Recovering data from hard drives is a specialist data recovery service that we offer to our customers. Very often, not only have these drives been burnt to a point where they are barely recognisable, they also get dowsed with water from fire hoses.
In most cases, the drives are protected by the computer casing or, if they are in external caddies, the enclosure they are in reduces the damage that can occur with hard drives. It all depends on the temperature the drive is subjected to.
The biggest factor in determining recoverablilty of a fire damaged hard drive, is if the drive has reached the Curie point. This is the temperature at which the hard drive platters lose their magnetic properties. The Curie point is named after Pierre Curie, who showed that magnetism was lost at a specific temperature.
The fire this drive was in required 20 fire appliances to quell the fire. There were a number of hard drives that had got damaged, but this particular drive contained most of the data that the company needed.
The drive had suffered from considerable heat damage, some parts of the PCB had melted along with the the connection area, the drive turned black with smoke and soot damage that had developed during the inferno.
After delicate cleaning of of the drive, we could see that the seal was still intact.This is a promising sign as it indicates the drive has not reached a temperature where the seals may have melted and allowed smoke and soot to enter the drive.
After opening the lid, there was some minor internal damage to the head ramp and the heads could not park on the ramp properly and were on the platter surfaces. As a matter of course, we replaced the heads along with the head ramp and then reassembled the drive.
Once the main drive components were reassembled, we started work on the electonics/PCB. With these drives there is unique information stored in ROM soldered to the PCB. We managed to remove the ROM, clean it and read the content using a ROM programmer and transfer it to a new PCB. This was then attached to the drive and the was tested to make sure it was reading ok. It was, and so we cloned the drive using a PC3000 which gives us absolute control over the cloning process.
In the end, we were able to fully recover the data on the drive, meaning we have another very happy customer.