An extremely important, but rarely mentioned part of a hard disk is the System Area (SA) which contains vital information required for the normal operation of the drive. Any damage to the System Area can cause problems, ranging from small levels of erratic behaviour to the drive being totally inaccessible.
If the System Area on a hard drive becomes damaged, the drive must be sent for professional data recovery, in order for the data to be accessed. Making attempts to recover the data yourself may, depending upon the problem, make the situation worse, which could result in a total loss of data.
System Area Information
The importance of the System Area becomes apparent by examining the data stored in it, which includes the system logs, smart data, drive serial and model numbers, the defect lists, firmware, test routines, recalibration code, translation data, security information and other important information essential for the correct operation of the drive.
The corruption of even a single part of the data within the System Area may cause the drive to malfunction. Depending upon the exact nature of the corruption, it may be possible that the drive will still, function behave in an erratic manner, or it may total fail operate at all.
Important Information About the System Area
In most drives, there is at least two copies of the System Area, which is usually located on different platters, in most cases at the extreme out edge. This method of storing one or more backups of the System Area, should allow the drive to overcome corruption of the primary copy, which allows the disk to continue operating correctly.
There is no unified or standardised format used for storing the System Area information, which can be completely different for between drives in the same family. Often, even a difference in the firmware version for a particular make, model and capacity of drive will lead to the System Area data being different. This can cause problems in sourcing the correct donor drive when the firmware or other System Area information has been damaged, causing the drive not to function correctly.
System Area Damage and Data Recovery
In the event of System Area damage, the drive will require professional data recovery to gain access to the data. The recovery process requires another drive of the same model, capacity and firmware to be sourced as a donor.
The process requires complex electronic work to complete the hardware modifications essential to allow the drive to be made operational again. This work should only be undertaken by a qualified data recovery hardware specialist, in order to ensure the drive is not damaged further.