How Data Is Stored On A Hard Drive

When a file is saved on a computer, the data is stored on the hard disk platter’s magnetic coating. This magnetic coating on the platters is the ‘glue’ that keeps your data. Any damage to that magnetic coating means that there is data loss as each piece of missing coating contains data. So a platter missing a little bit of that coating has a better chance of a successful data recovery as opposed to a platter that has had massive amounts of that magnetic coating removed or destroyed.

Hard Drive Failure Parts

Typical hard disk components that fail include:

Platters Hard disk platters, or spindle, is rotated by an electric motor. The speed of this rotation is measured in rotations per minute (RPM) and the higher the performance of the hard drive…the higher the RPM is which increases the reading and writing of data to the platters. Any surface contact to the platters can cause serious damage to the magnetic strip the contains the data. This includes dust, finger prints, water, and most important of all, the heads of the hard drive. Platter damage is the most serious type of damage to cause hard drive failure.

Heads (Head Crash) When the hard disk is not actively in use, the heads are parked until the hard drive needs to read or write data again. It is when this head moves outside the super thin cushion of air between platters that causes the head to crash and touches the hard disk platter.

Firmware Firmware is the program instructions located on the chips on the Printed Circuit Board (PCB). Each firmware revision is specific to its hard drive type and each hard drive can go through dozens of firmware revisions to increase that particular manufacturer’s disk drive’s performance. The older the hard drive, the more difficult it could be to find a working firmware for that specific hard disk model.

Printed Circuit Board (PCB) The PCB of the hard drive is the electronics of the hard disk that manages and operates the hard drive. If a PCB becomes damaged it is often replaced with an identical PCB with the same firmware on the original hard drive. Typically PCB damage is from water or fire, but there are other reasons why a PCB would fail. And many times a failed PCB affect other aspects like firmware or heads.

Types of Hard Drive Failure

Generally speaking, when a disk drive fails it is due to one of the following causes:

Media Failure Otherwise known as a head crash (as described above), the heads of the hard drive have physically touched and damaged the magnetic coating on the platters.

Mechanical Failure Generally speaking, any electronic failure to the hard drive falls in this category. Fire, water, electrical damage to the hard disk would require ‘parts’ replacement.

PCB Failure As described above, PCB failure falls in the mechanical failure type and typically can be ‘swapped out’ for an identical PCB for that specific hard drive type. Along with the correct firmware for that disk drive, a PCB replacement can be a difficult type of hard drive repair if the hard drive is an older model.

Logical Drive Failure This type of hard drive failure is usually the least damaging to the data. This type of error usually means that the operating system of the computer (or utilities) can see the drive, has marked it as unallocated space, but because the computer’s MFT is corrupted or damaged, can’t read the data. Hard drive failure of this type is not that destructive and the chances of a complete successful data recovery are high.

Types of Non-Mechanical Hard Drive Failure

Other causes for data loss and why data recovery would be required could include the following:

Natural Disasters Extreme weather conditions that are out of our control can make a bad day even worse. Whether the computer was submerged in water due to a flood, scorched by fire or in the proximity of a lightning strike, there is still a chance to recover data from the hard drive.

The Human Factor Accidentally deleting files, formatting the wrong hard drive, and attempting to upgrade you operating system only to have it fail are common issues that come up. Also, as careful as most people are with their laptops, a small drop from the couch to the floor or down a flight of stairs, is the type of forceful jarring to the disk drive that could cause serious damage to the hard drive platters.

Viruses E-mail typically are the way most viruses are spread from computer to computer. Also, visiting questionable websites that have scripts, malware or spyware waiting to comprise your system and put your data at risk. It is recommended to run the most recent anti-virus software to protect your data from this sort of data loss and to reduce the need to require data recovery service.

So how do you protect yourself from losing your data? Back it up! However, should you still require data recovery services, be sure to use a company that specializes in hard drive data recovery.

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