Case of the (Not So) Hard Disk

For almost two decades now, we have been advising our clients on the importance of proper handling of data storage devices. We recommend discontinuing the use of problematic devices immediately to prevent further issues with the internal mechanics of the disk or irreversible destruction of saved data. We advise maintaining regular backups, meaning that data should be stored on more than one medium. It should go without saying that the device containing important data needs to be protected from breakage and physical damage. However, from time to time, we receive devices for diagnostics in such poor condition that visible signs of severe physical damage are evident at first glance.

The metal casing of the disk is quite robust and resistant to external influences and damages, ensuring the safeguarding of delicate components within the disk (magnetic platters, heads, motor) during the execution of their intricate functions. Nevertheless, this does not imply that it’s impossible to physically damage the external casing of the hard disk, as demonstrated by the successfully shattered device that arrived at HelpDisc for data recovery.

The disk in question is a Seagate product, model ST1000LM049, Seagate family Rosewood A5. After a careful inspection of the internal components of the mentioned disk, our engineers noticed a significant amount of dust particles and small metal shavings. This led to the conclusion that the device had been previously improperly opened. Upon further inspection, they arrived at a startling realization: the magnetic platter itself is damaged and slightly warped! Considering that the read/write heads are extremely sensitive and delicate, deformations on the magnetic platter pose a significant risk of their destruction during attempts to retrieve data.

Deformations on the surface of the magnetic platter are nearly impossible to detect with the naked eye. To locate them, we used a rectangular template reflected on the platter’s surface, along with a significant optical magnification. Can you also notice them?


Data recovery from a damaged platter

In its current state, the platter has been carefully transferred within our laboratory into an identical functioning enclosure in an attempt to salvage whatever data is possible. Foreign particles from the environment persistently came into contact with the magnetic heads, further complicating the data retrieval process. Our engineer had to interrupt the procedure multiple times to carefully clean the miniature heads under a microscope before resuming work on the device.

Years of experience, proper tools, and a great deal of patience have resulted in a high percentage of recovered data from such a compromised device. We managed to save around 75% of the valuable data!


When a data storage device experiences a failure, data recovery involves a series of delicate operations ranging from diagnosing the issue to achieving the final data retrieval results. Specialized software and hardware tools are required, along with a skilled team of experts possessing substantial knowledge and experience. Any mishandling of a malfunctioning device by an inexperienced individual can significantly jeopardize the chances of successfully recovering important data.



Ivan Aracki

HelpDisc d.o.o.

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Many years of experience in the field of data recovery and more than 11,000 satisfied clients guarantee the quality of our services. HelpDisc data engineers use modern software and tools that we have developed ourselves within the HDDSurgery brand. If you have a problem with lost data, write to us or fill out online request.