Scratches on the hard drive platters.

Ok so we have been seeing a lot of talk and demagoguery about scratches on the platters of hard drives and how usually they are no longer recoverable. Let us tell you a little bit about scratches, how do they look, and what kind of problems in reality do they create when trying to recover the data.

Ok first thing first. Scratched hard drives are still recoverable, not fully, but still recoverable. Usually the sectors on the platters that have been impaired by the scratch, are the only sectors that will not be read by the head-stack assembly, meaning that the rest of the allocated space is still intact and can be salvaged. Lets say you are just looking to get back one file, which is a 30 MB database from Quick-books, well the good news is that most likely the file has not been impaired by the scratch and can be saved. What we are trying to say here, is that smaller files that were not impaired by the scratch are still alive and can be easily salvaged. The larger files on other hand might not be in so much luck, since the file system usually fragments pieces of these large files from one platter to the other, where one fragment of the file might be ok, but the one that happened to be on the platter with a scratch is lost forever, hence combining those two fragments will give you a corrupt stream of data. No one ever de-fragments their disks, that is a known fact, and guess what de-fragmenting your hard drive from time to time, really does increase the chances of successful recovery from drives with scratches.

Another difficulty that we can come upon with scratched hard disks, that if the scratch is too deep or too wide, most of the time it will leave a lot of debris on top of the untouched by scratches surface. We are talking about the thin layered aluminum coating that is covering the top of the platters, the layer that actually stores all your data. That debris usually comes in a form of powder, that scatters all over the platters in a very uncontrolled and chaotic way, due to the fast speeds the disk are rotating at. Even with this case scenario, the hope is still there… The platters can be cleaned with proper tools and techniques in a lab environment, but the cleaning process might take days, weeks, if not months. Persistence and patience with these scenarios play the most role, even if it seems that it’s a lost cause. 60% of the time from our experience, the debris can be cleared and data still be salvaged.

So there it is, now you know the actual truth about scratched pseudo-unrecoverable hard disk drives. So when a company or a firm say that they are unable to help you, this most likely means that they are not willing to invest the time into getting your data recovered, since the process as we mentioned before might take very long periods of time. Time is not only factor though. Dedication, 24/7 clean-room presence and donor parts investments play a huge role too. So do not be surprised if you get a very high price quote from a company that state they are in fact able to get the hard drive recovered.

That’s about it. Hope this article will be of help to some people out there with scratched hard drives. Remember there is still hope. Oh, just one last thing – BACK UP!