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Burned, Dropped, Drowned: HDD Recovery In Pictures

Burned, Dropped, Drowned: HDD Recovery In Pictures
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Mud-Caked Drives Yield Water, Dirt, And Data

On June 12, 2008, Cedar Rapids School District Print Shop was given four short hours to prepare for the impending flood of water heading in their direction. With the deadline looming, shop supervisor Robin Rieke was instructed to “put anything of value on top of furniture that was at least three feet off the floor and evacuate everyone from the building.” For extra safety, she placed all the shop’s computers on surfaces five feet and above.

Surely you can already guess what happens next.

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  • -6 Hide
    dragonfang18 , May 11, 2009 6:24 AM
    I bet the adult film industry has this in the plans for back up... :p 
  • 0 Hide
    Ciuy , May 11, 2009 7:40 AM
    nice ...
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , May 11, 2009 8:21 AM
    Have to question why in this day and age anybody with any critical data doesn't go for an automatic remote backup system.

    I run a small it business and we offer a remote backup system which is ten replicated again so the data is moved to a third location. The third location is 150 miles from our area of operations (so a larger area disasters like floding means we won't take out more than 2 data locations).

    That said I have used recovery experts in the past and they are near magicans. The clean room stuff is amazing. Still I guess disk technology has improved since the days of 8" winchesters...

    Nice article - thanks
  • 4 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , May 11, 2009 8:57 AM
    I kinda agree with babbage.
    We're a company with storage in 4 different towns and a center on the top of a hill. The two towns futhest apart are about 80km from each other. In the two big locations data is backed up locally and then the backup medium are locked in a firesafe box. Wouldn't prevent damage from being submerged for a longer duration, but in almost all other cases would prevent loss of data. In the two smallest locations we've opted for backup via internet. And I think that's actually reasonably cheap. The company providing this service to us has huge datacenters in two cities that are a big bit apart (for our standards), and it's relatively cheap. You pay for the amount of data you backup - and it's using ibm's tivoli system, so it'll keep working till the end of the internet. IMO any smaller company would appreaciate this kind of backup. It doesn't cost much, and not only your current data, but also the 5 most recent revisions are stored (changable by the customer). All in all it's a brilliant solution for companies that don't want to spend huge amounts on inhouse backup and maintainance thereof.
  • -2 Hide
    jimmysmitty , May 11, 2009 9:50 AM
    BabbageHave to question why in this day and age anybody with any critical data doesn't go for an automatic remote backup system.I run a small it business and we offer a remote backup system which is ten replicated again so the data is moved to a third location. The third location is 150 miles from our area of operations (so a larger area disasters like floding means we won't take out more than 2 data locations).That said I have used recovery experts in the past and they are near magicans. The clean room stuff is amazing. Still I guess disk technology has improved since the days of 8" winchesters... Nice article - thanks


    The clean rooms are normally used for dust sensative technologies like CPUs, GPUs and the such.

    The first clean room I ever saw was a tour of Intels Chandler FAB. Quite amazing to see a room where no dust can get in.
  • 4 Hide
    mrubermonkey , May 11, 2009 10:04 AM
    Have all critical data in HDDs in hot swap bays and four hours is plenty of time to pull them all out.
  • 1 Hide
    shreeharsha , May 11, 2009 10:37 AM
    Very informative article. Thanks.
  • 2 Hide
    reasonablevoice , May 11, 2009 11:21 AM
    Not cheap is right, their cheapest data recovery services start at around $1000.
    I've got to comment, even though my shop partners with DriveSavers, this whole thing kind of seemed like an ad for driver savers. It makes me wonder if Tom's accepted any money for this article. Can the author please comment?
    Besides that, they are a good company, but 90% of cases can be solved by either a PCB swap or using something like GetDataBack for much cheaper.
  • 2 Hide
    antonydbond , May 11, 2009 11:52 AM
    You can see how much care and attention that has gone into the process, now I understand the price tag on such a service. Such a delicate process with a lot of steps.

  • 1 Hide
    antonydbond , May 11, 2009 11:54 AM
    neiroatopelccI kinda agree with babbage. We're a company with storage in 4 different towns and a center on the top of a hill. The two towns futhest apart are about 80km from each other. In the two big locations data is backed up locally and then the backup medium are locked in a firesafe box. Wouldn't prevent damage from being submerged for a longer duration, but in almost all other cases would prevent loss of data. In the two smallest locations we've opted for backup via internet. And I think that's actually reasonably cheap. The company providing this service to us has huge datacenters in two cities that are a big bit apart (for our standards), and it's relatively cheap. You pay for the amount of data you backup - and it's using ibm's tivoli system, so it'll keep working till the end of the internet. IMO any smaller company would appreaciate this kind of backup. It doesn't cost much, and not only your current data, but also the 5 most recent revisions are stored (changable by the customer). All in all it's a brilliant solution for companies that don't want to spend huge amounts on inhouse backup and maintainance thereof.



    Maybe at the time they did not have enough time, effort or money for a backup system. It is extremely recommended but you will always get people who won't or cannot do it. Very good point though
  • 2 Hide
    tpi2007 , May 11, 2009 12:19 PM
    I wonder what will happen to this and other companies' business model when in a few years SSD's start becoming the norm.

    Which brings another question and article suggestion: how do you do recovery of a water submerged SSD ? Sure, there are no platters, so the only thing to care might be rust on the pcb's, contacts, etc. Is it so ? Or is there more to it ?

    Some people who are considering buying SSD's for certain tasks might like to know if such companies already do this kind of stuff. I visited DriveSavers and they don't refer to it explicitly. They do recover from usb flash drives or memory cards. So they should be able, right ? Or not right ?
  • 1 Hide
    bin1127 , May 11, 2009 12:25 PM
    pretty cool process indeed. so much delicate work goes into data recovery. good article.
  • 0 Hide
    antonydbond , May 11, 2009 12:28 PM
    tpi2007I wonder what will happen to this and other companies' business model when in a few years SSD's start becoming the norm.Which brings another question and article suggestion: how do you do recovery of a water submerged SSD ? Sure, there are no platters, so the only thing to care might be rust on the pcb's, contacts, etc. Is it so ? Or is there more to it ?Some people who are considering buying SSD's for certain tasks might like to know if such companies already do this kind of stuff. I visited DriveSavers and they don't refer to it explicitly. They do recover from usb flash drives or memory cards. So they should be able, right ? Or not right ?


    It will be a harder process I would imagine but they will find a procedure but it will take more time and will most probably be harder.
  • 0 Hide
    Dreamion , May 11, 2009 12:35 PM
    Didn't know these kind of companies even existed, looks sci-fi to me ^^
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 11, 2009 1:54 PM
    I realize DriverSavers is most likely a reputable place and probably provided exclusive access for this story but I feel like I just read one big brochure or advertisement. Why not include cost or would that just ruin the hype? I'm disappointed on this one, TH.
  • -2 Hide
    rags_20 , May 11, 2009 2:58 PM
    No offense, but don't you think the articles on Toms are getting more and more uninteresting?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 11, 2009 3:47 PM
    I remember a plug on Toms for Data Savers, but I am glad an article was made with pictures and such. I'm not sure why, but data recovery excites me! I once got a txt from a friend that was having hard drive issues, told them to do chkdsk, but to no avail. I told her to bring the drive to me (consequently it was her boyfriend that messed up the drive, running two two antivirus programs at the same time while downloading torrents and looking at.. inappropriate webpages). She had just downloaded pictures off her camera (she was commissioned to take wedding photos and deleted the pictures off the memory card), so if she lost those pictures she would have lost her job. Thankfully, it was only corruption on the drive, and I was able to restore all 400+ pictures save two, and also all the music/etc on her drive using recovery software (if it had been hardware failure, I couldn't have done it). All I got was a 'thanks'. When I told her if she had brought it to Best Buy she would be out $300, she was a little more grateful :p 
  • 0 Hide
    cadder , May 11, 2009 4:21 PM
    Back in the days when drives were so incredibly expensive it was worthwhile to buy failed drives and repair them. I've had a couple repaired by different companies, sometimes involving cleanroom repairs.

    As for data recovery, if you don't have backups then you pay the price. I couldn't believe that the print shop didn't take the computers elsewhere. If you have time to put them on top of tall furniture then you have time to put them in the trunk of your car and take them elsewhere. Or at least bag them in heavy plastic bags.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 11, 2009 4:35 PM
    BabbageHave to question why in this day and age anybody with any critical data doesn't go for an automatic remote backup system.I run a small it business and we offer a remote backup system which is ten replicated again so the data is moved to a third location. The third location is 150 miles from our area of operations (so a larger area disasters like floding means we won't take out more than 2 data locations).That said I have used recovery experts in the past and they are near magicans. The clean room stuff is amazing. Still I guess disk technology has improved since the days of 8" winchesters... Nice article - thanks

    Because not every company is prone to sending their valuable data over internet, or even connecting their network to the internet, left open for hackers, trojans or virusses.
    Staying offline with company sensitive data is the securest!
    Also, if you get to know 2 hours in advance to start backing up a 20-100 computer company over a network, you probably can imagine that would be too late.

    But I do agree, they should have backed everything up on a local server using daily or weekly incremental backups (take less space and time to backup)so in case of a flood they could back up, and take the server with them, and get out of there.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , May 11, 2009 4:57 PM
    reasonablevoiceNot cheap is right, their cheapest data recovery services start at around $1000. I've got to comment, even though my shop partners with DriveSavers, this whole thing kind of seemed like an ad for driver savers. It makes me wonder if Tom's accepted any money for this article. Can the author please comment?Besides that, they are a good company, but 90% of cases can be solved by either a PCB swap or using something like GetDataBack for much cheaper.


    Nope, in fact, I asked to help with the story myself. I'd never seen what went on in a drive recovery and used their people/facilities as the "example."
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