Scratched Platter

Hard drive platter damage was once a data recovery engineer’s worst nightmare. But due to Gillware’s advances in scratched platter data recovery techniques, platter damage is not as insurmountable a barrier to data recovery as it once was. If you have a hard drive with scratched platters, our scratched platter data recovery technicians can help you.

Simply submit a case through our website and send your hard drive to our expert engineers. Scratched platter data recovery is fraught with danger–some data loss is irreversible, and a data recovery specialist may only have a short window of opportunity to recover the remaining data. However, Gillware has worked hard to develop the techniques and technologies that make us the best choice to make for scratched platter data recovery.

What Are Hard Drive Platters?

The platters are the disks in your hard disk drive. Modern hard drive platters are either 2.5 inches or 3.5 inches in diameter. They are like CDs or DVDs, but smaller and more complex. They also store their data quite differently.

CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray disks are optical data storage media. Little pits are arranged on the disks so that a laser can read the pits as “0”s and the gaps between them as “1”s. These “0”s and “1”s make up all the data on the disks.

Hard drive platters, on the other hand, are magnetic storage media. Their surfaces are completely flat and covered with a thin magnetic substrate. Which parts of the disks are “0”s and which are “1”s is determined by the magnetic field of incredibly tiny portions of the coating on the disks. Hard drive platters have billions of these regions per each surface of the platter, and hard drives have several platters inside them. Western Digital’s Ultrastar He8 hard drive, for example, has seven platters, each capable of holding 1.2 terabytes of data.

The tiny read/write heads inside your hard drive can pick up or alter the magnetic signals given off from the platters. To read data, an electrical signal produced by the platter’s magnetized surface travels through the heads. To write data, an electrical signal travels the other way and alters the magnetic field of that tiny sector of the platters. Some “0”s turn into “1”s. Some “1”s turn into “0”s. Some stay the same.

This sounds like a complicated process that your hard drive has to do millions of times every time you use it. And it is. Your hard drive just does it all very, very quickly. In modern hard drives, the platters are spinning at from 5,400 to as many as 15,000 revolutions per minute.

How Do Scratched Platters Impede Data Recovery Efforts?

The read/write heads inside your hard drive fly precariously close to the platters’ surfaces. If they make contact with the platters at any time, they can gouge out part of the thin coating that holds your data. This turns what once was a part of your family photos to dust. This dust can get embedded in other segments of the platters. The dust kicked up by a head-platter collision presents on its own a significant barrier to data recovery. That dust can’t be returned to its rightful place on the platters, which means the data on the damaged part of the platters is gone. Forever. But the damage done doesn’t stop there.

Read/write heads in your hard drive hover a few nanometers above a hard drive’s platters. This is such a small distance that from our perspective, they might as well be touching. In order for the heads to do their job properly, the platters have to be perfectly smooth. A slightly raised area on a platter’s surface—such as a little bit of dust—can be devastating. For the read/write head, it’s like a car crashing into a rock at 100 miles per hour. You can probably guess what happens next.

When a hard drive enters our cleanroom with damaged platters, it almost always needs its heads replaced. But if we can’t do anything about the dust and debris on its surface, what happens to the new set of heads? They’ll meet the debris on the platter and meet their maker. No progress will be made—all we have to show for our data recovery efforts is another set of dead heads. For the longest time, even slightly scratched platters were a data recovery death sentence. It wasn’t just that the damaged areas were unrecoverable. Because of the debris, recovering data from even the healthy sections of the platters was nightmarishly difficult as well—if not impossible.

Gillware's Scratched Platter Data Recovery Technology

At Gillware, we said, “Enough is enough.” Surely there was a better way for data recovery engineers to clean the dust and debris off of damaged platters. And there was. We modeled our scratched platter data recovery techniques off of the same methods hard drive manufacturers use to iron out the imperfections in hard drive platters.

When a hard drive’s platter come off the assembly line, it usually has its fair share of imperfections. This is just a natural result of the manufacturing process. But these imperfections need to be ironed out in order for the platter to be usable. The manufacturers burnish each platter’s surfaces before putting it into a hard drive chassis. This ensures the kind of smooth, polished surfaces the read/write heads need.

Our glide burnishing technology can dramatically reduce the amount of dust and debris standing in the way of our data recovery efforts. Glide burnishing takes a bumpy, lumpy hard drive platter and makes it ultra-smooth again. The damaged parts of the platters still can’t be restored. Nothing short of reversing time itself can do that. But with the help of our burnisher, we can recover data from the rest of the platters.

Some forms of platter damage is still severe enough to make scratched platter data recovery impossible. Sometimes, the read/write heads gouge out massive rings of data from the platters. This kind of severe rotational scoring can wipe out huge amounts of user data, or even destroy the drive’s firmware sectors. But platter damage is no longer the data recovery death sentence it once was.

You can read more about the glide burnishing process here. We’ve even made a video showing it in action while it works its magic.

Why Choose Gillware for My Scratched Platter Data Recovery Needs?

Our revolutionary glide burnishing techniques give us a leg up on a lot of other data recovery services. That said, some forms of platter damage do still make data recovery impossible. This is one of the reasons why we never charge any upfront fees for our entire scratched platter data recovery process.

Evaluation is free, and we even offer to cover the cost of inbound shipping. We don’t show you a bill until we’ve gotten everything we can from your hard drive. If the cost is too high for you, or we can’t recover the data you need, you owe us nothing. Our entire scratched platter data recovery process is completely financially risk-free. The last thing we want to do is take your money and give you nothing in return.

Still not convinced? Check out some of these case studies and other resources for scratched platters...

Data Recovery 101: Platters

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