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Top 10 Worst DIY Tricks SMBs + Tech Users Take To Recover Data From Damaged Computers, Hard Drives And Mobile Devices


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by Jeff Pederson, Kroll Ontrack

When starting a new business, it is wise to develop a response plan in the event that you lose your company’s data. Functioning a business without critical data not only delays operations, but can stall potential revenue. With no established IT department readily at hand, small businesses will attempt to recover their own data.

Here are the top 10 worst DIY data recovery hacks you could ever try on a computer, hard drive or mobile device:

1. A common DIY Fail.

When a hard drive fails, it is an initial reaction to run CHKDSK, a system tool in DOS, OS/2 and Windows, that verifies the file system integrity of a volume and fixes logical file system errors. CHKDSK destroys data that would have otherwise been recoverable.

2. Common RAID 5 Error.

When a drive fails in RAID 5, it will continue to function in a degraded mode. Most people are unaware of this because they do not monitor the array, but when a second rive fails, the array fails, which leads to inaccessible data.

To bring the RAID online again, individuals will pull the drives out, reset them and reboot. At this point, the original degraded drive may power on and become functional. The RAID controller will notice the data on the degraded drive is not in sync with the data on the other drives, so it rebuilds parity with the invalid data from the degraded drive. This can overwrite days, weeks, months or even years of data.

3. Forever Encrypted.

Certain external drives are encrypted and the encryption key resides on a chip inside the external casing. When these drives fail, users will throw away the casing and then try the drive in a different one. When drives like this are sent in for a recovery, they cannot be unencrypted.

4. Software Fail.

Attempts are often made to recover data from a hard drive with physical damage / read errors using data recovery software. Some users will load the software onto the damaged drive. This results in further damage to the drive and the data. In addition, there is a potential that the data can be overwritten.

5. Sticky Rice.

Due to a popular internet remedy, people will put wet cell phones in rice in order to dry them out. Phones are then sent in for recovery, covered in rice and rice residue.

6. Technology Guru.

Most people have a friend or relative that is thought of as an “expert” in technology, but when a data recovery is needed, this technology guru will attempt to open the drive in a non-cleanroom environment and dust will fall on the drive. Then trying to clean the dust, fingerprints are left behind, causing additional data loss.

7. Open Me.

People will often try to open hard drives and miss the screw(s) hidden underneath the labels. Prying the top open with a screwdriver causes scratching, divots and in some cases, breaking of the platters.

8. Freezer Recovery.

Another DIY internet myth, proven to be ineffective. People will often put their drives in the freezer to try to run the still-frozen hard drive. While the drive is in the freezer, the water will condense and freeze to the platters of the drive, causing the frozen hard drive to crash.

9. Old Tricks.

Years ago, a person could swap out a circuit board on a drive to fix it. However, today, without the original drive, it will never function. Data cannot be recovered from a drive if the original drive is not present.

10. Something is Missing.

An internet tip states that if you remove the platters from one drive and move them to another, then you can recover the data from the platters. Individuals will then send the platters in for data recovery instead of the entire drive, resulting in a confusing situation without knowledge of the hard drive model. Without this vital information, the data is unrecoverable.

There are ways to avoid these top 10 DIY methods. Instead of damaging your media further, I would advise you to stop what you are doing, keep calm and make notes, check for backups, notify a specialist and package your device properly.


Jeff Pederson

Jeff Pederson utilizes his strong data recovery engineering background to manage the remote data recovery operations and Minnesota lab team for Kroll Ontrack (www.krollontrack.com). Specializing in data recovery, email extraction, ediscovery, data destruction and tape services, Kroll Ontrack is the leading provider of data solutions for both enterprise and user levels. Follow Kroll Ontrack on Twitter: @KrollOntrack.