The client in this hard drive recovery case study had been using a Dell Inspiron laptop to help them run their small business. One day, upon booting up their computer, they encountered a boot error. Running Dell’s ePSA diagnostic tool, they saw the Dell error code 2000-0141. This error code told them that the computer could not detect the presence of a hard drive. Of course, the hard drive was still there—it wasn’t like somebody had opened his machine and plucked it out—but something was wrong with the drive.
The client removed the drive and hooked it up to another computer. But they could not mount the drive to gain access to its data. They brought the failed Seagate hard drive to Gillware to retrieve their critical Quickbooks files and other business documents.
Hard Drive Recovery Case Study: Dell Error Code 0141
Drive Model: Seagate Laptop Thin HDD ST500LM021
Drive Capacity: 500 GB
Operating System: Windows
Situation: Hard drive inside Dell Inspiron laptop showed error code 0141, hard drive would not mount; data inaccessible
Type of Data Recovered: Quickbooks files and other user documents
Binary Read: 46.3%
Gillware Data Recovery Case Rating: 9
An evaluation of the failed drive in our hard drive recovery cleanroom showed that the drive’s read/write heads had failed. The read/write heads, as their name implies, allows the user to read from and write to the hard drive’s data storage platters. When they fail, the drive becomes inaccessible. Failed read/write heads can also damage the drive’s platters. If this damage occurs in just the right (or wrong) places, some important data can become irretrievable. To salvage the client’s data, our data recovery experts had to replace its heads.
However, there was more to this case than failed heads. As a result of this hard drive’s read/write heads failure, the drive had suffered firmware corruption. Hard drive firmware is the most important bit of data on any hard drive. Whenever you power on a hard drive, the first thing the read/write heads search for is the firmware zone. Until the drive successfully reads the firmware, it cannot read any of the rest of the data on the drive.
The firmware is the “operating system” of the hard drive. Your computer’s operating system allows it to properly use your computer’s hardware to run the programs you’ve installed. And likewise, your hard drive’s firmware allows it to properly use the drive’s hardware to access the data you’ve put on it. Among other things, hard drive firmware monitors your hard drive’s performance and keeps track of its defects to make sure your drive continues to run smoothly. Like a computer O/S, if the hard drive firmware encounters a severe enough problem, it can crash and become corrupted. But while it’s not too difficult to repair or reinstall a corrupted operating system, repairing hard drive firmware is much tougher.
Hard drive firmware is one of those things the user just isn’t meant to know (or care much) about. It works in the background, flying under the user’s radar. Hard drive manufacturers don’t want people meddling with their drives’ firmware. Accessing the hard drive firmware is impossible outside of the manufacturer’s factory floor or without special tools.
Hard drive firmware is designed to be very robust, since it cannot be so easily accessed and fixed if something goes wrong. But the firmware can become corrupted—especially when the same read/write heads that read and write data to the firmware zone are failing!
After our engineers had replaced the drive’s mangled read/write heads, our experts could access and repair the failed Seagate hard drive’s firmware. To access hard drive firmware, our engineers must use special tools to connect to the hard drive and “trick” it into behaving as if it is on the factory floor and ready to be programmed. From here, a highly skilled data recovery expert with keen knowledge of how hard drive firmware works must carefully examine the firmware to find and repair the corrupted areas. Until the firmware is back in working order, nobody can read any more of the data on the platters.
After repairing the corrupted firmware and regaining access to the drive, our engineers successfully salvaged the vast majority of the client’s critical data. After reading 46.3% of the sectors on the hard drive’s platters, our engineers had read 99.8% of the drive’s file definitions and fully recovered 96.6% of the client’s files. Due to some damage on the platters, our engineers couldn’t fully recover all of the client’s data. However, a spot test of their critical files showed that we had completely recovered all of their most important files, with no corruption affecting the recovered files. We rated this data recovery case a 9 on our ten-point case rating scale.