When in a Hole Stop Digging

The old adage “when you’re in a hole stop digging” can be applied to problems involving IT equipment. It is often the case that when a problem occurs the efforts to fix the issue can be done without proper thought, which can lead to further panic decisions, making things worse.

Under stress, otherwise rational individuals can do the strangest things in an attempt to fix a problem, which can easy escalate to another bad decision, which could in the end lead to total loss of data. A clear head is required when deciding what action to take, which in some cases should be to immediately call for professional data recovery help.

Common Issues

A common problem which can occur is where the partition table information is deleted from the front of a hard disk drive, which renders any data in the volumes inaccessible. The clear rational thought is to have a data recovery done on the hard drive, but we have heard people say “I thought that if I reformatted the drive I might get access to my data again.” Depending upon the file system, the data loss can range from a few files to complete loss of data.

A similar issue has also been known to happen with a backup tape after an error has been encountered, where the user erroneously believes relabeling it will give them access to the data. These are often the result of operating system or backup dialog boxes, which prompt the user to reformat the media.

Tell the Truth

When a hard drive or RAID array arrives for recovery, it is helpful to know the sequence of events which led up to the failure. In some cases this could be vital information which will allow us to perform the correct procedures, which may in the long term be important to the existence of your company.

It is human nature that when we make a mistake, we do not want our boss to know about it, be it an operational error, a failure to carry out a task, or even a simple accident. Even if you want to avoid your boss knowing the circumstances of the failure, the sequence of events could be of the utmost importance to the outcome of the data recovery.

For instance, you knock a mug of coffee over your laptop, resulting in the hard drive getting wet. In such a situation it is critical that we have this knowledge before we start the data recovery process, so that we know the hard drive needs to be cleaned before any data can be read from it.

Stop and Think

Even trained IT professionals can make mistakes, so if you don’t have the knowledge and expertise it is almost certain that you will make the situation worse. It is therefore best to turn off the computer and stop and think about what the next step should be. Admitting your limitations is not a sign of weakness, as this may in the long term save your data from being destroyed by a bad decision.

If you call in an IT professional to help, which is often the case with RAID array systems, it is important that all the steps they undertake are properly documented, and any drives removed from the array correctly labelled. If they seem uncertain about what they’re doing, it’s probably best to call in data recovery specialists before any serious damage can be done.

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