How is level 2 hard drive recovery done?

Posted on 2006-05-31
Last Modified: 2008-03-17
How is level 2 hard drive recovery done?  I know alot of times the logic board is replaced or the platters are transferred in a clean room, but what if they can't find an identical hard drive?  Is there a tool that can just read raw platters?   If this said tool or machine exists, where do you buy one?  If I wanted to start a professional hard drive recovery service what would I need (besides a clean room)?

Question by:hunterdnance
    LVL 70

    Accepted Solution

    There are several things that are done by the professional services:

    (a)  Replace the firmware on the logic board with firmware that allows much lower level control of the read/write process -- not normally desired as it disables all error correction, S.M.A.R.T. remapping, etc..   You can buy this firmware -- it's typically about $500 for each drive model.   It allows manipulating the parameter tables;  disabling all error detection;  and other techniques that may allow all or most of the data on a drive to be read where the "normal" firmware would have rejected it due to detected errors or mis-aligned data streams.

    (b)  The logic board is, as you noted, replaced with an identical model => which will resolve almost any logic-related issue.

    (c)  The heads are replaced (in a cleanroom environment).

    (d)  The spindle motor is replaced (in a cleanroom environment).

    (e)  The base casting is replaced => essentially moving the platters to another drive of the same model (again in a cleanroom environment).

    Basically, all of the above are just a "parts replacement" strategy -- but this has to be done VERY carefully, and the "cleaner" the cleanroom, the better the chance of recovery.

    There is no "magic" tool to simply mount platters in and use for recovery.   If parts for a specific drive cannot be found; mounting the platters in a similar drive (i.e. one that uses the same fundamental recording technique) MAY be successful with modified firmware and "tweaking" the parameter tables.

    ... there's a reason professional data recovery is expensive :-)

    LVL 70

    Expert Comment

    By the way, building a cleanroom is no small task !!

    You need a minimum of a Class 100 clean room (max 100 0.5 micro particles per cubic foot; 70 degree F, 45% relative humidity) to safely work on a hard drive.   This is a VERY clean room => you could not possibly achieve this with a vacuum cleaner; air filter; or any combination thereof in a normal room.

    And even this is not nearly clean enough for some functions -- Intel's fabs, for example, use Class 10 cleanrooms (10 particles per cubic foot); and the stackers in the fabs (the machines that move the actual silicon chips) are maintained at Class 1 (!!).   I had a tour of a fab a few years ago; and was told the air in the observation area (a hallway where you could look into the cleanroom) was "about Class 100,000".   And THAT is still a very clean area.   A typical room is MUCH, MUCH worse!!

    Author Comment

    Thanks for the info, that quick read was more informative than the last 3 days on the internet.  
    LVL 70

    Expert Comment

    You're most welcome -- it's instructive to actually see one of the Intel facilities (no wonder they cost over a billion dollars to build).

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