Help With Data Recovery

August 2nd, 2016

windows error messageThis week I’ve been investigating the world of data recovery. Data recovery is a very interesting subject and something of a “dark art”. The techniques companies use to retrieve information from devices like hard disk drives and mobile phones are shrouded in secrecy because it’s this knowledge that gives these firms their competitive advantages. Here are just of the enquiries received by data recovery service providers in the UK.

> Unable to Boot A Server
Hi I have a customer who has had a server fail on them we are no longer able to boot the server or run a repair i have had the drives out and bought the relevent cables and software to extract the data from a raid 5 but i have had no sucess the drives are 4 x HP 146 gig SAS drives can you help.

> Serious PC Problems
After large thunderstorm, serious problems. PC will start and yellow HD warning light comes on, disc starts to spin up, then dies and it keeps repeating this cycle. HD is Seagate Barracuda ST500DM002 500GB. External backup HD completely dead, power light does not come on. HD is Seagate ST3500418AS 500GB.

> Nexus Tablet Stopped Working
My Nexus Tablet stopped working in June and I’ve tried several people to see if they can repair it and they can’t . What I’m concerned about most is the photos that I’ve lost. Are you able to recover them and if so, at what cost and approximately , how long would that take?

> SSD Hard Drive Problem
I have a problem with my current SSD model : SSD 960go CRUCIAL M500
SSD not booting in BIOS system due to a failure of the electronic circuitry and internal cell of the flash memory
Failure of many cells in the NAND memory due to electric shock. These do not allow access to data in the SSD

> Broken Screens
Broken Screen on iPad 2 Mini and iPhone 5. Not sure if this is something you do or not, but if so, would love to send the business your way to help justify the sponsorship of the great Richie Allen show.

> Two Ticking Hard Drives
I have two drives that are clicking:
1. Seagate ES.1 1TB
2. WD Blue 500GB

> iPhone Water Damage
My iphone, having received water damage, no longer responds – ie won’t turn on or show any sign of life.
Whereas I’m quite happy for the iphone itself to be consigned to the scrapheap, I’d like to recover the data (in particular the photographs) that are stored on it.
Can you be of any assistance?

So if you have a similar problem to any one those listed above, just look on this blog for a data recovery specialist – they are a few recommended.

So Many Hard Drive & Phone Problems

July 5th, 2016

Samsung Galaxy S6 Factory Reset

my phone (Samsung Galaxy S6 edge) has performed an unexpected factory reset an I have lost all my pictures and videos. Do you think you would be able to recover them? If so, how much would it cost and how long does it take for the files to be recovered? Would this be performed at your London Lab (EC3V 9LJ) or will you have to send the phone away? What happens if you are not able to recover the files – is there a charge for the attempt?

WD Passport Not Recognised

My Western Digital My Passport 1TB external hard drive is now not recognised by either PC or Mac. When the drive is connected, the drive power light lights up and the drive makes a sound ( starts with the normal spinning disk sound but continues like a stutter ) but does not show any icon on desktop as an external hard drive on either my pc or mac. On PC it shows as an icon on my devices but ca not be opened to view any files. On Mac a message pops up with “The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer.”
No sensitive personal data is on the drive but the drive is nearly full with original photo RAW files i am in need of recovering. Thank you.

External Hard Drive Motor Busted

Basically my external hard drive motor is potentially bust or something is trapped as I dropped my hard drive :( and well, I have tried an icy box and other external adapters as the hard drive is now out of its original case and another technician had tried to recover files but has been unsuccessful; he advised me about the motor and suggested some sort of forensic recovery. Please help, It has my life and university work on there.
I am in work until 5:30 so I am unsure if I can take a phone call.

iPhone Switching Off

The phone turned itself off and then back on again before showing 0 photos when i know i had over 15,00 very special and precious photos. Now the iphone wont update even using itunes and i cant extract the data and pictures even using paid software such as dr fone. As the data is so special i would pay anything to get them back and even pay if you can recommend someone who can do such a task.

Laptop Not Recognising Hard Drive

My laptop got stood on and after that it doesn’t recognise the hard drive. I tried reseating it myself. Didn’t work. It was taken to a shop and they weren’t able to retrieve my files. They suggested it get sent to a clean room in America, which I’m not willing to do. I would like a second opinion.


Questions about Problematic Hard Drives

June 13th, 2016

In this post I reproduce two questions I received from customers about their problematic hard drives. If you have a problem with a hard drive and would like me to advise of what can be done retrieve that data then contact me and I’ll see what I can do for you.

Buffalo Hard Drive Retrieval

I am unable to open my buffalo hardrive and wondered how much retrieval might cost?

As Buffalo make many different types of hard drive the answer to your question depends upon what model of hard drive you actually have. Single hard drives are cheaper to recover the data from than units that contain more that one hard drive. Normally Buffalo external hard drives that feature more than one disk are raid systems – and these can be very expensive. I dug out the following details of a decent data recovery company from England that gets good reviews: I suggest you reach out to them if you are serious about getting the information back from your problematic hard drive. They should be able to give you a range of costs for their services.

Hard Drive Recovery in London

I have a 500gb Western digital WD blue ssd hd that makes a clicking sound. there is data on there (not to bothered about it) but wanted the actual hd repaired. how much would it cost im in feltham west london so would like the address of the chiswick branch so i can drop and collect.

The address of the hard drive recovery lab is Chiswick is 556 Chiswick High Road, London W4 5YA, their webpage is

As a general rule, repairing a hard drive is not cost effective. A new hard drive with a dedent storage capacity can be bought for around £50, and hard drive repair work is done by data recovery companies and this costs hundreds of pounds. Therefore, if you are not bothered about getting your data back, buy yourself a new hard drive instead of using a data recovery company.

Lacie Hard Drive Beeping

May 31st, 2016

I have a Lacie single drive and it wont power on. When connected to the computer it makes a few beeping noises and then stops and doesn’t work. The light still turns on.

lacie hard drive requiring data recovery serviceThe beeping noises are unfortunately errors signals coming from the hard drive that tell us that your HDD has a serious problem. For one reason or another, the motor that rotates the hard drive is unable to spin the platters. This can be for two reasons. Either the motor is broken and no longer works, or there is something that is preventing the platter’s rotation – a common problem that causes this is known as stiction and is where the heads of the hard drive become ‘welded’ to the platter surface. Freeing the stiction is a job fraught with danger as it is very easy to damage both the heads and the platter surface of the hard drive. My recommendation would be to use a data recovery company, see the link towards the bottom of this page.

Hard Disk Not Working
I have two hard disks, both 2tb which have both stopped working. I would like to recover the files from them.
How much would this cost?
How long would it take? I will be in Manchester from tomorrow until Sunday. If it is longer then a mate may take delivery of it for me.I have a WD My Passport that has stopped working. It was clicking so was sent to another data recovery company, who opened it up but said they couldn’t do anything with it. (I don’t believe they did anything other than open it and look to be honest, but I cant prove that), but since it’s return, it hasn’t been clicking, but still doesn’t get discovered on my PC.
I would like to recover the data on it and have another 500GB drive I can provide you to put it on.

As you are in Manchester my suggestion would be to take your disk along to a local hard drive recovery company. Data Clinic are one such company that have a lab in Bury, Greater Manchester. It’s not good that another data recovery company has opened up your hard drive, it would be good for know what they’d actually done (if anything). Some companies that have a good reputation do take good care when working with hard drives. Other places are little more than glorified amateurs with no idea what they are doing.

Possible Electrical Fault on Hard Drive

May 17th, 2016

I received this question earlier today from a reader of this blog:

“Hard drive failure, unable to access data. When in the laptop, nothing would boot, and i believe bios also wouldn’t start. (i don’t know whether that was a laptop issue too or not, the laptops fine now with a new hard drive) The old hard drive will start and doesn’t make any unusual sounds.
If you could kindly advise on potential costs for the data recovery to include the potential need of a clean room.”

Hi thanks for your question. So you have two hard drives? The latest one doesn’t boot but the older one still works fine with no problems?

When using the old one it also inhibits some of the other computer functions such as the BIOS not starting? My guess is your hard drive would be a Seagate and it has some form of electrical problem. I’m saying this from experience, I seen many hard drives over the years that have developed electronic faults which in turn prevent the computer from switching on. The data should be ok and retrievable once the electronic fault on the hard drive is fixed.

Costs for repairing this type of fault are usually no more than £400. The job is also unlikely to require a clean room as there is no need to dismantle the hard drive and remove the lid.

How Much Does Data Recovery Cost ?

April 18th, 2016

No matter what type of data recovery service you require, there’s always going to be an associated cost for doing it. Prices in the UK vary from location to location. As an example the price of data recovery in London is significantly higher in London than it would be in Glasgow or Manchester. This is due to the usual factors of supply and demand. In London the demand for hard drive data recovery is usually between £50 and £150 more expensive becuase there is so much demand, and suppliers can usually pick and choose which jobs they want to take on.

How much does it cost?So, whilst London is the most expensive UK location for data recovery, Sheffield and Liverpool, cities that are both in the North West of England are the cheapest. In order to save money some people send their hard drives up to Sheffield and Liverpool from London to save a few quid.

Here are some standard enquiries about hard drive recovery services, recieved from all over the country. I’ve added links to sites that provide further information where I could. Costs for data recovery vary according to the type of problem. Prices usually start at around £300 and have a top end of around £1000.

“I have a G-Force, G-Drive Mobile USB external hard drive that has about 1T worth of memory. I have a lot of important things on it but the USB port got bent inside of it so I cannot plug it into my laptop anymore. Is there anyway to repair this or to at least recover the data?”

“I have a hard disk which failed, 1000gb desktop SATA, I believe it was the motor, as it just made a small whirr and click and repeated the click over and over. On bad advice I opened the case. I immediately knew not to touch anything and closed it again, but it was not in a protected room so it’s quite possible that some very fine house dust would have landed on the platter at this stage (I recall seeing a single speck on the platter before closing). I did not attempt to boot the disk again after closing the case. Can you tell me how likely it is the data can be recovered, and how much would you charge for this?” Drives that make whirr and click noises have faults with their read / write assemblies – take a look at the information on Data Recovery Tips if you are looking to try and recover the data yourself.

“My Imation 1TB external hard drive stopped working all of a sudden. It does not appear on mu computer list but appears on device manager list. Light is on and can hear the spinning sound in side. I have very importanat data inside which i don’t want to lose”

“Hard drive with all my family photos will not load. When plugged into laptop it lights up and spins but theres also a clicking sound. Hard drive size is 250gb i believe.” This enquiry is very much like the whirr and click enquiry above. Again in this instance the fault is probably located in the head stack assembly”

As you can see, there are lots of different scenarios that require a data recovery service, and the cost of this service varies depending on the type of fault and what location you send the hard drive to.

Checkpoint Encrypted Disk Won’t Boot

March 12th, 2016

Endpoint Full Disk Encryption is a software product produced by Checkpoint and allows computer systems running either Windows or Max OS X to encrypt the contents of their hard drives. This has the effect of making the information on those drives useless should the drive be stolen or otherwise. To decrypt a hard drive encrypted with Checkpoint FDE it is necessary to enter the password when the system first boots. Decryption of the files is handled ‘on the fly’ so it is important that the FDE system runs on a machine powerful enough to handle this. If a FDE enable system won’t boot, this presents a significant problem in retrieving the data from the hard drive.

Hard Disk Encryption iconWhilst the software may be well written and relatively bug free, the hard disks it runs on are often of the mechanical HDD variety – which is based on 40 year old technology that relies on moving parts. Additionally other nasties like bad sectors develop on hard drives and any problem on a drive will hinder the operation of FDE. Interestingly there’s a new post about recovering the data from a hard drive encrypted with Endpoint (see that had developed these problems and no longer worked. The only option was to send the hard drive to Data Clinic and hope they could recover the information.

The Checkpoint FDE software can run on multiple disk systems too, including Network Attached Storage (NAS) hard drives and the larger RAID 5 servers. Of course these systems are far more complex than their single drive counterparts and the problems faced by repair companies are significantly enhanced should problems begin to develop on the hard drives from a NAS or RAID server. As yet I am unaware of any company that has been asked with recovering the data from one of these systems that has been encrypted with the Checkpoint software, although this is bound to happen at some point.

Regular NAS and RAID systems that don’t use encryption are still more complex than single disk to repair and recover. Data Clinic (link above) should be able to handle data retrieval from these systems but there are other companies that offer the same type of service too such as for RAID recovery and for all popular hard disk types.

In all cases, make sure you do your own research and review what other people say about the company before you make your choice on who to use. Checkpoint’s FDE is a complex product and any hard drive that uses encryption is a much trickier proposition to recover the data from than a hard drive that doesn’t, so make sure you use a well known data recovery company rather than one that is not well regarded.


The Achilles Heel of CCTV Equipment

February 11th, 2016

There’s a huge growth in CCTV equipment in the UK, and a recent study by the BBC claimed that in 2015 there were between some 4 – 5.9 million cameras in the UK. As this article is now over a year old there’s a very high chance that this number has increased.

Whilst there is much public debate that surrounds the ethical and moral use of CCTV cameras and their capture of actions by people unaware they are being filmed, it is of interest to note that there is practically zero debate about how vulnerable to data stored by CCTV actually is. To understand this issue we need to look at the basic hardware components of any CCTV system, or to be more accurate, just one of them: the hard disk drive.

Inside a hard diskVery much like the computer you have at home, the data captured by a CCTV recorder is stored onto a computer hard drive, and it’s here where the Achilles Heel can be found. The hard drive is a fragile device. One knock or blow can cost a user their data. Hard drives should be sold with a “Handle With Care” label. The reason why hard drives are so brittle is because they are based on an old technology that is based around moving parts. Central to a hard drive is a rotating magnetic disk or “platter”. This is coated in a magnetic film which is able to store billions of electronic signals that represent either a ’0′ or a ’1′. Images are written to the hard drive as a series of zeros and ones by another moving part: an arm that moves back and forth across the surface of the hard write, writing and reading the data.

It’s these moving parts that are extremely fragile, but there are many other faults a hard disk can suffer from that will also result in the images recorded being lost. Once the hard disk is damaged it requires experts in recovering CCTV images to repair the hard drive and get the images back. Although these companies are highly skilled, it’s not guaranteed that they will be able to rescue the images from a damaged or broken CCTV system. It very much depends on the fault.

So if hard drives have this Achilles’ Heel are so fragile and so prone to breakage, why use them in CCTV recorders? Hard drives do actually have a lot of positives in their favour. They are cheap, they store a lot of data, they don’t use much power and are therefore cheap to run. But most of all in these days of mass surveillance, they are the only option.

Starting A Business in Digital Forensics – Part 3

February 7th, 2016

Here’s the final part of the article about setting up a digital forensics lab. For the first part of the article, and here for the second part.

Product, Customers, Markets, Channels, Brand and Pricing for Digital Forensics:

A Description of What Digital Forensics Does

Computer Investigations
As digital devices become more ubiquitous and integrated into ever more aspects of daily business, academia, and individuals personal lives, so has their use as a tool and as a source of evidence in criminal investigations. Law-enforcement agencies must now consider the role a digital device may play in every type of crime, from murder and drug deals, to blackmail and paedophilia. The digital device may be used as a tool in the perpetration of the crime or just as a repository for information related to the crime. Law enforcement officials do not have he expertise in sufficient quantity to conduct the required investigations, using their own resources and implementing all of the digital devices and systems necessary. As a result, in many locations, a serious backlog of cases has developed. The services offered by the forensics lab would allow us to be seen by law enforcement agencies as a trusted organisation that they could outsource part of their investigations to.

The Need for a Digital Forensics Service
The sheer volume of digital forensics work that has arisen, partially due to th spread in the use of digital devices, and partially as a result of law enforcement and commercial operations to address computer crime issues, has resulted in law enforcement computer crime units being overwhelmed by the volume of work. The time required to train new staff, and the salaries available for public servants, ensure that the supply of trained staff for law enforcement agencies will always be less than the demand for their services.

Target customers will, initially be taken from local law enforcement, government departments, and commercial organisations. As the service becomes established, we will expand this to other law enforcement regions and then to local and central government departments.

We will initially target the law enforcement community in the London and southeast portions of the United Kingdom. When the customer base is established, other law enforcement bodies will be targeted and then eventually the government market, banking, and financial services market, health care market, manufacturing and retail market, and telecommunication markets.

Research conducted with local law enforcement agencies and feedback from practitioners attending local seminars has demonstrated there is an unprecedented level of interest in the proposed service.

Starting A Business in Digital Forensics – Part 2

January 21st, 2016

Here’s the continuation of the article about setting up a digital forensics lab. For the first part of the article go here

Outline of Proposal

  • Computer ForensicsThis proposal concerns the establishment of a Digital Forensics Service, to be known as “The Digital Forensics Laboratory”. The service will operate on a Monday – Friday, 9 – 5 basis, with a call out facility for after-hours requirements, and will satisfy a need in the law enforcements and government departments market area for a service that improves the timelines and quality of evidence for use in prosecutions. In addition it will also provide the same level of quality information for use by corporate customers in industrial tribunal that involve the misuse of digital assets.
  • The business proposed in this “case” represents a minimal viable business, with minimum financial risk, and an expected turnover of £200,000 in the financial year rising to over £2 million, 5 years later.

The next section of the business plan describes in more details the business being proposed and explains what it will deliver

The Business

The Nature of the Digital Forensics Service Offering

  • The purpose of the Digital Forensics Service is to provide clients with a reliable and knowledgeable service that will service the demand being place on law enforcement agencies and government departments as a result of ongoing operations and new legislation.
  • The law enforcement and government department market for digital device based investigations is one of the fastest growing markets in the US, the UK, and Europe. The has been brought about by an infusion or funds for the government and the creation of a number of high tech crime investigation units around the country. The creation of these units was a reaction to the increased reporting of digital device based crimes and the lack of skilled staff to address the issues raised.

The Scope of the Digital Forensics Business

  • The business will be a £200,000 establishment, growing to a greater than £2 million turnover business from a laboratory located at the corporate headquarters.
  • There will be a number of offerings to clients, all based on digital forensics. The laboratory will provide a digital device imaging and analysis service for evidence to be used in the courts and in industrial tribunals. The laboratory will provide individuals to act as expert witnesses for the courts and, where required, will provide training to organisations in digital forensic techniques.
  • The service offering, known as “Digital Forensics”, will be launched in January
  • The laboratory will initially utilise industry standard tools for digital forensics imaging and analysis, but as the requirement for the imaging, recovery, and analysis of particular elements and types of information becomes clearer, tools will be acquired or developed to meet the requirement.

Business Strategy got the Parent Organisation vis-a-vis Digital Forensics

  • The principle factors that have influenced the strategy for this business case are investment, staffing resources, and existing expertise and culture with the Organisation.
  • Factors that have not influences that strategy include the organisations desire to be a recognised centre of excellence in the computer security and computer crime investigation areas in the future, or the size of the market for such services. The latter is not seen to be a limiting factor to the growth of the business.
  • The strategy for the activity is to establish the parent organisation as a permiere centre for digital forensics services and digital forensics research in the US. This business case, being modest and risk averse, does not seek to establish the parent organisation as the market leader.
  • The non financial benefits of this activity are that it will allow the staff involved to become highly proficient in the area which in turn will benefit the organisation as a whole and will enhance the reputation of the parent organisation.
  • By undertaking forensic investigations the staff will gain knowledge and skill in areas that will support the wider organisational infrastructure.