If you’ve ever seen an actual hard drive, you are familiar with their basic shape and construction. On the underside of all hard drives is a printed circuit board, or PCB. It is this board that often contains the drive’s firmware and information about bad sectors; it also controls the flow of power and data to and from the drive. In many instances of hard drive failure, there is nothing wrong mechanically, but the PCB itself failed.

In the old days it was possible to swap the PCB from one identical, functional hard drive into a broken unit, and recover the data that way. This was practical and useful on drives up to perhaps two gigabytes in capacity. Now that hard drives aren’t even manufactured in capacities less than, say, forty gigabytes, it is not advisable to swap these boards. Older drives had self-test data, tables of bad sectors, and other diagnostic and operational information on the platters of the drive itself; today, in order to squeeze the greatest capacity out of hard drives and for reasons I won’t even begin to speculate, the information is stored in nonvolatile solid state memory on the PCB itself.

If a modern drive has its PCB swapped out, it may seem to function (spin up and make normal noises), but once it’s spun up and its data port hooked to something, the data will be irretrievably corrupted and totally unrecoverable.

Data recovery at Small Dog Electronics is done with the utmost care, using the most sophisticated software tools available. We are often able to recover the vast majority of data from each drive that comes through our doors, at prices a tiny fraction of those charged by professional outfits like Drivesavers.

When it comes right down to it, there is no reason for anyone to need data recovery. Hard drives are very inexpensive now, and now that we have Time Machine under Mac OS 10.5 Leopard, we don’t even have to think about backing up. Give us a ring and we’ll design a solution that meets your needs and budget!

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