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Broadly speaking a hard disk can fail in four ways that will lead to a potential loss of data:

  • Firmware Corruption / Damage to the firmware zone
  • Electronic Failure
  • Mechanical Failure
  • Logical Corruption

Combinations of these four types of failure are also possible. Whether the data on the hard disk is recoverable or not depends on exactly what has happened to the disk and how bad the damage is. Please note that over time, all hard disks will develop bad sectors which can lead to data loss and drive inaccessibility.

Firmware Corruption / Damage to the firmware zone

Explanation: Hard disk firmware is the software code that controls, and is embedded in, the physical hard drive hardware. If the firmware of a hard disk becomes corrupted or unreadable the computer is often unable to correctly interact with the hard disk. Frequently the data on the disk is fully recoverable once the drive has been repaired and reprogrammed.

  • The hard disk will spin up when powered on, but be incorrectly recognised / not recognised at all by the computer
  • The hard disk will spin up & be recognised correctly by the computer but the system will then hang during the boot process

Electronic Failure

Explanation: Electronic failure usually relates to problems on the controller board of the actual hard disk. The computer may suffer a power spike or electrical surge that knocks out the controller board on the hard disk making it undetectable to the BIOS.

Although electronic failures can happen to any type of hard disk, we find that Quantum Fireball drives are particularly susceptible to power spikes and quite often it's possible to see visible electrical burn damage around one of the chips on the controller board. Usually, the data on the hard disk has not suffered any damage and a 100% data recovery is possible.

Mechanical Failure

Mechanical hard disk failures are those which develop on components internal to the hard disk itself. Often as soon as an internal component goes faulty the data on the hard disk will become inaccessible.

Recovering data from hard drives with mechanical failure requires the drive to be worked on in a clean room as the drive has to be taken apart and investigated in lab conditions. TECHLOGIC have a fully equipped Class 100 clean room which we use to recover drives with mechanical problems.

Do not be tempted to open a hard disk if you suspect a mechanical fault: there is nothing you will be able to do and you will contaminate the internal clean air environment. There is also a good chance that during this process you will destroy any chance that we have of successfully recovering the data.

Logical Errors

Often the easiest and the most difficult problems to deal with, logical errors can range from simple things such as an invalid entry in a file allocation table to truly horrific problems such as the corruption and loss of the file system on a severely fragmented drive.

Logical errors are different to the electrical and mechanical problems above as there is usually nothing 'physically' wrong with the disk, just the information on it.

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