Hard Drive Data Recovery from Physical Damage

Hard Drive Data Recovery from Physical Damage

October 21, 2019

Common cause of Physical Damage on Hard Drive.

a. Physical/Contact Damage

This is the most common physical damage that causes data losses to occurs at the head assembly level, this is the part where the hard drive read and write mechanism is located. This part is the most crucial section of the hard drive because it’s not only the fastest moving part of the hard drive, but also the part where it reads the data from the disk platter. In older hard drives, physical damage from the spindle was common, but is seen less now because of how far hard drive technology has advanced. 

Unfortunately, this head assembly is the most delicate mechanism in the hard drive. The head’s slider will hovers over the disk platter where it will read and write continuously on the disk platter. Whenever the drive experience impact due to direct hit or dropped on a hard surface, etc., it can cause damage to the head assemble and the disk platter. When this happens, it might cause scratch or damage to the hard drive head assembly which will affects the access to the data.

b. Short circuit hard drive

Hard disk drives are also in danger as a result of power surges. It can cause hard drives to suffer from electronic failures due to sudden spikes in the mains voltage which can be transferred to the magnetic media on the platters through the hard drive's printed circuit board (PCB) and subsequently to the heads, causing magnetic damage (also known as media corruption). Hard drives are not able to sustain more voltage than they were made to, if there’s a power surge, there’s a high possibility that the internal electronics will fry. 


Hard drive data recovery from a drive physically damaged by a power surge can be incredibly difficult and time-consuming, this is because it can render the PCB board unusable, the chips need to be replaced to get it powered up again. This is a complicated process that can involve advanced electronic soldering work.

short-circuit board


c. Water damage

Another common type of damage is due to water or moisture around the hard drive. Hard drive have a breathing hole that comes with a filter which is required to prevent dust or small particles from entering the internal part where the disk platter is located. If the hard drive is exposed to water spill or moisture for a very long duration, the water vapor can penetrate the filter and cause some internal damage to the circuit board which might lead to short circuit as well. Most hard drive is not fully sealed by design. To prevent this from happening, always make sure the hard drive is located away from water source and areas with high moisture.



d. Fire Damage

Another physical damage happened to hard drive is due to fire damage. While a short exposure to temperatures of 100° may not cause any major damage towards hard drive, however a longer exposure at 200° will most likely create some corruption to the data. Exposure at 300° or higher can actually de-solder the electronic connections, and since hard drive and disk platter, they can warp.

A further issue with fire damage that is often overlooked is that firefighters will use water to put the fire out, which not only causes water damage to the drive but also the extreme temperature change can cause further warping of the drive, extending the damage to the hard drive.



Is this the end of the Hard Drive?

Will the data still be recoverable from any of these types of damage? Fortunately yes, though you’ll need the help of an expert who knows how to get the data back instead of risking further (and perhaps irreparable) damage.

There are many factors that can influence whether a recovery is possible or not. For example, a recovery will depend on how big or bad the damage is. Sometimes the electronic parts themselves might be damaged, but once the electronics are fixed, the drive itself may still be in a good enough condition to allow a recovery. The duration of the exposure (to fire or water) can also be a critical factor. In the cases of fire damage, 60% of the cases are recoverable, showing only smoke damage which, with the right tools and expertise, the data can still be recovered if there's no significant damage towards the disk platter.

In the case of laptops and desktops, they tend to be more protected from external damage as with the casing means it will be able to take longer for external agents to actually reach the internal drive, thus giving data a better chance for survival.

What is considered a normal hard disk behavior?

All running drives should be fairly silent. Any unusual noises including clicking, hissing and scratching are a sure sign that the drive is damaged. You should stop using it immediately to prevent any further damage that might cause data loss in the hard drive.

It is not the end for your hard drive...

It is not the end for your hard drive yet, with our data recovery services there's still a chance for you to recover those important data. Though it is inevitable that a failure may occur, we believe hard drive in the market currently is reliable and durable. Give your data another chance and contact us to get the free assessment on your drive situation.

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