04 Aug 2014

On a Wednesday afternoon Desiree called our office. She was a new client and after Joannie answered the phone saying: “Data Analyzers, good afternoon, how may I help you?” there was a quick responding “Hello?” followed by a long pause. Desiree was in tears. Joannie could barely understand what Desiree was saying. She tried to calm her down. Desiree explained in a voice that never stopped trembling, that her husband had passed six months ago and that the external hard drive that stored their joint memories of almost twenty years had fallen from the computer desk and could no longer be accessed. Here voice started to increasingly quiver as she explained that she had already taken the drive to a computer repair shop for recovery without any success. After Joannie provided some encouragement and re-assurance to Desiree, she decided to send her 500GB Western Digital external hard drive to our lab. The entire staff was aware of the case and was hopeful for a successful recovery. After an analysis was performed, the engineers determined that the drive was in a very bad condition. The hard drive’s read heads had made contact with the platters during the fall and had started to scrape away some of the platter surface along with her data. Recovery was unlikely and it seemed that Desiree was doomed to never recover the pictures and memories of her deceased husband.

The next day the entire office felt heavy and uneasy. Despite the low chances for a successful recovery, the drive went into the cleanroom for what we call hard drive surgical procedures. After replacing the faulty parts in combination with several alterations, the drive was attempted to spin up. Unfortunately the drive could not read any data and almost immediately damaged the replacement components. Joannie could not believe that of all cases, this one would have irrecoverable platter damage. “I do not want to deliver such bad news to Desiree” she expressed. The engineers took the drive back into the cleanroom and once again replaced the read heads and utilized some advanced recovery techniques in an attempt to bypass the problem. Once again the drive was spun up but no good news was to come from this case.

Disappointed, the engineers updated the case and started to prepare the drive for its return to the owner. As the drive was ready for return shipping David, one of the senior engineers ran out of the lab and shouted, “Wait! I have an idea”. David did indeed have an idea, but it was a theoretical one, without any guarantees. After sharing his thoughts, we decided it is so crazy that it might actually work. Joannie grabbed the cordless phone and called Desiree. She explained that the drive was in very bad condition and that all recovery attempts have failed. Joannie explained to Desiree that if she does not mind us keeping the drive for an additional week, we would like to attempt a new recovery technique that could potentially lead to a partial recovery. However, even though the technique was very sophisticated, there was no guarantee, due to the severe damage to the hard drive. Desiree agreed for us to proceed, as at this point she had nothing to lose. After the technique had been tested on dummy drives for 2 days consecutively, it was time for action and Desiree’s hard drive went back into the cleanroom for surgery. Thereafter the drive was spun up. It took longer than usual to receive any type of response from the drive, be it positive or negative. The entire lab was watching. There, finally the drive did successfully spin up and we could access some data. A full recovery was not possible but after several attempts 69% of the pictures of Desiree and her husband had been retrieved. When Joannie contacted Desiree, she was full of joy and immediately fell at ease knowing that 683 pictures had been recovered successfully.

Sometimes, it’s not about profit, but about touching someone’s life and doing everything in our might and ability to salvage what would be otherwise lost memories.

The moral of this case is to never give up!