External Hard Drive Data RecoverySo in recent years the cost of external hard drives has come down significantly. In fact external drives are now far less expensive than their “internal” counterparts despite having more parts to them. This has pushed many manufacturers, most notably Western Digital, to begin building…
the USB interface directly onto the drives, thus preventing their customers from opening up the drives for use as internal disks.

However “external hard drives” are prone to data recovery issues. The most common external hard drive data recovery issue is read/write head crashes. Unlike internal drives which are securely mounted inside of your PC or laptop, externals are generally just flopping around on your desktop (or couch). Add to that the fact that they generally only come with a standard 1′ usb cable, they can often be seen hanging around literally suspended by the cable.

All it takes is one quick drop, and suddenly you’ve got issues. Now if you’re only using the drive as a backup, you might not mind. In fact you’ll probably be covered under the warranty. But if you have years of pictures, and it’s your only copy, Look Out! These types of data recoveries are very expensive, generally always requiring clean room work to repair the drive and get the files back. And even in a successful recovery you’ll likely lose at least some data to bad sectors.

Another factor that causes issues, is the fact that many of these drives are now hardware encrypted. Even if a password isn’t set, the data is still encrypted on the fly as it is written to the platters. Your password just authorizes the chip to retrieve the encryption key (which is stored on the disk) and decrypt the data for you. However in data recovery cases this can pose some very difficult challenges which further drive up the cost of recovery.

We just handled one such job here in our Providence lab where the drive after receiving a head replacement had gotten a bad sector right where the encryption key is stored. Even though a password was never set, the data was encrypted and the key was lost. Fortunately, with the right know how we were able to find a second copy of the key and eventually the recovery was a success.

Summary

If your data is important, and you don’t want to pay a high price for data recovery, make a backup. Don’t trust an external drive as your only copy of anything. Remember that today’s mundane file is worth a fortune tomorrow when you don’t have it.

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