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Data Loss – Logical vs Physical Data Recovery

Seagate Data RecoveryAs a data recovery company, the calls we receive are common situations in which a user has lost the ability to access their data. In most cases, the reason the user cannot access their data is because the hard drive or solid state drive has mechanically or physically failed.  Outside of RAID recovery, we typically categorize data loss in two ways:

Logical data loss: This would be data that is no longer accessible on a good working hard drive or SSD and is inaccessible due to deletion, partition corruption, partition deletion, format, reinstall, virus etc.  In short, the storage media is in fine working condition but the file system is damaged or the data housed by the file system is latent or corrupt.

Physical or mechanical data loss: The data is no longer accessible because the storage media such as a hard drive or SSD is no longer operational.  Hard drives may not be operational due to damage to the Printed Circuit Board (PCB), read/write head failure or head impact to the platters (head crash), Service Area (SA) corruption etc.

Many home users will turn to the web for guidance on their particular failure. Unfortunately, most users with a failing drive will post one of two things, rants about how bad the drives manufacturer is or success stories of how they were able to recover from a particular type of failure.  I will list a couple of crowd favorites, the top myth based on fact recoveries.

  • Freezing a hard drive: Will freezing a hard drive really work if my hard drive is clicking? Answer in 2015, not likely. 10 years ago the material used to make platters was more susceptible to swelling from heat than the material used today. Additionally, read/write heads can be affected by heat, placing the hard drive in the freezer before they impact a platter’s surface or the read/write heads completely failing may have a small chance of working in the perfect conditions but it is very unlikely.
  • I have a Seagate 7200.11 hard drive that is not working. I read these drives fail because of a firmware issue. My drive is clicking can you tell me how to flash the firmware? Seagate 7200.11 did have a problem with the original firmware that produced an overflow of defects from the firmware flaw that caused a phenomenon referred to as “Bricked” or a “Bricked hard drive”. The overflow of defects caused the PCB to no longer accept commands. The usual signs of a Bricked drive do not including clicking. Bricked drives usually sound like a drive would during normal operation but show a 0 LBA size or the device stays busy due to the inability to accept ATA commands.

We are also frequently asked what is the best hard drive or SSD to store data on so to prevent data loss.

There is no good answer to that question. All hard drives, SSDs or any type of standalone storage media will fail, often it is arbitrary and subjective to environmental conditions. However, hard drive manufacturers due have a specification referred to as Mean Time Before Failure. MTBF is a mathematical calculation performed by storage manufacturers to calculate the life expectancy of a hard drive. This is a hypothetical and cannot be guaranteed except by a warranty for replacement if offered by the manufacturer. The only way to ensure a better measure of safety for data is to have redundant copies of data. In regards to the quality of a hard drive, several factors come into play as far as seek speed, transfer rates, memory etc.  To provide any type of perspective for users we would have to look at hard drive aftermarket value where Western Digital hard drives holds a small margin of value over Seagate hard drives.

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One Response to “Data Loss – Logical vs Physical Data Recovery”

  1. Data990 May 21, 2015 2:24 pm #

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