Behind the Scenes at a Hard Drive Rescue

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-04-25 Print this article Print

The folks who actually make the hard drives are probably the best ones to do the rescuing when the HDDs go bonkers.

We've all been there at one time or another-and if you haven't, you will be at some point: Your computer seizes up, the Blue Screen of Death rears its ugly head and your computer passes away into the night, taking all that data and functionality with it.

We're talking about the life cycle of the typical hard drive, which can vary between anywhere from a couple of weeks to 12 years, depending upon many factors.

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I personally have a 16GB C drive inside my ancient enterprise-class Hewlett-Packard Vectra desktop, which was a corporate standard in 2000 when I was senior editor at

It still runs wonderfully well, although it's way outmoded. It does what I need it to do, thank you, and I don't need it for videogames or for showing movies.

(Just to make sure, though, I have Carbonite backing up everything I do on it. Fifty bucks a year, unlimited capacity file backup, operates in the background with no effect on my work-not a bad deal. It's a service in the cloud, like EMC's Mozy, that is highly recommended.)

So today's story is about hard drive rescues: how someone opens up a dead hard drive and is able to get the files and other data off it, and then put that data back onto another drive that can be used.

I had two other old hard drives, both six to 10 years old, that contained some valuable personal files (mostly music and photos) and were sitting on a shelf, gathering dust. As luck would have it, Seagate Technology called me one day and told me about the company's new Recovery Services.

Here's a short recap:

Seagate Recovery Services opened for business at 1,400 Staples and 33 Fry's Electronics stores in North America and Hawaii in November 2007. It is competing with the Geek Squad, which is ensconced at Best Buy stores.

Staples fronts the Seagate services through Staples' in-store EasyTech services staff. But Seagate people actually do the work.

Customers can walk up to the EasyTech counter and drop off any make or brand of digital storage container-hard drives from laptops, desktops, iPods, or external drives; RAID storage arrays; flash drives; optical drives; digital videocams; and tape and optical media, including CDs and DVDs.

In each store, Staples staff people offer a free evaluation of the media, determine the cost of recovery and, once approved by the customer, try to recover the data.

"It's sort of like the relationship Geek Squad has with Best Buy," Jay Remley, president of Seagate Recovery Services, told eWEEK. "There isn't a lot of investment from Staples in this new service, outside of some training. Seagate is handling all the recovery services itself."

Service costs will vary, but most hard drive data recovery projects will cost between about $200 and $2,000, Remley said. But you get a fresh new USB-connected storage drive that holds your old data.

Data loss can be caused by mechanical failure of a device, contamination, fire or water damage, human error or other factors. In most cases, the data can be recovered by trained technicians by using a combination of software technologies and physical reconstruction of the device, Remley said.

Remley said the services include the guarantee that if Seagate and Staples can't recover the data, there will be no charge to the customer.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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