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22/7/2017 – ST3000DM001. Pre-opened HDD

This week CDR – Manchester Data Recovery Services – received a 3TB HDD from a media company based in Sale, Cheshire. The drive contained video footage for various projects. The owner of the HDD had described that the drive had been making a ‘clicking’ sound. Knowing this, and that the model of the drive in question was the Seagate ST3000DM001, it was possible to identify over the phone that the drive was most likely to have a failure of the read-write heads. This is a mechanical failure of an HDD and is the most serious type of failure. Consequently, the fees associated with this type of recovery work are at the top end for data recovery services. A full copy of our price list was sent to the customer.

Seagate 3TB HDD

Severe physical damage to the platter, and large amounts of contamination in the filtration pad due to the platter surface having been scraped away by the head assembly. Almost certainly an unrecoverable HDD.

Hard disk drive details:

Manufacturer: Seagate

Model: ST3000DM001

Printed Circuit Board: 100664987 REV A

Receiving the HDD

On receipt of the HDD, it was obvious that the HDD had been previously opened. The manufacturer label on the front of the HDD had been tampered with, and the screw which holds the head-assembly in place was exposed. There was a sticker on the front of the drive which we recognised as that of another data recovery company. The owner of the disk confirmed that the drive had been sent to another company first, but he had requested back on the basis of their quotation.

False advance price estimates and diagnostic tests

The customer had been told in advance by the first data recovery company that the ‘average’ cost of recovery would be about £200. The website of the said data recovery company clearly advertised “no-recovery, no-fee,” and this had been stated to the customer. On receipt of the customer’s disk, this changed. He was provided with a quotation where the total cost was nearly £1000, with approximately £300 upfront, non-refundable fees for donor-parts to attempt the work. They claimed that the chances of successfully recovering the data were about 70%

Scam in action

We opened the HDD and performed an inspection in a clean air environment. It was immediately apparent that the HDD had suffered catastrophic damage to the platter surface. This was visible and is documented in the image. Moreover, there were large amounts of contamination inside the drive as a result of this damage. In a very low proportion of cases it is possible to recover data from disks with minor platter damage. However, to claim that there was a “70%” chance of a successful recovery was false. On this occasion the location and severity of the damage would almost certainly make any data unrecoverable.

Non-refundable fees

It is cases like this are the reason why that we urge customer of data recovery companies to never pay a non-refundable fee for data recovery services. There was clearly little or no chance of a successful recovery in this case. Yet the company made false claims and requested several hundred pounds in fees to attempt work. Work, which we expect was unlikely to take place at all.

In this case Cheadle DATA Recovery Ltd made no charges for the diagnostic tests performed on this HDD.