyBook WD40EFRX 4TB Drive Recovered With Multiple Issues

Once the donor parts arrived I completed a head swap and also swapped the PCB to get access to the data on the platters. There was SED encryption which added another layer of difficulty to this one, but I was able to get through all of that and recovered 100% of the data on the drive!

The total cost for our client was about half what he was quoted by the other company, so he was very pleased with the results.

If you would like to work with me in recovering the data off your drive, please just contact us to start! I am happy to help you through the recovery process.

Data Recovery Projects

Hitachi HTS725050A9A362 500GB Hard Drive With A Bad Head

A computer shop in Salina referred this drive to us. It was spinning up but not accessible with their recovery equipment. After a quick diagnosis I found that 1 of the 4 heads inside the drive was not working properly. In this case it was head 2 that was not functioning, leaving the drive unrecoverable by software based methods.

PCB Of Hitachi HTS725050A9A362 500GB Hard Drive With Bad Head

The bad head was not damaging the platter, so I continued with getting the data back from the other 3 good heads. When this imaging process was done I had gotten back 75% of the sectors on the drive (3/4 heads worth). I contacted the customer asking if they wanted to stop with 75% of the data for our base fee, or if they wanted to continue with a head swap to get as much data as possible from the rest of the drive.

In this case the customer decided to go with a head swap recovery so I ordered the donor parts needed and waited for their arrival. Once the recovery parts arrived I continued with the head swap which went really well. I had already imaged 75% of the drive, so I was able to just focus on imaging the final 25%.

This head swap recovery was a success with 94% of all sectors being successfully imaged. The customer was pleased to have their important data back, safe and sound.

If you would like my help with recovering your drive, please contact me for a data recovery quote and I will get back to you right away.

Data Recovery Projects

Stuck Heads On A Seagate ST3500413AS 500GB Drive

This drive came to us as a referral from a local computer shop here in Hutch. It was making a buzzing sound when power was applied and was not recognized at all by any computer they had tried it on.

PCB of Seagate ST3500413AS

Opening the drive in my clean room environment revealed that the heads were stuck on the platter and the drive was not able to spin. The next step was to “unstick” the heads from the platter and inspect for head damage.

You can find a lot of videos on YouTube showing people using various methods for unsticking the heads on their hard drives. Please be very, very, very careful in considering the do it yourself method on these drives. I would say about 30-50% of the time someone who is very careful and has good hand eye coordination (and a steady hand) can use one of the methods described and get away with it.

The proper method is to only open the drive in a clean room environment, then use a tool that is specifically designed for lifting heads off the platter surface (there are different sizes of the tools for different drives). The next step is to use a microscope to see if the heads have any damage on them before attempting to power on the drive. If there is damage on the heads they will need to be swapped out before continuing. Powering up a drive with head damage can cause scratching on the platters making the data unrecoverable by anyone.

I am not a fan of scaring people into using professional service, but this is one of those cases where a lot of people will have success and tell others to use the do it yourself method and end up ruining their chances of a full recovery. If your data is replaceable, or not super important, trying to unstick the heads on your drive yourself might be a good idea. But if you really need the data or if it is not replaceable (like photos), just wait and find a reputable recovery company that has the correct tools to complete the job safely.

Seagate ST3500413AS

In this case I was able unstick the heads with the proper tools, checked the heads under a microscope and found they were all still intact with no issues. The drive started right up and I was able to image 100% of the data with only a few passes with the imager.

Seagate ST3500413AS Parked

This client was pleased to have their data safely back.

Data Recovery Projects

Sliders Missing On Western Digital WD10TMVV Model Drive

This was an unusual case. During the initial inspection of the Western Digital drive there was some platter damage visible on the top platter, and the head stack was not parking on the ramp as it should. This client needed the data recovered from the drive so I found a suitable donor and waited for it to arrive.

During the process of removing the old head stack, I realized that the sliders were missing completely! They ended up being stuck on the bottom of the cover except for one that was on the edge of the middle platter. After removing the sliders and completing the head swap I was able to access the platters and start recovering the data.

Western Digital WD10TMVV Slider

This model drive has 6 heads on the head stack, so I started the imaging process by turning off the head in charge of the platter with media damage and just went for the data on the other platters. After a few tweaks to the imaging settings I got everything I could from the lower platters and moved onto the top platter. Running a gentle first pass is important when dealing with platter damage, so it took a few passes with changes to the imaging settings to get back all that was possible.

Because of the media damage I wasn’t able to get more than 75% of the data, but 75% was recovered which is a great outcome when media damage is present!

If you would like me to work on your drive, please request a quote to start the process.

Data Recovery Projects

Another Baby Pictures Recovery – Accidentally Formatted

Baby Photos Recovered From Accidentally Deleted Drive

Accidentally Formatted Drive

One of the more common recoveries we get called about are accidentally formatted drives. It seems the most common of these accidental formats are husbands accidentally formatting a drive that contains family photos (particularly baby photos). Unfortunately it is easier to do than it should be to accidentally delete data, but we can usually help!

Not all deleted file recovery programs are equal

A common misconception in the data recovery industry is that all recovery programs are similar enough that they will provide almost the same results. Sometimes that is the case, but often times we are able to get back files that other repair shops are not able to because we have invested $1000’s into software for these exact situations.

In this case the drive went to another repair shop before us. That repair shop ran their usual recovery software and were not able to find the photos the client needed to recovery. This shop has referred other deleted file cases to us when they were not successful and we have had good success, so they recommended us on this one as well!

A successful photo recovery

The key to this recovery ended up being a program we use called UFS Explorer. At $700, it is a pricey piece of software… but it made the difference between losing and recovering years of priceless family photos.

I don’t recommend spending the $700 for this piece of software unless you run a data recovery company. The software is just one (albeit big) part of deleted file recovery, but knowledge in how to handle the drives and data during the process is very important. And there are times when UFS explorer will not recover the data but another program will. Our recovery service is reasonably priced for the amount of knowledge and tools we have access to.

Accidentally deleted or formatted a drive?

If you have accidentally deleted data or formatted a drive with important information on it, please contact me and I will guide you through getting it to us for recovery. We offer data recovery nationwide with a mail-in service!

Data Recovery Projects

Toshiba DT01ACA100 From Business Server

Business Server Crash

As a business owner I understand how important it is to have your server up and running properly. From internal wiki’s to customer databases to inventory control, your business requires the data on the server more and more these days. Your entire business can grind to a halt when a drive fails, causing a loss of important revenue as well as a lot of stress.

This drive came from a client that owned a business where their server went down and they were told by a local computer repair shop that the drive was the issue. The computer repair shop was not able to recover the data and recommended us to attempt a data recovery as backups were not available for some of the data.

Recovering the data from the server

The server drive was a Toshiba 1TB DT01ACA100 model from 2017. The first step was to inspect the drive for any heads issues or platter damage. The heads looked good and were reading properly so it was on to the next steps!

All the drives that have internal parts testing good get certain functions turned off before imaging begins. For instance, there is a function of the drive to list what sectors are bad on the drive so they are not used in the future. If there are many bad sectors this can cause issues during the imaging, so this feature is turned off for the imaging process.

Setting Drive Recovery Parameters

During the first imaging pass I noted there were some areas of the drive that had many sectors that were not reading as quickly as they should. Setting the imager to skip these areas allowed imaging of the rest of the “easily accessible” data quickly without stressing the drive.

Once all the easily accessible sectors were imaged (about 90% of the sectors), I set the parameters for the second pass to try a little harder (but only once) on the remaining sectors. This allowed me to get 9% more for a total of 99% of the sectors.

The final pass I set to multiple retries of every missed sector with a long read time. This will stress the drive but with only .1% left to recover it is important to get every sector possible at this stage.

The final tally was 99.999% of the drive recovered! The client was able to get all the server files they needed and got their server back up and running with the recovered server data.

I enjoy working on drives for other business owners as I understand first hand how important that data is.

If you need help getting the data from your server and would like a quote, please visit our quote page to fill out the form and I will get back to you ASAP.