Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Disaster Strikes: How Is Data Recovered From A Dead Hard Drive?

Disaster Strikes: How Is Data Recovered From A Dead Hard Drive?
My Tale Of Storage Trouble

I’ve had a four-drive NAS in my closet for years. One day, one of the four drives failed. Because I had the drives configured in RAID 5, the array continued to work just fine. I mistook the somewhat slower performance of degraded mode to be a consequence of approaching the array’s physical capacity. The enclosure never alerted me to a problem. So when a second drive failed, all of my data (family photos and videos, music collection, two decades of work, everything) was gone. Poof. Instantly. And, because of circumstances too embarrassing for a technology professional to relate, that NAS contained my only copy of all of that data. You could hear my screams from blocks away.

Misery loves company and, of course, I am far from alone. Back in 2011, Tom’s Hardware showed that hard drive failure within three years can range up to 20%. SSD rates are better, but go ask Linus Torvalds if that was any consolation for his dead workstation.

In a blind panic, I called the biggest name in disk disaster recovery, Seagate Recovery Services, and in the process stumbled into a fascinating photo story. What follows is not meant to be a commercial for Seagate. The company did not pay for this coverage. The Tom’s Hardware editors and I simply recognized that a lot of people need recovery help, and a glimpse behind the curtain at how those operations get done might be enlightening for consumers and business users alike. 

This page's image source: Wikipedia. Nearly all other artwork in this article is by Peter Panayiotou of Panayiotou Photography, Inc. (

See more See less
Display 47 Comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 3 Hide
    jamie_1318 , November 7, 2013 9:18 PM
    Wow, really neat article. I had understood most of the general practices but it was interesting to see the facilities at work.
  • 0 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , November 7, 2013 9:26 PM
    great article. considering i lost my decade worth of data 3 days back due to a WD HDD failure :( 
  • 0 Hide
    Da_Man , November 7, 2013 9:39 PM
    one of my 2tb drive suddenly detected as RAW in my windows 8.1 machine, Luckily i manage to fix it using TestDisk (free) to repair my ntfs partition, and all its fine. only couple file is broken.

    so always backup your drive :) 
  • 2 Hide
    ChiefScooter , November 7, 2013 10:51 PM
    I wonder if they can handle encrypted drives...
  • 5 Hide
    feidv , November 8, 2013 12:19 AM
    Thanks a lot great article!.. how much did your 28 man hour did cost you in the end?
  • 1 Hide
    Vorador2 , November 8, 2013 1:08 AM
    Good article. Most people only take backup seriously when it's too late.

    Makes me glad i do weekly backups at home.
  • 1 Hide
    Divyanshu Sah , November 8, 2013 4:30 AM
    Really helpful article. I appreciate it.
  • 2 Hide
    lilcinw , November 8, 2013 7:28 AM
    Wow... your NAS didn't inform you that a drive had failed? I hope that beast is in the trash.
  • 1 Hide
    clonazepam , November 8, 2013 7:58 AM
    In the future, can it just be assumed we all want to "see more"? Thanks =)
  • 1 Hide
    Quarkzquarkz , November 8, 2013 9:02 AM
    You people should always back up your data, and NEVER cloud data. Yes yes I know backing up data is tedious and takes precious time but you would never have to spend 3000-20k us dollars for recovery.

    And besides, in RAID 5 you still lose data? You must have been beyond lazy to not figure out your 1st drive failed before the whole RAID collapsed. Shame on you, and let this be a lesson to the rest of you lazy IT's, TRUST me~ =(
  • 0 Hide
    ram1009 , November 8, 2013 9:02 AM
    We all learn the backup lesson the hard way. It's in our DNA. Reading between the lines of this article it makes a strong case for SSDs. NO MOVING PARTS. I wish they had quoted some numbers on the average price to recover a single SSD vs a single HDD.
  • 0 Hide
    spookyman , November 8, 2013 10:14 AM
    You never know when you might need to recover valuable data for your company.
  • 0 Hide
    jecastej , November 8, 2013 11:02 AM
    I do have critical data in 3 different drives, one is isolated and only gets connected for BUs, but I lost a year of information during back ups 2 times, years ago. This year however I am very close to add a second 2 tb to BU my 2 tb drive that is about 3 years old.
  • 0 Hide
    lp231 , November 8, 2013 12:14 PM
    Glad you got your data back and cool article
  • 0 Hide
    Dagstar , November 8, 2013 5:22 PM
    Definitely an interesting read. I wonder what's been the weirdest, most embarassing, etc. data they've come across and recovered...
  • 5 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , November 8, 2013 6:34 PM
    How do you click the images to view it in hi res? Everytime I click the image it either navigates forward or back on the slideshow. I'm using Google Chrome, if that makes a difference.
  • 0 Hide
    Roger Rogers , November 9, 2013 2:15 AM
    Lost Terrabytes of treasured data?
    Been there; done that. almost got arrested and had my life turned upside down. Frustration can be heard three blocks away. :) 
    Thats putting it mildly.
    SSD is the way forward; with RAID clone.
  • 1 Hide
    uz-spark , November 9, 2013 7:31 AM
    "Especially if you click on this image to view its higher-resolution version"

    Uh ... oh ... toms trolling me ?
  • 1 Hide
    boliveira , November 9, 2013 7:45 AM
    That's a great article! Thanks for sharing such detailed information, and congratulations for an happy ending.
  • 0 Hide
    adamdbz , November 9, 2013 10:28 AM
    William How much did you pay?
    And is srs usa only?
Display more comments