In this data recovery case, the client’s PC failed to boot up. The computer told the client upon powering up their computer that the boot device could not be found. The boot device is usually the hard drive itself. It can also be a CD or USB flash drive containing the material needed to install, reinstall, or repair an operating system. In HP personal desktop computers and laptops, when the motherboard is unable to find a device to boot from, it spits out an error code. Among the commonly seen HP boot error codes is the Hard Disk 3F0 error code.


Hard Disk 3F0 Error Data Recovery Case Study: Western Digital Detects Wrong Capacity
Drive Model: WD5000AAKX-60U6AA
Drive Capacity: 500 GB
Manufacture Date: 17 Jan 2013
Main Symptom: Hard Disk 3F0 Error Code, Hard drive shows up as 0 KB when plugged in
Type of Data Recovered: Documents
Binary Read: 22.7%
Gillware Data Recovery Case Rating: 9


A common HP error code is the Hard Disk 3F0 error code
A typical boot error on an HP personal computer. “Boot Device Not Found. Please install an operating system on your hard disk.” (source)

Hard Disk 3F0 Error

The client had their hard drive removed and took it to a local PC repair technician to diagnose the Hard Disk 3F0 error. The technician plugged the hard drive in and attempted to copy the user’s data off of it. The 500 gigabyte Western Digital hard drive appeared on the technician’s data recovery machine, but not as a 500 gigabyte hard drive. Rather, the machine detected the client’s hard drive as having a capacity of zero kilobytes.

How does a hard drive suddenly go from having hundreds of gigabytes of storage space to having none? To answer that question, we must first understand how the hard drive identifies itself in the first place. Hard drive firmware contains all sorts of personal information about your hard drive. When the drive’s read/write heads are having trouble reading this information and another machine asks the hard drive to identify itself and give out its capacity, the drive will either give out a wildly incorrect capacity or simply say that it has zero capacity.

When our engineers plug a hard drive into one of our data recovery machines and salvage the data, we constantly monitor the hard drive. It is important to make sure the drive is properly conveying its model number, serial number, and capacity. A hard drive may begin to run poorly and eventually stop detecting correctly while imaging. This can be a symptom of a firmware bug reasserting itself, or mechanically-compromised internal components beginning to fail.

Read/Write Heads Repair

Our hard drive data recovery engineer Kirk inspected this Western Digital hard drive in our cleanroom to determine why it was showing up with zero capacity. Upon inspecting the drive’s internal components, he found that the read/write heads on the drive had become severely mangled. Fortunately, there hadn’t been any visible damage done to the platters containing the client’s critical files.

We informed the client about how their hard drive had failed and what kind of labor would go into the file recovery procedure. The client approved the price quote and gave Kirk the go-ahead to swap the drive’s read/write head out with a compatible donor pair. Lo and behold, the client’s hard drive no longer detected with the wrong capacity.

Kirk had handled the delicate procedure of replacing the severely mangled read/write heads in the client’s Western Digital WD5000AAKX hard drive. From that point on, this Hard Disk 3F0 data recovery case was smooth sailing for our engineers. A few thousand bad sectors prevented a handful of files from being completely recovered, but our engineers were able to fully recover 98.6% of the client’s files. This case was rated a high 9 on our ten-point scale.

Research has shown that hard drives have an average lifespan of about four years, but it is only an average. Just like people, many hard drives last longer, and many hard drives die sooner. This client’s hard drive lasted only about three and a half years before it shed its mortal coil. You can never predict how long your hard drive will last or when it will fail. Make sure your data is safely backed up. That way, you’ll be prepared for the day when your hard drive goes from hero to zero (capacity).