By the Numbers: A Breakdown of Gillware’s Data Recovery Case Work


We’re all about the numbers. Gillware evaluates thousands of failed storage devices for data recovery each year. From hard drives to SSDs, tiny micro SD cards to large multi-drive RAID arrays, we see it all. But exactly how many of each type of device do we see? What are the most common device failures we see? What device brands do we see more often than others?

Over the course of a few weeks, our evaluating engineers kept track of this information and more for nearly 300 data recovery cases that came to the lab. We broke down their findings to learn more about the kinds of cases we see.

Customer Type Number of Cases Percentage of Total
Consumer 217 73.06%
Small/Medium Business 43 14.48%
Enterprise/Corporate 25 8.42%
University/Educational 10 3.37%
Non-Profit/Government 2 0.67%
Total: 297

This is about what we expected for the breakdown of types of customers we see. A large portion of our business is data recovery for everyday users looking to recover photos, documents and more from their failed devices. Speaking of devices…

Device Type Number of Cases Percentage of Total
Hard Drive 260 88.14%
Flash Drive 10 3.39%
RAID 10 3.39%
SD Card 7 2.37%
SSD 6 2.03%
Memory Stick 2 0.68%
Phone 0 0.00%
Total: 295

Again, these numbers were right in line with our expectations as well. These numbers likely line up with how common these devices are in everyday use. As anticipated, a vast majority of our cases are recoveries for traditional hard drives.

System Type Number of Cases Percentage of Total
Windows 256 87.67%
Macintosh 28 9.59%
Linux 6 2.05%
HyperV 1 0.34%
exFAT 1 0.34%
VMWare 0 0.00%
Total: 292

Another result as anticipated, the most common file system or operating system type we see is Windows, or devices used with Windows machines. This is another breakdown that lines up with market share and user base.

Failure Type Number of Cases Percentage of Total
Mechanical 145 48.66%
Firmware 63 21.14%
Magnetic Media Degradation 46 15.44%
Electrical 38 12.75%
User Error 21 7.05%
Cracked 6 2.01%
Logical 3 1.01%
Healthy 2 0.67%
Virus 2 0.67%
Corruption 1 0.34%
Counterfeit 1 0.34%
File Damage 1 0.34%
Total: 298

This was one of the most interesting results, in our opinion. Note that the percentages will not add up to 100% because it’s possible for a device to be suffering from more than one failure type. After mechanical failures, we weren’t sure what would come up next. The distribution included a number of failures we hadn’t considered, including counterfeit hardware and cases opened by other labs which complicates recovery.

Device Brand Number of Cases Percentage of Total
Seagate 97 32.66%
Western Digital 90 30.30%
Hitachi 40 13.47%
Samsung 23 7.74%
Toshiba 22 7.41%
Sandisk 9 3.03%
Unknown/Generic 3 1.01%
Kingston 3 1.01%
Maxtor 2 0.67%
SK Hynix 1 0.34%
Lite On 1 0.34%
Fujitsu 1 0.34%
PNY 1 0.34%
Sony 1 0.34%
Counterfeit 1 0.34%
OCZ 1 0.34%
Lexar 1 0.34%
Intel 0 0.00%
Total: 297

This final category was about in line with what we expected as well, but it is also one of the most interesting to compare to size of market share for each brand. Let’s consider just the top three standard hard drive brands based on market share: Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba.

During the sample collection window, we saw 209 cases with devices made by these three manufacturers. We saw 97 Seagate devices, or 46.41% of top three HDD brand cases. We saw 90 Western Digital devices, or about 43.06% of cases, and 22 Toshiba devices, or about 10.53% of cases.

On market share alone, Western Digital holds the highest share at 43.17% of the market, which is right in line with the share of cases we see (43.06%). Seagate holds the next highest market share at 39.88%. However, the percentage of Seagate cases we see, 46.41%, is disproportionately higher than the 39.88% market share they hold. Finally, Toshiba holds 16.95% of the market and represents a smaller chunk of our cases (10.53%).

Take these numbers with a grain of salt. As we always say, all hard drives will eventually fail, so don’t depend on a certain brand being more reliable than another. Always use redundancy and keep an offsite backup of your critical data.

If you’re more of a visual person, you can view the information from our survey in infographic form by clicking the button below:

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