The single most crucial moment in the recovery of data from any device is that small frame of time between the initial panic of data loss and the decision of what to do next. During those precious first moments is when most data recovery efforts are destroyed due to intervention from someone who has virtually no clue of RAID 5 data recovery. It would seem to be a logical and prudent move to contact the technical support group for a particular RAID 5 interface device. However, it has been this technicians experience that in order to safeguard your data it is best to shut down the RAID, look for a professional data recovery specialist. Try to find someone in your area, or ask someone you personally know who can recommend a reputable and experienced data recovery specialist. I offer the following scenario to illustrate my point.
I was contacted by a business owner late one evening who told me that he had lost his RAID 5 and that his entire life and his entire business was on this RAID and he would be out of business if he did not get the data off of his device. I asked him some questions about the circumstances of failure and most importantly, what he had done to recover the data. He said, thankfully, that it had just happened, he was local and wanted to bring the RAID to us right away. In essence, he had done nothing. I then gave him the quote of $3000.00 for the recovery. Now, up to this point, he told me he had only lost his RAID 5 configuration and had done nothing else. He was not too pleased with the price and said he needed to clear this with the powers that be. Fine, I did not hear from this business owner for a week.
Now, fast forward to a week later. I get another call from this client stating that he would like to bring the RAID 5 in. Once again I asked him if he had done anything to recover the data. The answer this time was different than our last conversation. He had called Adaptec Technical Support and they had forced the drives online and through some type of meta-data wizardry restored the configuration. When the client brought the RAID up the file system was corrupt and the operating system, which by the way was Windows, suggested running Chkdsk. The client promptly agreed and they were off to the races. What ensued next was for Chkdsk to run through the entire file system and virtually destroy any Master File Table mappings, and those files that were kept intact were dropped to zero size. In other words, his entire data set had been destroyed. It was clear to me what had happened.
The RAID not only lost its configuration, but one of the drives had been out of the array for an extended period of time. We call this a stale drive. When Adaptec forced all the drives online this included the stale drive and this in effect corrupted the RAID 5 stripe and in turn corrupted the file system which is why Chkdsk wanted to run. This client had a ‘VHD’ file on this RAID which housed all of his data that he needed back. That file was now zero sized and unrecoverable since that is what Chkdsk does, it resolves file system issues, it does not resolve data recovery issues. Adaptec Technical Supports job is to get your RAID back online, not to recover your data. Both Chkdsk, and Adaptec did their jobs correctly. They are not data recovery companies but because someone wanted to save the $3000.00 they lost all of their data, which now will cost him tens of thousands of dollars to replace.
This story is all too common and impacts business owners on a daily basis.
Before trying DIY RAID 5 data recovery methods you might want to measure how hard and how expensive it would it be to replace all of your data if you lost it.
That is assuming that your data is still recoverable. It is always best to have a professional data recovery specialist work on your system as they have not only the experience, but a vested interest in making sure you get your data.