Friday, April 20, 2007

Faulty harddrive and dry ice

Earlier this week, my office mate was unfortunate enough to have his laptop break down. He had backed up most of his important data on it but tragically his wife had all her work on it with no backups. To try and keep the family home in one piece, my boss and I have been trying to rescue the data from it.

Neither windows nor linux could pick it up, but it was intermittently found by the bios. So we had a go with spinrite and left it on overnight. It had some success, in that it could detect the partitions but it seemed to get stuck at 20%. Unfortunately, after we jumped that section it finished, but still could not be detected by anything. The question is why doesn't spinrite allow you to copy the information to another drive.

Anyway, I had read somewhere that leaving a faulty harddrive overnight in a freezer helps it to be used for a few hours, enough to get the data off. Don't ask me why, but there seems to be a body of evidence for this practice and apparently professional data recovery services use it. As I work for a scientific institution, they have a lot of dry ice around and so we thought we would try that. So I was left in the uncomprimising position of having a computer on my left with wires dangling across my legs into a harddrive poisition in a polysteronine box filled with dry ice. A chilling experience, which one does not expect when one goes into work.

Unfotunately even though there were signs of improvements (a nasty metal crunching sound to a humming cycle) it didn't work. The only choice now is a professional data recovery firm. One quote obtained was £450-900 depending on how much trouble it was to get the data!! And that was with 25% off because we work for a company ... what a ripper. The thing is that they basically have you by balls if you want to see your data ever again.