This week I would like to talk about proper handling and shipping for hard drives. The unknown often works against people because they really need/want their data recovered but they compound the problem because they just don’t understand how delicate a conventional hard disk drive is. Once you realize the close tolerance the device works at and the construction of the platters, then you realize the importance of good packing and handling. We recommend at least 2″ of padding on all sides and never put multiple hard drives together and then wrap them. Each HDD needs to be individually wrapped on ALL sides.
Modern hard drives work at unimaginable tolerances between the heads and platter surface. Although the platters are made of aluminum or glass, the coatings on the platter are not very durable. Any time the part of the head assembly that floats above the platter (slider) touches the surface, you risk damage and permanent loss of some data. Sometimes jolts or drops can kill the read/write heads. In the worst cases it will bend the head assembly parts that suspend the slider and heads (gimbal) and any further movement can be catastrophic. There is a common case where the sliders will stick to the platter after a drop or jolt. Most data recovery labs can recover these cases without much trouble and sometimes still use the original head assembly for recovery. Unfortunately, tips on the internet can be very misleading and end in disaster. Some of the worst cases we receive are those that have been opened by the data owner or a computer shop. A quick search on the internet for “stiction” and you’ll find DIY tips for recovering your data. VIEWER BEWARE! You could lose your data permanently by following those guides.
Sadly, there are still a number of I.T. professionals that think the need for a HEPA filtered environment is a myth perpetuated by the data recovery industry to increase business. This is so far from the truth and not supported by any science. Science and facts are on the side of the data recovery pros. There are a tremendous amount of particles in the air that can cause damage to the HDD surface. A fingerprint can actually kill the read/write heads. A human hair will cause catastrophic damage. Consider the following sizes in microns (one millionth of a meter).
- 0.04µm = Modern hard drive head flying height.
- 4.0µm = Fingerprint
- 10.0µm = Dust particle
- 50.0µm – 75.0µm = Human hair
Considering these close tolerances there is no reason for anyone to open a hard drive outside of a controlled environment that guarantees 99.99% removal of .3 micron and larger particulates and contaminants. There is no justification for opening a HDD outside of a clean environment, it puts the data at risk.
Some things we have heard when talking to computer shop owners is “my office is a clean environment” or “I only opened it for a minute”. If you have read and comprehend the previous information then we should never hear those two statements repeated again 🙂