Upgrading your computer always comes with some degree of risk. Hardware or software incompatibility issues can turn even a routine upgrade into a massive headache. When you upgrade your computer, as the client in this Seagate drive repair case did, and suddenly can’t boot from your hard drive, you may naturally accuse the upgrade you’ve just done of playing some role in its failure. However, in most cases of hard drive failure, it’s simply a coincidence. It’s safe to say that upgrading your BIOS will rarely cause your hard drive’s mechanical components to fail. But the question of why your hard drive has failed is not nearly as important as this question: What are you going to do next?
Seagate Drive Repair Case Study: Hard Drive Beeping
Drive Model: Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD ST500LM000
Drive Capacity: 500 GB
Operating System: Windows
Situation: Client updated the BIOS on Dell E6500 series laptop and afterward, the system would no longer boot. The client’s inaccessible hard drive would make intermittent beeping noises when plugged into any other computer via USB adapter.
Type of Data Recovered: Photos, Outlook PST files, and other documents
Binary Read: 99.9%
Gillware Data Recovery Case Rating: 9
Hard disk drives do not normally beep. The beeping you hear comes from the struggles of the drive’s mechanical components. When the delicate instruments within your hard disk drive start to fail, your hard drive can produce all manner of unusual noises. Beeping isn’t a noise you ever want to hear coming from a hard drive. But when you do, your hard drive is actually communicating with you quite clearly. When you hear a Seagate hard drive beeping, that drive is telling you exactly what is wrong with it.
Inside your hard drive, a spindle motor spins the hard disk platters inside at several thousand revolutions per minute. To read and write data to these disks, delicate read/write heads hover just a few nanometers away from the platter surfaces. If the heads crash onto the platters, they can clamp down on the platters and hold them in place. The beeping sound actually comes from the spindle motor as it tries in vain to spin the platters.
Trying to run a beeping hard drive can force the spindle motor to burn itself out, complicating an already-messy data recovery scenario. The chances that the crashed read/write heads would unstick themselves from the platter surfaces are slim to none. In cases of beeping hard drives, the read/write heads and platters usually sustain some degree of damage. The only way to deal with a beeping hard drive and salvage its data is to send the drive to a professional data recovery company.
Our engineers examined the client’s beeping Seagate hard drive in our class-100 cleanroom lab. As we usually see in these situations, the read/write heads had become mangled. The platters had also sustained some damage, spreading dust across their surfaces. To get this hard drive up and running and create a disk image of its contents, our engineers replaced the read/write heads with a compatible donor set and polished the platters clean with our special platter burnishing tools.
Usually, our engineers can use filesystem metadata to read data from only the used portions of a hard drive’s platters. By reading metadata such as the file definitions and bitmap, our engineers can focus only on the used area. This is extremely useful for our engineers (and helps our clients get their data back faster), especially when a hard drive has sustained heavy damage. But for this client, our engineers couldn’t rely on this technique.
Because the client’s hard drive had Bitlocker full-disk encryption, our engineers had no way to examine the data on the drive during the recovery and imaging process. In cases involving full-drive encryption, there’s no way to decrypt data on-the-fly while our engineers image the drives. And so it is extra important to get as much as possible, as here is no way for our engineers to distinguish between used and unused areas on the disk. After creating as complete of a disk image as possible, our technicians decrypt it and analyze the results.
If critical data is missing, our engineers must bring the drive back into the cleanroom and see if any further recovery is possible. Our engineers managed to successfully read 99.9% of the contents of this client’s hard disk platters. Now we just had to see if anything was missing.
After receiving the BitLocker decryption key from the client, our engineers could decrypt the disk image of their beeping Seagate hard drive. Upon decryption, our engineers found that they’d gotten all of the client’s most critical data. The client’s photos, email archives, and documents were all fully recovered and free of corruption. We rated this Seagate drive repair case study a 9 on our ten-point data recovery case rating scale.