Flat Rate Data Recovery for Platter Damage

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While the idea of paying a flat rate for recoveries of any complexity may sound alluring, it isn’t realistic. Many flat rate data recovery companies simply turn you away if recovering your data requires too much work. If this happens, consider yourself lucky. Some attempt to recover your data anyway, and inevitably cut plenty of corners in the process. In this blog post, I’ll provide real life example of a recovery job that a flat rate company wouldn’t bother with, or try and fail.

What’s the Damage?

A few days ago, we received a WD5000BMVW-11AMCS0, 500 GB Western Digital portable hard drive with platter damage. It took about an hour of work to disassemble the device and thoroughly inspect its heads, platters, and PCB. This is our standard diagnostics process and something we offer completely free of charge.

Hard drive diagnostics at ASAP Data Recovery

As you can see in the photo below, there’s very severe damage on one of the drive’s platters. We call this damage “rotational scoring”. A “good” platter has a pristine, mirror-like finish from edge to edge.

Severe platter damage near the edge

Is Data Retrieval Even Possible?

At this point, it’s clear this recovery will require a “donor” drive. This is a drive that has the same make, model, capacity, manufacturing date, and other characteristics as the “patient” drive to maximize compatibility. The donor for this specific drive cost us about $350, which is already in excess of the flat rate some data recovery companies advertise.

Additionally, this drive requires something called “platter decontamination”. This is an extremely tedious process where each of the drive’s platters are removed and carefully cleaned of any “platter dust”, extremely fine particles that spread across ALL platters when any one platter is scored. Their presence can easily result in further damage. A flat rate data recovery company eager to save their bottom line may choose to skip this step, potentially compromising the entire recovery.

The head that flies over the damaged platter surface needs to be physically removed from the donor drive’s head assembly. When the scoring is as serious as it is on this drive, any head flying over the scored surface will prevent the drive from working properly. Unfortunately, that means this will be a partial recovery at best.

This technique doesn’t work on every drive. Knowing when and how to do it requires significant experience with many different drives and with all the tools involved. Flat rate data recovery companies lack this experience because they specialize in simple recoveries, while the technique has narrow usefulness only in the most complex recoveries. Should they choose to attempt it anyway, one misstep can result in wasted time and money at best, and permanent data loss at worst.

The Result

Considering the amount of work involved, it should be clear by this point that this is a perfect example of an advanced data recovery that a flat rate data recovery company can’t offer at their price point. If there’s even the smallest chance that your hard drive has platter damage, entrusting your hard drive to a flat rate company is a mistake.

By the way, we successfully recovered the overwhelming majority of our client’s important files, despite the missing read/write head!


If you have a data loss issue and want to maximize your chances of recovery, give us a call, send us an email, or fill out our contact form. We respond to all questions/requests within one business hour. Stay safe and remember to back up!

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