Data Recovery

What is data recovery?

Data recovery is the process of salvaging data from damaged, failed, corrupted, or inaccessible computer storage media if it cannot be accessed normally.

recovery may be required due to physical damage (such as failed electronic components, water/flood damage, fire/smoke damage) or logical damage to the file system caused by bad or unreadable sectors or firmware corruption that prevents the user from accessing the stored data.

We have successfully recovered data from external and internal hard disk drives, USB thumb drives (also known as USB flash drives), memory cards, tapes, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks and RAIDs. In our specially designed static dissipative computer lab, we are able to replace damaged or failed components such as printed circuit boards and read/write head assemblies. These techniques are highly technical and require a high level of skill and patience; data recovery jobs can take days or even weeks for a successful outcome!

‘Traditional’ hard disk drives have moving parts that can be susceptible to failure, but these parts are also replaceable making them a good choice for all users. New solid state disks (SSD) do not have any moving parts, instead utilising a series of RAM chips which can also fail and render the disk completely inaccessible using traditional methods; the cost of recovery from SSD drives is therefore much higher.

Back-ups are an essential part of running a computer. You do not need to have any expensive equipment in order to have a good back up routine; burning important files to a CD/DVD could mean the difference between data loss or your business getting back up and running after a failure. You can also back your data up to an external USB hard disk drive, tape media or use an online storage facility. Remember that backing up your data is only the first step; you must check your back-ups regularly to ensure they contain what you think they do!

Hard Disk Data Recovery

Hard disk drives are the most common type of data storage medium, used by home users and businesses alike. They are relatively cheap, they are easy to buy and come in lots of different capacities depending on your storage needs. In the data recovery world however, there are only two types; a hard disk drive that has failed and one that is going to fail! Of course, not every user will suffer a significant data loss but it is still a good idea to regularly back up your important data.

We see lots of different types of failures, from user error (accidentally deleting data) to software corruption or even physical damage. Hard disk drives contain moving components which are susceptible to failure, but these can be replaced (using donor parts) therefore increasing the chances of a successful data recovery.

We are able to replace failed electronic components, read/write head assemblies and failed motor bearings to name just a few. We have a lot of experience rebuilding failed RAID arrays (see below) and have successfully recovered data from flood and water damaged hard disk drives, those that have been subject to (sometimes deliberate) physical damage and smoke damaged hard disk drives.

RAID Recovery

There are many different RAID types, each having their own advantages and disadvantages but each is designed to safeguard your data and speed up data transfer times.

The most common types we see are RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 5 but there are others.

RAID 0 is where the data is striped between two hard disk drives. This means that if one hard disk drive fails and is not recoverable, you have essentially lost half of your data; it does however improve performance.

RAID 1 is a mirrored pair, which is where the data is written simultaneously to both hard disk drives. This provides greater safe-guarding against data loss as you will always have a copy if one hard disk drive fails .

RAID 5 is where data is spread over a series of hard disk drives, usually 3 or more, and can tolerate a single hard disk drive failure without the user being aware of any data loss. Until the failed hard disk drive is replaced however there will be a noticeable loss in performance; 2 or more hard disk drives failing can result in serious data loss.

USB Thumb Drive / USB Flash Drive Recovery

Known by a variety of names including thumb drives and flash drives, these are digital storage devices which are designed to be easily transported.

Introduced in 1998 they are currently available in various capacities up to 2TB.

They are frequently inserted and removed from USB ports; this can put strain on the connectors and joints within the USB thumb drive. The most common cause of failure for a USB thumb drive is a dry joint, which is where the solder joints become brittle and break so that the user can no longer access the stored data. USB thumb drives can also be easily snapped when they are attached to a computer.

Media Card and Memory Card Recovery

Memory cards are often found in mobile phones and digital cameras and they are commonly available in a variety of formats including:

Compact Flash (CF)
Smart Media (SM / SMC)
Memory Stick (MS)
Memory Stick Duo (MSD)
Memory Stick PRO Duo (MSPD)
Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo (MSPDX)
Memory Stick Micro (M2)
Multimedia Card (MMC)
Multimedia Card Micro (MMCmicro)
Secure Digital Card (SD)
Mini Secure Digital (miniSD)
Micro Secure Digital (microSD)
xD Picture Card (XD)

Memory cards are mainly used to store picture and media files; however the data can easily become corrupted or the internal controller chip on the flash media’s internal printed circuit board (PCB) can fail. If the internal controller chip fails it is extremely unlikely that your data will be recoverable; data corruption on memory cards can often be overcome, however.


Back-ups are an essential part of running a computer.

You do not need to have any expensive equipment in order to have a good back up routine; burning important files to a CD/DVD could mean the difference between data loss or your business getting back up and running after a failure. You can also back your data up to an external USB hard disk drive, tape media or use an online storage facility.

Remember, that backing up your data is only the first step; you must check your back-ups regularly to ensure they contain what you think they do!

REMEMBER, if you only have your current or old data in one place, whether it is on a computer hard drive, an external hard drive, USB memory stick or in the Cloud it is NOT a back-up.

CD and DVD Recovery

Compact disk (CDs) is an optical disc format which is used to store digital data. CDs were originally developed to store and playback sound recordings but their use was later expanded to encompass data storage. The usual capacity for CDs is 650 to 870 MB. CDs have been commercially available since 1982.

Digit video disks or digital versatile disks (DVDs) are an optical disc storage media format which was invented in 1995. DVDs offer a greater storage capacity than CDs while having the same dimensions.

DVDs are available with the following approximate capacities:

4.38 GB (single-sided, single-layer)
7.95 GB (single-sided, double-layer)
8.75 GB (double-sided, single-layer)
15.9 GB (double-sided, double-layer)

CDs and DVDs are an excellent choice for quick and easy backups; they are generally reliable and readily available. CDs and DVDs can be susceptible to surface damage such as scratches, but they are also quite tolerant and data will often be recoverable from a CD or DVD which appears to have quite a lot of damage!

Without sufficient care you may inadvertently damage the reflective (data) surface of your CD or DVD. In order to reduce the risk of damage CDs and DVDs should be stored, when not in use, in an appropriate case or sleeve. To handle a CD or DVD, insert a finger or thumb into the centre hole or handle it by the edges; never touch the data surface.

If you are unable to access your data, you may wish to try the following before contacting Griffin Forensics data recovery team:

Attempt to confirm that data was actually stored on the CD or DVD

– Use a piece of soft cloth to wipe off dust.

– Clean sticky or greasy CDs and DVDs using cotton or a soft cloth dampened with a small – quantity of baby shampoo in lukewarm water.

– Clean fingerprint marks on the CD or DVDs surface by dipping a soft cloth in Isopropyl Alcohol/Ethanol/Methanol and gently wipe the surface.

– When using a liquid to clean the CD or DVD ensure it is completely dry before storing or using it.

– Never use petroleum based solvents such as Acetone on CDs or DVDs as they will permanently damage the data surface.

– Always wipe the disc surface in a non-radial back-and-forth motion (from the centre hole to the outer edge); do not follow the concentric circles while cleaning.

If you are still unable to access your valuable data contact Griffin Forensics data recovery team.

Data Emergency

If you require data recovery call Griffin on 01280 707190; although our office hours are 08:00 to 17:00 the call will be diverted to a member of staff 24/7. In the event of a data emergency it is important that you follow a few simple steps in order to maximise the recovery of your data.

In the event of a data emergency please DO:

– Close down the computer in the normal way and record any unusual events or noises and contact a data recovery specialist as soon as possible.
– Place your hard drive in a sealed bag if it is damaged by water or liquid.

In the event of a data emergency please DO NOT:

– Try to recover the data yourself; as more damage may occur or potentially recoverable data may be overwritten.
– Keep switching the computer on and off again if you suspect that your hard drive is failing. This could make the situation worse.
– Try to dry the hard drive if it is damaged by water or liquid; as this will damage the internal components.

Above all don’t panic.
We are here to help and can offer advice and reassurance as soon as we receive your call.

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Chris Watts

Chris served in the Royal Air Force for 23 years where he investigated computer misuse and computer security breaches. In 1995 he introduced a formal digital forensic capability into the RAF and remained the central point of contact for this discipline until his retirement in 1999. He entered commercial digital forensics at Vogon International Ltd in January 1999 and, at the time of Vogon's closure in December 2006, Chris was the Computer Investigations Manager.

He has received and provided training on computer data recovery techniques, computer auditing, computer security, digital forensics, mobile phone forensics, computer investigations, computer viruses and computer maintenance from and to both military and commercial sources in the UK and abroad. Chris has, and continues to be, instructed as a digital forensics expert witness for the defence and the prosecution and is an experienced Single Joint Expert

Anthony Smith

Anthony (Tony) joined Vogon International Ltd in 2001 where he was employed as a Data Recovery Engineer performing data recovery duties and providing forensic processing support to the computer forensic department. At Vogon his work mainly concerned the recovery of data from damaged or corrupt storage media and file-systems. From 2007 till 2010 Tony worked in various forensic analyst and forensic consultant roles where his work included converting data to a human readable format, forensic imaging and supporting police forces with the execution of search warrants. In 2011 Tony joined our team where he is employed as a forensic investigator and data recovery expert.