Five top things to know when something goes wrong with your data storage device:
#1 If you accidentally drop your hard drive or laptop, the first instinct is to power it on and make sure it still works. Please think twice before you do - often, during a physical impact, a mechanical hard drive sustains substantial damage, and any attempt to power it on may worsen the situation.
An important internal part of the drive is the read/write heads, or, as we call them, the HSA – Head Stack Assembly.
The Heads are responsible for reading and writing the data to the platters of the drive. While the drive works, the heads hover about the platters, and when the drive stops, the heads are programmed to return to a "safe" place – we call it "Parking the heads." If the drive sustains a physical impact while working, the heads may accidentally touch the platter, and scratch it. Those types of damages are the most severe ones, and often result in lesser files recovered.
If the drive is being powered off by pulling the plug, contrary to having it orderly turned off, the heads may not get the chance to return to their parking place and will end up damaging the platter.
All those issues will result in damaged and clicking drive, which should never be powered on or opened by the owner. If you still decide to give it a run, please make sure to monitor the drive closely if you hear screeching or clicking noise - power it off at once. Those noises probably mean that an internal part of the drive was damaged, and a professional assessment and intervention are necessary. Never open the drive by yourself. It is hermetically sealed, and unless done in a sterile environment will contaminate the surface with dust particles.
#2 If your digital companion is exposed to liquids – turn it off immediately. Electricity + moist surface is a recipe for disaster, and can probably short-circuit your device. The proper behaviour would be to remove all the removable parts (battery, case, etc...) dry out the device as much as possible and seek immediate professional help. A professional will fully disassemble the device, perform a thorough cleaning and will power on the device in a safe environment while making sure that everything runs smoothly.
Sticking your device in rice or any other dehydrating solution won't do much in the long run – And this is why: Rice may be an excellent moisture absorber, but the corrosion of sensitive electrical components isn't initiated by the actual liquid, but rather by the chemicals and microorganisms contained within it. Using a moisture absorbent often brings the user a false sense of security. While the liquid is gone, and there is no risk to short-circuit the device upon turning it on, it does not eliminate the risk of corrosion. And so, very often, we see clients with devices failed a week or a month after the actual damage. By then, the corrosion within is so extensive that advanced and expensive recovery methods are required to recover the data successfully.
#3 If you accidentally delete essential files – keep calm! There is a way to recover them, and the rates of successful recovery are very high. To further increase the chances of doing so, do not use your device until a professional gets the opportunity to examine it. Deleted files are often fully recoverable until they are overwritten by other information. To prevent overwriting from happening, please avoid using the device altogether – If it's a laptop or desktop – turn it off. If it's an external drive – to not connect it.
A prevailing situation we often encounter happens after a user tries to recover his deleted files using various free tools available on the internet. Often enough, those attempts only worsen the situation, and here is why: Most of those DIY tools start with installing themselves on the same drive where the deletion occurred (which overwrites the vulnerable deleted data). Then they will proceed with scanning and extracting an enormous amount of junk files, again, on to the same drive.
Imagine that you are investigating a crime scene and see some footprints potentially belong to a criminal. Using DIY tools would be equivalent to stepping onto the same footprints and by doing that, destroying crucial evidence.
By keeping your device powered off and avoid using it, you increase the chances of successful recovery.
#4 If your laptop or desktop stopped booting – it does not necessarily mean that you need a data recovery service. Often other issues prevent your device from booting correctly, such as OS issues or problems with peripheral hardware. If that happens, and you know how to remove your hard drive from your computer, you could try plugging it into an external USB enclosure. Sometimes, assuming that the drive is healthy, you will be able to see your data.
#5 Laptops, desktops and mobile phones are not the only devices that contain important information! There is an ample amount of data to be found in other devices, such as drones, smartwatches, tablets, PlayStation or Xbox, android or apple tv boxes, GPS devices. Personal information, credit card numbers, location data, messages, communications and more, could contain a considerable amount of data.
Data recovery companies are often hired to assist with criminal or civil litigation cases, situations in which there is a debate as per the authenticity of the information and more. We are often required to perform digital forensics tasks, in which we are hired to uncover hidden artifacts (items of interest) or required to determine whether a specific device was in use during a specified period.
As an example, we were recently asked to present our findings in a civil dispute, where emails from five years in the past were required to determine the level of engagement in a significant patent case. We were able to successfully recover crucial evidence, which was used by our client in the ongoing litigation process.
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