Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Data Recovery Service Providers often categorize hard drive data recoveries into different levels and Memofix Data Recovery Services is no exception. While we don’t provide flat level pricing to individual consumers, we often provide our MACC or Memofix Authorized Care Centre partners with flat rate pricing based on three categories or levels of data recovery. Our definitions of these levels are described below and can be helpful in preparing yourself for the costs and degree of difficulty involved with each increasingly complicated recovery scenario.
Level 1 is the lowest level and requires the least expertise and resources. Level 1 means the hard drive is still 100% fully functional. It is recognized by the computer and if the user was to reformat their hard drive they would be able to continue to use it, albeit without their original data.
Level 1 type problems are NOT the fault of a failing hard drive. Level 1 type problems ARE the result of damage, corruption or deletion of all or part of a hard drive’s file system. These actions could have been done deliberately, accidentally, or even unknowingly. The file system is “actual data” written on the hard drive and for our purposes, it can be thought of as a big index that points to the locations on the hard drive where a particular file or folder is stored.
If that index is damaged or corrupted, the operating system may not be able to locate a particular file or folder. Or if the index is for a file or folder used by the operating system, then the drive may not be able to boot or be accessed using conventional methods.
Examples of Level 1 type problems would include;
- Deleting a file or folder
- Formatting your hard drive
- Restoring the operating system
- Boot Virus Infection
Many level 1 data loss situations can be remedied by a tech-savvy end-user using readily available data recovery software. However there are precautions and the peace of mind that only a professional data recovery service company can give you, so if your data is absolutely CRITICAL to retrieve, do NOT attempt this. However, if you can afford to take the risk or just can’t afford the cost of professional help please read an earlier blog I wrote on the subject of do-it-yourself data recovery … http://www.memofixdatarecovery.com/blog/index.php/diy-data-recovery-do-it-yourself/
Level 2 is the middle level and requires more expertise and resources then level 1. Level 2 means the hard drive is not functioning properly but the problem(s) will not require work to be done in a clean room environment. Level 2 data loss situations are normally something an end-user cannot solve themselves. Nowadays even switching a PCB is not a simple process, as the drives HDA (head disk assembly) is fine tuned to work with the same PCB it was manufactured with. In fact, the drive’s PCB contains stored values which determine critical settings used by the heads to position and read data optimally. PCBs from the same model hard drive and with the exact firmware can NOT be simply swapped out unless these stored values are first transferred to the new replacement PCB.
Examples of Level 2 type problems would include;
- Defective PCB or Printed Circuit Board electronics
- Overwrite or corruption to the hard drive’s “system area” (special files used exclusively by the hard drive for its own operation and maintenance.
- Corruption to the drive’s firmware.
- Excessive read errors or hard media defects that are not the result of weak or bad heads.
- Issues with full disk encryption or file encryption
Level 3 problems indicate a major failure with the hard disk drive. Level 3 means the hard drive WILL require extensive cleanroom work to enable any recovery. Typical level 3 recoveries involve head crashes where the drive’s heads have come into contact with the disk surfaces. This usually causes damage to the both the disks and the heads. To recover any data the drive must first be made functional again. First we purge the sealed head disk area of any free particles and then we replace the heads from a new and exact version of the original hard drive. Then we attempt to copy off the used areas of the bad hard drive. During this process the heads will often go bad again due to the damage on the disks. So we must repeat this procedure until we have imaged or copied off all of the used areas on the bad hard drive. This process can take 2 days to 2 months in extreme cases. In the worst cases, the damage is so severe that newly installed heads are instantly destroyed and no recovery will be possible. Another common level 3 scenario occurs when a hard drive is dropped and the spindle motor that spins the disks is seized. This requires the transfer of the disks onto a new motor and typically requires multiple head xplants as well.
Examples of Level 3 type problems would include;
- Damaged heads and disks
- Seized or non-spinning spindle motors
- Stiction, where the heads have become stuck to the disks
- Fire or water damage
- Dropped, knocked over, bumped, or physically abused hard drives
So to be brief and to summarize,
- If a client or user has deleted a file/folder or reformatted AND their hard drive was and is still working perfectly, then it is a LEVEL1 data recovery scenario.
- If the drive was physically abused in any way, or if it makes any unusual noises it is likely a LEVEL 3 data recovery scenario.
- For anything else, a LEVEL 2 data recovery scenario is most likely.
In a future blog we will discuss USB flash, camera cards and SSD data recovery levels.