Tour of Disklabs Data Recovery

Tour of Disklabs Data Recovery


Last week we took the opportunity to tour the Disklabs data recovery facilities, located just outside Birmingham (UK). Disklabs specialise in all sorts of data recovery services, including hard drives, floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, flash media, sim cards and virtually any media that stores some sort of information.

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Front of the Office Unit

Recovering data using the techniques in the hard drive data recovery guide are one thing, some of the procedures performed whilst touring the building seemed on a different level. Disk labs have some very advanced facilities, including forensic tools, a clean area and a massive fibredrive server.

The Tour

The tour started with the brief overview of the facility and a chat with one of the directors of Disklabs. The company operating, security and safety procedures were explained in great detail, as well as brushing up on in-depth technical knowledge of how a hard drive works.

After browsing the main office and reading through the list of accreditations on the wall, we took a couple of photos of the non-geeky part of the company.

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In the Disklabs Office

The tour continued to downstairs, where most of the basic hard drive testing and storage is performed.​

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Once inside the ESD protected area, all employees must wear a ground strap around their shoe/ankle - not doing so is a sackable offence.​

The Tour

One of the first and most interesting aspects of the tour was the clean area, basically an expensive unit that can create a workable environment with only a few parts per cubic meter of dust. This means that a hard drive can be opened and operated on safely, without the risk of dust landing on the drive platters.

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Clean Facility Enclosure


To demonstrate the capabilities of the enclosure, a drive with a boot sector fault was opened up and connected to a powered up computer. The Drive heads could be seen to scan from side to side, and the platters spin at an incredible speed.​

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Hard Drive Operating Without Cover

Next on the tour came the more advanced hard drive recovery machines, there was a whole room full of these manned machines, working more or less constantly. Each machine had plenty of extra cooling for the hard drives, as the drive is stressed more than in normal usage (producing far more heat).​

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Recovery Computer

When a drive is brought in for recovery, all of the data on the drive is saved as an "image" onto a main server in case the worst should happen. Drives are then diagnosed into different groups, from boot sector problems to severe physical damage.​

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Backup Server

Located in another area of the building is a massive fibredrive server, holding a massive array of fibredrive disks.​

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Fibredrive Server

Conclusion

The day concluded with a talk about the old Deskstar IBM hard drives, aka "deathstar" for their bad reliability rate. It turns out that the cause of this was due to the drive head crashing into the drive platters, physically damaging the hard drive.

Disklabs are also able to recover data from Sim Cards, Flash Media and almost any other data storing device, so it was interesting to see the methods and equipment used to retrieve this information.

Overall, the tour was a great insight to the workings of a data recovery company. The tour was a great follow up to the Data Recovery guide, and gave a good sense as to what actually happens when things go wrong!

Author
Ian Cunningham
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