Hard Drive Dilemma

Enquiry: My Hard Drive recently packed in. It was running ok the night before (although in retrospect after being asked about it, I'd heard it click a couple of times), but when I booted it up I kept getting an error message saying windows couldn't be found.
So on boot up I went to the BIOS menu to see if something had reordered the drives and discovered the hard drive couldn't be read. I then took it to a repair shop and they attempted to diagnose the problem (it was them who asked about the clicking). They left it over night for a diagnostic and said that on a couple of occasions the Hard Drive was picked up but the only info they could get off it was garbled nonsense. They said that they thought that the heads may have failed on the Hard Drive and that wasn't something they could fix and recommended someone else. The 2nd person came to the same conclusion and said he didn't want to tamper with the heads either as it wasn't something he could fix and so he recommended you.

The only other note I can think of is that the laptop seemed to be running quite hot leading up to the failure, but as I've replaced the hard drive this doesn't seem to be the problem. For reference, I live in Liverpool, just in case you need to refer me to that office.

My Response: What you have described there is a hard drive that is about to completely fail. It probably didn't help that the first repair shop you took it to kept it switched on last night. If a hard drive is running hot and slowly then my recommendation is to switch the hard drive quickly and wait a while for it to cool down - don't put it in a fridge or freezer and this will put unnecessary stress on the hard drive, instead let is cool naturally.

When it's completely cooled you can attach it again and attempt to copy your files off of it asap. If you are successful at this then you've had a lucky escape. If the hard drive begins to run slowly or is not recognised then I'm afraid it's too late for you to do anything - the hard drive is already badly damaged. If you need to remove the data from it you'll need to contact a data recovery company.

Finding a Data Recovery Company

You can look for a local data recovery company but my experience is that good data recovery companies a few and far between. Make a distinction between a data recovery specialist and a PC repair shop. They are not the same beast at all. Even though the shop may claim to perform data recovery, it's capabilities will be no where approaching what the data recovery company can do. The best way I've found is to do a countrywide internet search and then look at the reviews of the company. Another useful method is to look for bloggers who write about data recovery and hard drive issues - if you are in the UK you can visit the Recover Deleted Data web site. It deals in answering questions about all types of data recovery, not just retrieving deleted data.

MacBook Pro Running Slowly

My MacBook Pro's Internal Hard drive (Mid 2012 Non-Retina) recently started making noises and the laptop pretty much doesn't respond to anything anymore or if it does only very slowly. I am quite sure that the hard drive is in its last breaths and a backup to an external hard drive did not succeed either unfortunately. BIOS recognises drive and windows occasionally detects and installs. However cannot read or access. The heads seem to be cycling around. No clicking i.e. hitting the end stop. Was working fine then failed to boot correctly followed by no access.
What can I/you do to save my files?

The problem with your Macbook Pro sounds very much like bad sectors - parts of the hard disk that can no longer be accessed by the computer. It's a very common problem and far more widespread than you think. The likes of you and I hardly ever notice this or come into contact with it because the hard drive has a built-in bad sector management program that swaps out bad sectors and replaces them with good sectors whenever a bad sector is encountered.

Bad sectors do not go away or diminish, instead they grow as it's the only things they can do, eventually spreading across an entire hard drive. A good guide you can use is the slower your hard drive becomes, the more likely it is to have a high number of bad sectors. If you don't have a backup of your data then bad sectors will eventually lead to you losing all your data.

Retrieving the data from hard drives with bad sectors is possible, but you'll need a data recovery company to do it for you. These company's have specialist pieces of hardware equipment that are able to read 'through' the bad sector and get at the original data underneath. I recommend companies such as this one or http://24hourcomputerrepairs.com/ should you be looking for a data recovery provider.

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.

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.