This post might be helpful if you are thinking about starting your own hard disk drive data recovery lab, but the primary reason for writing it is to let our customers see why the business is different than computer repair and support. We also get questions about the the cost of recovery, even with our affordable rates, so we hope this answers some of those questions too. Training and experience plays a big role in successful data recovery but many cases will either completely fail, fail to return the most data, or cost you more time and money if you don’t have the right tools and software.
Let’s start with the industry standard for firmware repair and gaining access to the service area and the user data area.
The PC-3000 data recovery hardware/software is the pinnacle of the data recovery industry. This is our primary tool, it allows recovery technicians to manipulate the firmware that’s builtin to HDDs. Using vendor specific commands and features the technician can gain access to the hard drive at a level that is not possible using software alone. We also use the add-on software package known as Data Extractor. With the combination of PC3000 and Data Extractor almost any SATA/PATA drive is partially recoverable if there is not major media damage.
For logical recoveries we sometimes use R-Studio from R-Tools Technology. It’s a relatively inexpensive, but powerful software recovery tool.
Laminar Flow Workstation
You have probably heard it before and maybe even questioned the need for a clean environment to open a hard drive. Typically people that question the need for clean-bench operation when opening a hard drive just don’t know, what they don’t know. Think about it, if someone doesn’t understand the density that a modern HDD works at then can they really make a valid argument against the need for a clean air repair environment? Consider this:
- .0038μm Modern head flying height
- 4.00μm Fingerprint
- 10.00μm Dust Particle
- 75.00μm Human Hair
Don’t put your data at risk because you saw a video where someone opened their HDD in their home and claimed they recovered the data.
At Blizzard DR we use laminar flow workstations from Nuaire and Air Science.
Head stack removal tools
Sometimes the read/write heads become weak or damaged due to poor manufacturing and/or mishandling of a HDD. If a hard drive is dropped or knocked over it will often damage the heads. In these cases we need to open the HDD, inspect the condition, and then replace the head stack assembly. Once again, we are dealing with a delicate device that works at unimaginable tolerances. For this we often use specialized tools to increase the chances of success.
Our current inventory of heads stack tools come from a number of sources.
So how do you know if your flow bench is functioning properly? You can use a particle counter, but the high end devices are really expensive. That’s why I like the Dylos DC1100 Pro air quality monitor. It’s reasonably priced and keeps the guess-work out when waiting for your clean bench to be ready for work.
Hard Drive Workbench
Not a requirement but once you use it you won’t want to work without it. Basically it’s a stand for working on 2 hard drives, side-by-side. The HDD workbench also allows you access the bottom of the HDD in cases where there is a lower head screw. Stop fumbling with HSA replacement and get at least 1 of these.
Yes! You do need a good quality microscope for your data recovery lab. Inspecting hard drive heads for damage and contamination is sometimes vital when determining the next step for a successful recovery. You will also find that the microscope is useful for PCB repair on hard drives, USB flash disks, and memory cards.