“Thanks for the hard work in recovering some extremely important files from the three computers which were damaged in an office fire, subsquently drenched in putting it out. Didn’t know about keeping the disks wet, an invaluable bit of advice. Thanks again for everything.”
Alan Waterfield, Portsmouth
Three wet and visibly fire damaged HP desktop midi tower computers arrived at our laboratory in Oxford from Portsmouth sealed in large plastic bags as per our advice. Each computer contained a single 2TB Western Digital hard disk drives, all showing signs of heat damage and there subseqent drenching with water. The controller boards on each of the three drives showed signs of the heat with the plastic connectors warped. On one of the drives the connectors had melted, fusing the cables together, having suffered more heat than the others. Our hardware data recovery specialists dismantled each drive, in order to thoroughly clean all components to removed all contaminants and water which could affect the operation of the drive.
When a hard disk has suffered an influx of water, such as following a fire or a flood, it is important that the drive is kept wet, perferably by sealing it in a plastic container. This is important, because if the drive is allowed to dry out, any contaminants present which adhere to the components. This is particulary dangerous if they stick to the platter surface, as they are difficult to remove, posing a risk to the read/write heads which fly jut above the recording surface. Even if they can be removed cleanly, they will have a corrosive effect which can damage the media surface, potentially causing the loss of data.
One of the three drives have suffered a read/write head failure, quite possibly as a result of being operational at the time of the fire. Using donor parts our hardware data recovery engineers were able to overcome the problems with each drive, allowing sector-by-sector copies of the drives to be taken. Approximately 10 thousand unreadable bad sectors were encountered when imaging the drive which had suffered the read/write head failure. The other drives were imaged without encountering any unreadable bad sectors were encountered although the data transfer speeds were variable, indicating some issues which the drive error correction was able to overcome.
The image of each drive was inspected revealing them to contain a single 2TB NTFS Windows volume. The volume from the damaged drive was found to contain approximately 690GB of recoverable, while the other two contained 830GB and 590GB of files. The recoverable data included the operating sytem and program files, along with mailbox, music and video files as well a large number of assorted office documents and photos. A scan of the files from the damaged image revealed that most of the unreadable bad sectors had affected system and program files, with only a couple of office documents damaged, older copies of which were found on the other drives, indicating the possible loss of some data.