Greetings to you all!
I have been an anonymous forum lurker for about a year and a half now both here and on HDDOracle, but I recently decided I better join the community I seek to be a part of, especially if I am able to contribute my own findings and--hopefully--helpful ideas in the future!
As a previous lurker, I learned a lot from poring over resources both here and in many other places on the internet [Moulson's resources were a great if somewhat incomplete introduction that helped get me started in earnest], and I quickly spotted a lot of the same faces and names which I have since observed to all be active individuals in the greater community at large across the net. I feel I should take a moment to identify some of these people:
@Spildit: I see you everywhere, and you've been at this for over a decade from what I have observed. Your commitment and curiosity has been a great inspiration to me, and I've also learned a lot from some of your posts. You have my thanks!
@fzabkar: You have documented in detail a lot of things especially related to HDD PCBs, and I've learned a good bit from what you've shared here and elsewhere already. I hope that someday I might be able to do likewise.
@LarrySabo: Your DIY Laminar Flow Hood designs have become a subject of some discussion between myself and a few other people in the area here, for applications beyond even data recovery. Another inspiring example!
@Amarbir: One of the things that really impressed me about HDDGuru is how there are people from literally ALL OVER THE WORLD on here, all discussing and sharing their findings during their journey through this field. You are actually one of the first people I came across after Scott Moulson who worked in DR, and I freely confess that I've stalked your Facebook page a little bit, if only to see what you've been up to and how you've grown and learned. The one pic of the young man looking over your shoulder while you worked reminds me of my little brothers who like to also peer over my shoulder and ask what I'm doing.
I know there are lots of other people on here I haven't met yet, and I look forward to meeting your acquaintance, too!
My humble story, for those who may be interested:
I got into DR while working at a local but well-established PC repair and sales outlet in South Carolina, USA. After two years of dedicated hard work I was promoted into the Tech department where my mind basically exploded into learning the ins and outs of all kinds of computer hardware and software as I went from repair to repair resolving issues involving everything from daughterboard replacement on a Panasonic Toughbook for local law enforcement to undoing the damage done by a cryptoransomware infection for a neighboring Fire Department to helping a grandma set up her email on her new iPad. However, in this position I was also exposed to what most shops like this provide as a service in this industry: Logical data recovery.
It began with my first failing drive during a repair. Windows 7 Pro, system didn't have a boot device and the Windows disk didn't let me read a filesystem. Booted up MHDD with mobo controller set to ATA, and immediately saw several slow/offline uncorrectable sectors in the head map. Okay, this drive is failing. Work order says customer's critical data is chiefly pictures and documents [like most people]. Hook it up to one of our dedicated recovery systems and one of my senior coworkers introduced me to Active@. A few hours later we had a recovered Users folder with the customer's data on a separate drive and I phoned them the news.
However, it quickly became apparent to me that there were many scenarios we kept having where we would check drives customers brought in and discover, with but a brief time connecting it to a testbed, that it was clicking or buzzing, or just didn't register at all in BIOS/Windows. Our people have some very seasoned veterans among them, so we have strict policies about what to do when a customer's drive behaves in such a fashion. Customer data is our number one priority, and we knew enough about drive technology to act with the interest of preventing further damage to a failing drive. However, I eventually found myself wondering something as I followed policy, informed the customer that their drive had experienced a head crash or had a dead board, handing them a DriveSavers brochure [we have a referral relationship with them], and wishing them the best. Why couldn't we go further than mere software recovery? I had disassembled a few drives, so I knew they were composed of what seemed to be replaceable parts [oh, how little I knew], but what was stopping us, other than the clean room problem, from doing physical repairs on drives?
And then finally, one day for the seventh or eighth time in my time working there, I found myself being the doctor with bad news after checking an external WD drive on a testbed, informing a poor lady that the pictures and videos of her deceased brother's life were lost, save for, perhaps, the work of the folks in California. Despite all our efforts to emphasize backups to our customers, cases like these still happened all too often. But this turned my questioning into motivation to dig deeper, to learn more.
Over the course of this past year I have learned a ton, starting with Scott Moulson's resources, moving forward to even watching and trying to understand Russians talking about head replacements on enterprise drives, and now finally getting into understanding NAND technologies and chip-off recovery technologies. But at the same time I have since found many other powerful motivations. I like a good challenge, and it appears to be something this field is packed with, and even moreso now with NAND recovery becoming more and more relevant. I also love helping people, and solving puzzles to help people is my favorite part of working in information technology.
Hope that's not too long and detailed. I trimmed a lot already and it's STILL several paragraphs. I suppose the TL;DR is, I'm not ashamed to acknowledge that I'm a young whippersnapper who likes to tinker with things he doesn't quite understand with the hope that he one day will, and I have learned in the last few years a great many things, but one of the most important is that I have a lot of passion for this sort of thing, and the acumen to turn that energy into productive results. My grandfather was the same way, and before he died he was able to say he'd been an Architectural, Mechanical, Electrical, and even a STEAM Engineer, all with vast real-world applications. There was almost no problem he couldn't solve, and he contributed a great deal to his community, especially in preserving history [Steam Locomotives, a Log Tavern, and one of the first Electric cars, to name a few] for younger generations to discover and learn from. And he did that WITHOUT the internet! It's amazing what you can learn if you have the courage to accept your ignorance, the curiosity to make exploring the unknown its own reward, and the commitment to hold fast through the whole journey!
So here I stake out my first documented steps into the world of actual data recovery. Here we go!