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Why You Should Never, Ever Rely on DIY Data Recovery

Why You Should Never, Ever Rely on DIY Data Recovery | TeraDrive

We’ve all been there. Your dishwasher isn’t running, your car’s rattling when you try to start it, or you’ve got a leaky tap in the washroom. You take one look at it and think to yourself, “I bet I can fix that.”

For many of us, we have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew when it comes to DIY repairs, especially when they’re not in our area of expertise. Whether it’s car parts strewn across the driveway or a sink faucet in a million pieces, no one likes the feeling of realizing you weren’t prepared for the task. 

But still, there’s a reason so many opt for a DIY repair over calling an expert. If successful, it leaves you with that fuzzy satisfaction that you fixed something on your own. However, unlike other repairs, where a failed DIY attempt can usually be salvaged by begrudgingly calling the professionals, you run a serious risk of permanent loss when it comes to DIY data recovery. Here are TeraDrive’s seven top explanations an at-home data recovery attempt can go wrong:

1. Plugging in a failed hard drive

If your external hard drive, chock-full of important photos or crucial business data, has failed, your first instinct is probably to plug it into a computer right away to see if you can get any data from it. You might want to see if it works with a different computer, or simply give recovery another shot without having to call someone. However, plugging a failed hard disk drive into a computer can cause damage to the platter, making further data recovery more difficult. 

If a drive starts clicking and making other sounds, there is a chance that the read/write heads are touching and scratching the platter. In this case, any further attempts to power on the drive will cause additional damage to the platters, even up to the level where the drive is no longer recoverable. Also, if an electrical problem occurs, any additional connection attempts will damage the drive. Never power on the drive if one of those symptoms exists.

2. Overwriting important files with CHKDSK scans

For those more familiar with Windows, you might do a CHKDSK scan when you suspect your drive has failed. CHKDSK is a great tool for checking your drive and fixing disk errors. However, if used with a corrupted hard drive, the files that CHKDSK writes to the drive can actually overwrite important data, deleting the contents you were trying to recover. It could also cause additional strain to the read/write heads, and if they were not in perfect condition before, they could fail.

3. Turning it off and on again

Unfortunately, in the case of drive failure, the golden rule of IT does not apply. Turning your computer off is a great idea! But you shouldn’t turn it on until you’ve had your hard drive looked at by a professional.

Even if you’re not using your computer, it will idly perform read and write operations on your disk during normal background operations. With a failed drive that’s still physically functioning, this poses a huge risk of data being accidentally overwritten or deleted. As soon as you know your hard drive has failed, we recommend powering down your drive to avoid accidental overwrite.

4. Damage to file structures with at-home recovery software

Recovery software may sound like a good idea at first, especially if you yourself have deleted important data by mistake. However, when used improperly and without the needed know-how, it can make recovery after the fact impossible. 

5. Performing data recovery using the affected system

This is a mistake some users make when attempting recovery with software at home. If the failed hard drive is connected, even the simple act of Googling your recovery software, downloading it, and running the scan can be enough to do more harm than good to your failed drive. We don’t recommend this at all.

6. Opening the drive at home

There are a few guides floating around the Internet showing you what to do if your hard drive has experienced a physical failure. However, you should never, ever open your hard drive’s outer case at home. No matter how simple a fix that clicking sound seems, we promise it’s not worth it. 

Step one – power off the drive/computer. Every attempt to power it back on, will cause additional damage to the drive. They should call TeraDrive right away, and we will guide them through the initial process of getting the drive quickly and safely to our lab.

At TeraDrive, we only open hard drives in our clean room, which is held to an extremely high standard in order to safely work on exposed drive disks. Why? Even the tiniest dust particle, or most miniscule scratch or dent can be enough to irreversibly wipe out data. 

If your drive is making an unusual buzz or clicking noise, and you suspect a physical failure, we recommend powering off the drive/computer and then calling our experts straightaway. We will guide you through the initial process of getting your drive quickly and safely to our lab.

7. Loss of data during RAID recovery

RAID 5, a system using three or more connected hard drives for data stability and storage capacity, has the advantage of continuing to function even after a single drive in the array has failed. However, you need to be careful when it comes to recovery on multi-drive RAID systems. If you reboot the array, it might want to establish parity with the corrupted data on a failed drive, overwriting important information on the functioning drives.

All of these reasons apply, but the number one reason we generally advise against DIY data recovery attempts is simple: most people do not possess enough knowledge or experience to attempt it. The Internet is full of YouTube videos that show one how to do it, and most or all of them are complete nonsense. There is also plenty of DIY software available, with very limited capabilities, and often it causes more damage than it helps. There is no room for mistakes in data recovery, and if you overwrite your data or scratch your platters due to an amateur attempt, nothing will help to bring it back.

Besides a more comprehensive diagnosis and a higher chance of recovery, working with a professional recovery team gives you the peace of mind that you’re protected from another issue. Whether you’re dealing with a single hard drive full of personal data, or a full-scale RAID system with countless important business files, you should be treating data recovery seriously.

Many things can be replaced, but data that’s truly lost can’t be. The next time you’re experiencing data loss, don’t take the risk – call TeraDrive.

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