0131 553 9006

28 Crighton Place
Leith Walk Edinburgh EH7 4NY

Data Recovery with severe platter damage (head crash). Step by Step.

We got this internal drive recently by post.

The Seagate drive had lived for years inside a DELL Desktop, and for some reason, one day it just gave up.  The customer had been to a few other shops including a high street name, and as they couldn’t do anything, they sent it to us.   The drive had some important files of an avid motorbike fan, containing photos over many years of motorbike race meets.


According to the customer, nothing had happened to the drive, but the other shops that had taken a look were unsure if the data could be recovered at all, with any attempts being expensive, irrespective if any data could be retrieved.  At Eastcoast Data Recovery, we don’t charge to analyse or return a drive which was one of the reasons it was sent to us.

Under analysis, and using our Acelabs PC3000, we noticed that the drive spins up but after a few seconds of trying to access, the drive just freezes and refuses to respond.  Meaning the only way forward was to reset and repower the drive between freezes.  After some adjustments to the settings and to the firmware, we were able to get better access to the drive. Using the PC3000, and after many hours, with the occasional tweak, we were able to target the User profile folder and make a copy of the sectors.     A perfect recovery wasn’t possible as there was severe damage to some files & sectors under one particular head.    Despite this, we were able to retrieve 93% of the critical files, mostly photos, and videos.

The rescued files were then copied off and sent back to a relieved and extremely pleased customer.

Job Done.. Well, at least for that day.



A few days later

After going through our stock of donor drives, we happened to come across another drive in our collection that was almost an exact match for the drive.  We suspected maybe a weak head was causing the issues originally.  As there was no harm in trying, we would attempt a head swap to see if we can get off the remaining 7% of files we couldn’t get off before.

The following is step-by-step of what happened and ends when we discover what was wrong with the drive.

Warning!  Please do not attempt this at home unless you have professional equipment and have taken the right precautions and you know what you are doing.    If you care about your data, then please do not open your drive as you may end up losing your data. We are only showing this for demonstration purposes.

Step 1: – Label the drives correctly – don’t want any mistakes there.

Both sides to be sure.


Step 2: – Remove PCB’s from both

Step 3: –  To ensure a clean air environment, we are doing all work within our Laminar FLOW cabinet.  Drive’s now fitted into our Hard Drive Rig.

The air is first cleaned through HEPA filters which are then forced through the air cabinet and ensures a clean environment for us to open drives.  A single speck of dust could ruin a recovery.

Step 4: Remove all screws on the donor drive top casing.  Including the one under the seal.



Step 5: Remove drive lid to for the first inspection.   Now we can see the damage on the platter!

Now the drive is opened, we can see that the real reason behind the issues.  There is heavy damage on the top surface caused by the drive head crashing into the disk platter.  It has left a sizeable ring mark that has damaged the physical platter.  There is no way we can get more data off the drive, even with a head swap.   We stopped here as there is no point going on further.  We were just amazed we managed to get off as much as we did.  We have seen a single fingerprint causing issues in recovery, so managing to recover anything with this level of damage surprised even us.

The customer sent us the drive by post, and we returned the rescued data by post too.  We don’t charge to diagnose or to return drives, so if you have any data on a damaged drive and need the drive evaluated but can’t visit us directly, please wrap it carefully in bubble wrap and post it to us.  For more info and the correct address, please check out our contact page.

Thanks for visiting our site.  We will do a more detailed step by step’s in future.