Steve Flannery

Steve Flannery

3 Problematic Scenarios Requiring Hard Drive Data Recovery

Hard drive data recovery is something we don’t bother with until the need for it hits you so hard. Many of us might have come across a situation in which our computer is not booting up anymore, and we had an important school or work-related documents.

Some of us perhaps spilled water on our laptops, rendering them unusable along with our only copies of our vacation pictures.

In both of the above situations and many others, we might begin to despair and think our data is gone forever. Still, worry not because here at Steve’s PC Repair, we offer Data Recovery Services.

Scenarios That Require Hard Drive Data Recovery

Data loss will generally occur in three different flavors.

  • The hard drive will have an operating system (OS) failure
  • The actual hardware that makes up a hard drive has failed,
  • Files getting deleted accidentally by the user. 

The difficulty, and therefore the price and success rate of the data recovery process, vary significantly between the three scenarios explained above.

Hard Drive Suffering From an OS Failure

Starting with the first scenario, we have what we call a hard drive that has suffered from an OS failure. In other words, the files that dictate how the operating system boots or functions have become corrupted or unreadable. In cases like this, the computer will often attempt to self diagnose and repair the problem on its own.

If successful, the computer will boot into your OS as usual, but frequently it will stay in what is called a Self Repair loop. Unable to find or fix the boot files, the computer will never repair itself.

Reinstalling the OS is the simplest solution, but the hard drive would be formatted, and we would lose all our important files, generally something most of us wish to avoid.

Thankfully, data recovery in this scenario has excellent success rates accompanied by decent turnaround times. Since the problem lies in the OS boot files, what we can do is bypass the OS altogether. Instead, use a live environment to read our hard drive much the same way that our computers would read a USB stick.

In this scenario, it is only our OS that has become damaged. Therefore files such as pictures, documents, and videos are easily recoverable for the most part. It should be noted. However, that installed software such as games or applications cannot be recovered in this manner (a recurring theme throughout the length of this article). 

Hard Drive Failure Leading To Data Loss

You are moving on to the second type of data loss type; we have an actual hardware failure of the hard drive. Hard drives themselves come in different types. And the kind that most people are familiar with (and the type that you will most often find inside Desktops and Laptops) is the Hard Disk Drive (HDD).

Close-up of a few open HDDs on white background without covers Information storage Data recovery service concept

HDD – Hard Disk Drive

This type of hard drive is much like a record player: the record disc or storage medium is a metal plate in the HDD. Magnetic heads replace the needle that reads the grooves in the record in HDDs that can alter the magnetic fields in the plate. Finally, the amplifier inside the record player is replaced by an HDD controller, which translates the slider’s data into something our computers can understand.

Armed with the knowledge of the construction of a hard drive, we can now understand why hardware failure occurs. Just like a record player spins the record disc to play music, the hard disk also spins the metal plate to read the 0’s and 1’s written in it. Except, instead of turning a record at 33 rpm or maybe 45 rpm, we are spinning the metal plates at 5400 or 7200 rpm.

Spinning at such speeds causes wear and tear to the hard drive components as well as generating heat due to friction. You might recognize hardware failure in a hard drive in the form of clicking noise coming from inside the laptop. Perhaps you have encountered the dreaded “NO BOOT DEVICE FOUND” message that pops up almost as soon as you turn on your computer. 

Who Do You Turn To?

In either case, the technicians at Steve’s PC Repair have encountered this problem before. They can provide data recovery services for these problems as well. Due to the nature of the problem, however, the process of recovering data is much more involved.

Therefore the prices are higher, and the success rates are lower than in the first scenario of OS failure. The processes that we employ to recover data in cases such as these are far more complicated and time-consuming, but a general overview will be provided.

HDD problems you might encounter.

If the hard drive is not turning on whatsoever, we could be dealing with a dead hard drive controller; replacing it with a compatible one could solve the problem.

If there is a clicking noise coming from inside the hard drive, we can expect that the arms that hold the head sliders have gone out of alignment and are hitting the edges of the case.

In this case, replacing the whole enclosure or reinstalling the hard drive software could solve the issue. These methods for data recovery essentially boil down to fixing the hardware. To make it more likely for the computer to be able to read the hard drive once more and typically for the last time.

These methods of data recovery are usually performed as a way to copy the data onto a new drive or external storage device. Not necessarily to have the hard drive working again like new for years to come.

Some of our readers might be thinking at this time, but what about solid-state hard drives (SSDs)?

Can those suffer from hardware failure as well, and can data recovery still be possible?

The short answer is yes.

They can have hardware failures, and yes, data can still be recovered, but the same stipulations apply. Difficult to fix and lower successful data recovery rates.

If you’re curious about these SSDs, then swing by our website in the coming weeks; we might release an article describing their construction and applications.

Deleting Accidentally Your Own Files

This brings us to our last scenario and probably the one that each of us swears would never happen to us. And yet, it is one that we see time and time again at Steve’s PC Repair – accidental deletion of data. 

Emptying Your Recycle Bin

Typically when we delete a document or picture, it goes into our computer’s Recycle Bin. If we later find out that we do indeed need that document again, we can open up the recycling bin and restore that file, and no harm is done.

However, sometimes, we may periodically clean out the Recycling Bin to make space in our hard drive. Sometimes we use the Shift+Del shortcut to avoid the Recycle bin altogether and delete the file permanently.

If we ever perform either of the above, the file is gone forever. Not precisely, data recovery can still be achieved, but it might be a little confusing as to why. I will go on a little tangent here to explain how computers write, read, and “delete” data, and it will make a bit more sense.

How Hard Drives Store Information

You can think of a hard drive as an incredibly huge excel document. Each cell of the document can fit a file (this is significantly simplified, but will do for our purposes). When we ask our computer to create a document or save a picture from the internet or create a music file, they are each stored in their cell.

When the computer saves a file on the hard drive, it also saves where it was saved (pretty much like a street address and number) inside a file allocation table.

When we request the computer to open a document or picture, the machine will look up in the allocation table. It gets the corresponding address and then directs the hard drive to read up whatever is stored in the address.

The Mechanics Of Deleting Files

Finally, let’s talk about deleting files, and this might answer your question on why I placed the word delete inside quotation marks in the previous paragraph.

When we request a computer to delete a file permanently (or when we empty our recycle bin), the machine is not deleting the data itself. Instead, it is removing the file’s address in the allocation table.

What this means is that the file itself is still present, but now the computer does not know where it is anymore. In other words, the computer now thinks that the address is free to place information into.

I’ll go on a second short tangent here to talk about formatting. Whenever we think of formatting, we think about wiping a hard drive completely clean. But instead, what is happening is that the computer is deleting that hard drive’s file allocation completely.

For the computer, all of the addresses are available to be filled with new information (in reality, we are merely writing over new data). Of course, there is such a thing as a true format, in which case the computer will write all 0’s or all 1’s on the hard drive, truly deleting all data on it.

Let us go back to the topic of data recovery of accidentally deleted files. So now that we know that a computer is not deleting data, but rather its knowledge of where the files are located in theory, we could still pull that data.

But, if the computer does not know where it is, what chance do we have of knowing where to look? Well, this is what makes this type of data recovery difficult. Mainly, we use highly specialized software and many hours’ worth of time to try and find any scrap data that resembles a complete file.

Hmm, these three cells resemble an avi video format, or perhaps these seven cells look like a powerpoint presentation?.

For this type of data, recovery time is of the essence. Remember how a computer writes files to a single cell? A computer will only write a file on empty cells. When we permanently delete a file, the computer removes the address of where the file was, which means that it now thinks that the cell is empty.

As far as the computer knows, the cell is empty, but that does not mean that it will use that cell for the next file that it is asked to save or create.

When you create or save more files, it will overwrite the cell that previously held the data we are trying to recover.

Stop Using Your Computer

What all of this boils down to is that if you accidentally permanently delete a huge folder filled with hundreds of wedding photos, the best course of action is to stop using the computer. The more you use it, the more likely it is that the computer will eventually fill those slots hence truly making the photos irrecoverable forever.

If you ever come across your hard drive making strange noises, trouble booting now and then, or perhaps you have files disappearing slowly. You could have a failing hard drive on your hands.

Conclusion

If you ever come across such situations, then we highly advise that you back up any data that you can’t afford to lose since it could mean your hard drive is about to give out.

Bring your device to our shop the minute you experience any of the scenarios mentioned above.

We have now come to the end of the road for this article. Hopefully, you have gained a little knowledge of the different types of data loss. Plus, the different types of Data Recovery that we can perform here at Steve’s PC Repair Shop.

I also wrote an article about Professional Data Recovery Services and 4 Reasons Why You Need It.

Subscribe to our mailing list so you can enjoy our next releases; maybe we will expand on hard drives and their different types or perhaps a completely different topic? Is there any one topic or subject, in particular, you would like to know more about? Let us know. Until next time, have a good day!

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