If you are looking at offering data recovery services, here are the general steps that are followed by pretty much every professional data recovery lab:

Step 1 – Assess the damage

  • PCB good?
  • Motor free and working?
  • Heads good?
  • Surface good?
  • Firmware good?

Step 2 – Stabilize the drive

  • Replace PCB
  • Change heads
  • Move platters or free up motor
  • Fix corrupt firmware

Step 3 – Clone the drive

  • Using special data recovery hardware imaging systems, get a full sector-by-sector copy of the drive to another known good drive that has already been securely wiped, avoiding any cross contamination of data between data recovery projects
  • Run multiple passes, with the first pass being very light and skipping the bad areas of the drive and going back with the following passes to fill in the holes to get the cleanest clone possible

Step 4 – If drive stops responding

  • Go back and repeat steps 1, 2 and continue on with step 3

Step 5 – File system recovery

  • Either manually with a hex editor or with the assistance of various in-house and purchased data recovery programs, search the drive and reconstruct the file system
  • Recover the data to another hard drive

Step 6 – Quality control

  • Confirm that files are healthy and readable
  • Send file listing to client for verification that requested data is listed

Step 7 – If data is missing

  • Be prepared to go back to step 5 and possibly back to step 3 to fill in more holes in the clone

Step 8 – Transfer data to new destination media

  • Confirm that all recovered data transferred and opens

Step 9 – Re-assemble client drive

  • Put all the original parts back into client drive
  • Put all donor parts back into donor drives and test

Step 10 – Wipe client data

  • Once a data recovery project is officially closed (2 weeks after the data is returned to the client at Recovery Force) all the client data is securely erased from the cloned drives
  • All data temporarily stored on network drives is deleted