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 Post subject: DIY: What's the big deal?
PostPosted: July 5th, 2009, 14:02 

Joined: September 27th, 2005, 8:21
Posts: 765
I would like to summarize what has been discussed numerous times by me and other members. I will try to keep things as simple as possible.

Why there's so little information on DIY solutions?
Because there are not too many "easy" solutions. Most easy solutions have already been posted a number of times. There are two main reasons why people don't post more complicated solutions online:
1) because it took someone days (and sometimes weeks or even months) of expensive research to find solution to a problem
2) because chances of a screw-up when following a more complicated solution are extremely high

Even if someone would be willing to share a solution, they would have to spend days answering follow-up questions and clarifying things over and over again. Unfortunately, there aren't too many volunteers :)

Hard drive recovery is, indeed, a very unusual niche; when you begin a research, for every answer you get you also get a dozen of new questions. You can easily spend 3 years of full-time work before you fully understand how a hard drive works.

Also a good comment from drccsc:
drccsc wrote:
Ultimately it is not the data recovery professional's fault that data recovery related information is secret, it is the drive manufacturer's. They don't want you to know how to access or manipulate the non-user features of your hard drives, which is what has to happen to recover from failures. The more the information that is (probably illegally) reverse-engineered is spread around on the internet, the harder the manufacturers will make it to do. And then people who don't belong to companies that actually pay for the proprietary information will be even MORE out of luck in terms of anyone sharing info with them.

C'mon, the hard drive is just an electronic device, what's the big deal?
It actually is an extremely sophisticated device, way too different from most other electronic devices (motherboard, cell phone, etc). Most people cannot even imagine the level of complexity of modern hard drives.

All these "data recovery professionals" just try to look cool, data recovery is actually easy
If things were so easy, there would be many data recovery companies with good reputation out there, and an average data recovery job would cost $50, not $1000.

Many people think that data recovery professionals try to hide their secrets only to make more $$$. However, there's actually a lot of information available (most people just don't want to look around). If there's an easy fix for someone's problem, the experienced members are happy to help (example, another example).

My drive is dead. I'd like to flash my drive, how do I do that?
Forget about it. "Flashing" a hard drive makes absolutely no sense at all. There's very little that you can "flash" in a modern hard drive; most of its firmware is stored on the platters.

Okay, my hard drive is still dead, so how do I rewrite that firmware?
First of all, you have to be 100% sure that the issue is with the firmware. You have to fully diagnose the drive first and make sure you have a firmware problem. Also, bear in mind that there are no free tools available to access the firmware. Even if there were such tools, it would have been extremely easy to completely brick the hard drive beyond all repair by simply rewriting the firmware, and in 99.9% cases people would do exactly that. The biggest problem is that there are lots of areas in the firmware which you should not rewrite under any circumstances (calibration/fine tune data, defect lists, etc) if you want to recover data. Diagnosing firmware issues can be extremely complicated even for a data recovery professional with many years of experience.

So what's the big deal if I kill my own drive, why do you care?
Surely, there's little to worry about if a home user kills their drive. The real issue is that most data recovery startups follow DIY instructions posted on forums with little to no understanding on customer's drives. The worst thing is that very often they mess up and make LOTS of drives unrecoverable.

So what's the problem with that?
The problem is that this happens way too often.

If I mess up, I can always restore everything
Unfortunately, restoring from most screw-ups at home is 99.9% impossible, and extremely hard (and sometimes impossible) in a data recovery lab.

Why there are so many aggressive people on these forums?
This happens mostly because home users do not understand the level of complexity (see above). So they just make assumptions on how things work and base their questions on assumptions (most problems look very simple to them, so they are expecting a simple solution to each problem).

Here is an example:
My hard drive is clicking. How do I flash my drive?
To many people this looks like a normal question. But let's try and answer this question; I'll start off answering the second part. As I mentioned before, there's no such thing as "flashing a hard drive". There's simply nothing to flash (well, almost nothing). I would have to say that there's no such failure that you can fix with "flashing". Next, clicking hard drive. Clicking usually means head failure (or, rarely, PCB failure). Of course, it is impossible to fix such damage with any software or action without replacing failed parts.

Now, let's assume we are already well in the discussion (explained everything above) and the person who asked the initial question already understands that there's physical damage (head damage in our case). So their next question is:
I have opened the drive and see no damage
The biggest problem here is that he (or she) opened the drive at home, without using clean air chamber or clean room. Most users will also try and move the headstack back and forth and play with some other internal parts of the hard drive, making things much, much worse (the cost of the recovery in this case will go well above $1000, and chances of successful recovery are medium to low at this point).

So, we would have to explain that head damage is not obvious in most cases, and has to be properly diagnosed, but at that point the patience is lost most of the time :)

There are hundreds of other examples where the only answer could be "send the drive to a data recovery company". In these cases people get the best advise - visit a data recovery specialist, and in return we often see aggression. You can compare this to the following: when you've got cold, a doctor can suggest you some medicine you can buy cheap and recover on your own; however, there are situations when you must get professional medical help. You wouldn't open your stomach to see that there's "no obvious issue" inside, would you?

A perfect example thread: wd5000aaks-00tma0-pcb-needs-changing-t15491.html

And we have to go through hundreds of such threads... Consider that not only we have to answer all these questions, but we also receive hard drives totally killed after such actions by some DataGoneFast data recovery company, and you can see where all that irritation comes from.

Important note:
Although this happens rarely, some people on these forums are trying to prevent the distribution of the information that is actually safe for home users to use. I would like to emphasize that I don't see anything bad when someone posts a safe solution to a specific problem. Majority of people who do not like any open information actually never developed their own technologies and only use what they found on the internet (and on these forums). It is natural for them to try and prevent further distribution of information once they got it. A good/sustainable business cannot be built based on information from open forums.

When there's information that is useful and safe for home use, it will eventually get into the internet, no matter how hard we try and "protect" it. I do not see a point in protecting such information. And, from my experience, spreading of such information does not affect data recovery businesses by a noticeable amount.

On a side note, some people on these forums just cannot stop playing flame wars. I am not sure what drives them; I have asked numerous times to cool it down, but it only helps for a little time. If you have become a part of such a thread, please simply stop replying and the heat will magically evaporate.

OK, I will try to keep things short :mrgreen: and stop at this point


 Post subject: Re: DIY: What's the big deal?
PostPosted: July 8th, 2009, 3:17 

Joined: September 27th, 2005, 8:21
Posts: 765
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