RoundUp - March 2016 (Uk sites)

Hello again, here's my monthly tech site roundup where I recommend the UK sites that have impressed me this month and provide links to them too. This month I've turned my attention to hard disk related problems and the need for data recovery services. These are usually technical companies that have the ability to retrieve information from hard disk drives that have broken and no longer work. Hence the need for a data recovery service to retrieve the data from the hard drives.

Example 1: Could not access hard drive (whirred and showed question mark. Apple could not restart. My son has taken the hard disc out and installed in a docking station, but it doesn't drive the disc. I'm an academic and would like my current WORD files retrieved if possible back to June 2012, when my back up failed without warning me. I now have a new computer and do not need applications, pdfs or ppt's which I can retrieve from my downloads or memory sticks.
My comments: Sounds like you need the services of a data recovery company to me! Try http://www.datlabsdatarecovery.co.uk on  0871 977 2999 (UK).

Example 2: Hi, I have a Canvio 3tb that I had partitioned with Time Machine. It is does not show up on my Macbook nor on my sons Windows Laptop. Have you had experience reovering from this issue as a basic technician has already taken a look? Toshiba wouldn't cover the work under warranty as the serial number was not present? If you can conduct the work what would be a rough estimate of price? I am currently out of the country so please reply via email.
My comments: The Apple Time Machine is a form of external hard drive and a good post with good advice regarding rescuing the files from device like these can be found on the Frank Canon microsite at http://frankcanon.blogbaker.com/2016/03/14/external-hard-drive-problems.

That's it for this month. Short and sweet I guess. Remember that if you have any technical queries or questions you can contact me and I'll try and answer them. They may even make their way onto my month blog roundup too.



External Hard Drive Stopped Working

"My external hard drive has stopped working. It is a Samsung product. Powered via the USB cable. I have changed the cable and confirmed that is not the problem. It makes no sound or movement when connected to any computers. I need to extract or recover my data.".

I read that you've done some fault finding on your Samsung hard disk drive already! Good, this makes my job easier. Eliminating items like the cable is a sensible thing to do and I've seen, on more that one occasion, a cable being responsible for the fault. In your case, describing the fault as you do, to me it seem that your Samsung external hard drive is damaged. Googling something like 'damaged external hard drive recovery' pulls back many results and I had a look at some of them. The best sites I could find were http://computersciencelabs.com/ a site that has a corporate feel that is all about data recovery. It has some interesting information on it, including stuff on the forensic examination of computer disks and also obtaining the information from CCTV - much of which is written to hard drive these days. A less corporate site but one equally as good which is also awash with information pertaining to the extraction of data from Samsung (and other) hard drives is http://24hourcomputerrepairs.com. Many of the recent articles are about computer forensics involving hard drives and CCTV but take a look through the articles and you'll notice plenty of useful stuff.






Teckgeek Goes DIY

I've been asked recently if I could post some information about how to troubleshoot HDDs rather than provide advice on who to send them to for repair and recovery. Well, this is fine, I've no problem in giving advice out, but my advice about which data recovery companies to use when you need to retrieve data from a faulty HDD is given because the companies I recommend know what they are doing and how to retrieve the data from a faulty disk!

By giving advice out about how to repair these devices yourself it is putting knowledge into your hands. Now I've no problem with that per se, but if you are a novice with working with hard drives (as many of you are) and you follow the advice I'm providing on my blog and the advice doesn't work, or worse still, I advice I'm giving you causes your hard drive to stop working altogether then you're going to blame me aren't you!

So instead of offering first hand advice about fixing broken hard drives, I'm going to point you to a blog or two that distill hard drive repair and recovery advice and offer tips that you can use yourself to recover the information from a hard drive or fix it when it breaks.

The best site I've found that provides hard drive and phone troubleshooting information is the excellent http://data-recovery-tips.co.uk/ site. Seemingly run by an enthusiastic data recovery professional it has many ideas you can try on your faulty hard drive to see if you can get it working again. The site also supplies information a mobile phone recovery and how to go about retrieving the data from a broken mobile or smart phone.

So take a few minutes and visit this site - it could solve all your hard drive problems.

Hard Drive Helpline

I'm getting an increasing number of enquiries for assistance with hard drives that have gone faulty. With this in mind, I'm thinking of logging these to a forum where people can offer advice to enquiriers. Here are two:

1. Sonnics 250GB external hard drive has stopped responding when plugged in – light does not come on as usual and does not show up on desktop. Used it this morning and it was fine, has not been dropped or damaged that I know of, just seems completely random. Does not make any noise or seem alive at all.

2. We have a 1TB Seagate Expansion external HD that has suddenly stopped being recognised on our laptop and TV. The white LED flashes but nothing happens. The HD doesn't click, but makes a whirring sound. Not sure how much is on there, but all we want are any documents and pictures back. Please advise costs.

At the moment I am directing people to local data recovery service providers who are located near to them such as http://www.dataclinic.co.uk/dataclinic-locations/ and the sites listed on http://janschon.edublogs.org/, who then pick up the enquiry and contact the user direct.

An established data recovery blog run by Clive Naylor highlights data recovery issues and recommends companies from time to time. Clive's blog can be found at http://clivenay.beeplog.com/ and and example company at http://clivenay.beeplog.com/341275_5194537.htm.






How Important Is Web Site Speed?

Reading Google's Web Master Guidelines at https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en it seems they place a lot of emphasis on how fast a site loads. This is not surprising as these days, your typical human browser is not willing to wait longer than a couple of seconds for a web site to load before losing patience and going somewhere else.

With this in mind I decided to run a Google Insights speed test (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/) on my web site, and found that I only scored about half marks and also had a lot of recommendations in order to improve my site's speed.

I spent the next 2 days or so implementing all these changes and managed to get the speed up into the 90% band for desktop sites and 75% for mobile sites. I then waiting about 2 weeks whilst monitoring my sites rankings and waiting for the improvement in speed to be reflected in increased rankings. However, nothing happened. I was rather disappointed. Making my site more like Google would like it to be should be reflected in web site rankings you would think? Apparently not.

So now I shall downgrade web site speed in my list of priorities for my web site and instead keep my focus on content.



Data Clinic Blog Post Round-Up

There's been some interesting blog posts on the Data Clinic web site lately at http://www.dataclinic.co.uk/.

For those of you who like techie information relating to computer disks, data and what to do if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of losing data, the Data Clinic blog is the place to go as it's full of real world examples of data loss situations and tells you how to go about getting your data back. This information isn't just confined to hard drives, but also includes mobile devices like tablets and smart phones.

First of all I didn't know that it's not possible to repair and damaged hard drives. Although we make not think they look very complex. hard drives are very clever devices that are difficult to fix if they go wrong. Here's a great post about why it's not possible to repair a damaged hard drive.

The blog posts aren't confined to hard drive problems and how to resolve them though, there are other related articles. Hacking is a big problem these days and most often the weak point in the chain is the simple password that is used to protect a system's data. Use of weak passwords renders systems highly vulnerable to attacks, so this guide shows you how to construct a strong and secure password that's easy to remember and very difficult for hackers to break.

Finally, there's a typical cross section of the various different types of enquiry that Data Clinic receive - in this example you can read people's enquiries about recovering information from mobile phones, external hard drives, PC's and Macs.

So go and have a look at this site - as I say, it's crammed with information about hard drives and getting data back from damaged devices.


Hard Disk Int13h Operations

Int13h functions provide low level disk input / output capability. Since disk systems usually funnel all i/o operations through these functions, many add-on and three-part products hook into then and relocate the original functions to other vectors.
One of the most popular methods data recovery companies use to reset hard drives and get them out of error states is to issue a 'reset disk' command via the int13h interrupt.
You can try this yourself - grab yourself an assembler and program the registers as follows before issuing the int13h command.

Interrupt 13h - Function 00h
Reset Disk System

Purpose: Restores disk system conditions to power-up state.

Registers at call:
AH=00h
DL=drive (if bit 7 is set both hard disks and floppy disks are reset)
Details: Forces controller to recalibrate drive heads (seek to track 0)

Return Registers:
AH=status

00h successful completion
01h invalid function in AH or invalid parameter
02h address mark not found
03h disk write protected (floppy)
04h sector not found
05h reset failed (hard disk)
06h disk changed (floppy)
07h drive parameter activity failed (hard disk)
08h DMA overrun
09h attempted DMA across 64k boundary
0Ah bad sector detected (hard disk)
0Bh bad track detected (hard disk)
0Ch unsupported track or invalid media
0Dh invalid number of sectors on format (hard disk)
0Eh control data address mark detected (hard disk)
0Fh DMA arbitration level out of range (hard disk)
10h uncorrectable CRC or ECC error on read
11h data ECC corrected (hard disk)
20h Controller failure
40h Seek failed
80h Timeout (not ready)
AAh Drive not ready (hard disk)
BBh Undefined error (hard disk)
CCh Write fault (hard disk)
E0h Status register error (hard disk)
FFh Sense operation failed (hard disk)





Lacie Data Recovery

I'm asked from time to time about Lacie hard drive pcbs: sometimes a problem like an electrical short will damage the hard drive's PCB and the common thinking is that a simple PCB changed should suffice, rather than sending the whole drive off for repair. This common knowledge is wrong - 10 years or so ago it was possible to swapping hard drive controllers boards or pcb's and the drive would work normally again, nowadays this is something that doesn't happen. This is because the information now on the hard drive's pcb contains unique data to the drive it is housed on, so changing the controller board - swapping a broken on with a working one will no longer work.

For all types of Lacie hard drive problem, contact Lacie or Data Clinic at http://www.dataclinic.co.uk, even controller board problems. If you drop your Lacie hard drive and the drive then begins to beep or tick then it's important you dont switch the hard drive on any more - this is because the noise your are hearing in the hard drive trying to start, but the platters inside the hard drive are being impeded, probably by the heads that read and write the data or by the spindle, which has developed a fault. Mechanical problems like this are best handled by data recovery specialists such as Data Clinic who will be able to assess the situation and restore the data from the hard drive without sustaining any further damage.


SSD Flash The Next Big Thing? I Think Not

Flash memory in the shape of SSD hard disks is a comparatively new development, and SSD hard drives are now available in impressive capacities such as 80Gb and 120GB. This capacity of storage would have been enough for anyone 10 years ago, but now that movies are in high definition and music is in 192kpbs high quality and the photographs we take are several megabytes each, our need for massive amounts of storage is also much greater than it used to be.

A report in today's UK edition of The Register compares SSD takeup and popularity with HDDs and finds that SSD are falling by the wayside month by month. The reason? They can't keep up with the capacities now being squeezed from HDDs (Hitachi currently sell a 6TB hard drive) and the cost per megabyte of SSD storage is significantly higher that for HDDs.

All this is good news for you and me - HDD's are cheaper to buy the SSD's and also considerable easier for computer support companies to maintain.

You can read the full article in The Register here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/12/09/no_flash_datacentre_takeover/