Experts: When hard drives go bad, users make things worse

Once a hard drive fails or has been damaged, attempts to fix the device without proper expertise will likely inflict do more damage and put stored information in greater jeopardy, storage experts say.

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Once a hard drive fails or has been damaged, attempts to fix the device without proper expertise will likely inflict do more damage and put stored information in greater jeopardy, storage experts say.

Kroll Ontrack this week released a list of common hard drive revival gaffes that the data recovery vendor warns against. That list of no-nos includes using of a hairdryer to "dry out" a wet hard drive, cracking open a drive to "swap out" the parts thought to be bad, and banging the device against a desk or hard surface when a drive's spindles go silent.

Although stubbornness and inquisitive human nature share some blame, the effort to save money is the biggest culprit leading untrained individuals to try their hand at data recovery, said Greg Schulz, an analyst at The StorageIO Group.

"In the race to save cost, [people] may forgo a data-recovery service and instead spend time to rebuild and restore [a drive that] actually ends up costing more in the long run," said Schulz.

Kroll claimed that more than 30% of non-recoverable disk drives are caused by human error rather than hard drive malfunctions.

The data recovery company said there are usually two types of people who attempt to fix non-functioning drives: novices with no disk drive or storage device knowledge and highly trained individuals who are "very motivated to fix the problem," said Jim Reinert, vice president of data recovery and software products at Kroll Ontrack.

Reinert said hard drive owners underestimate how complex a spinning hard drive is and wrongly believe its parts can be easily interchanged with off-the-shelf components. He said these higher-capacity storage devices feature new levels of drive-specific customization and factory fine-tuning that are not easily duplicated.

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