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Hard Drive Firmware Damage

A hard drive's firmware provides a blueprint that allows the device to operate properly. When a drive boots up, it accesses firmware on its platters and on its printed circuit board for instructions before receiving commands from the computer.

Hard Drive Firmware Damage

To treat some hard drive failures, data recovery engineers need to use specialized hardware to rewrite firmware data.

If the firmware is damaged or inaccessible, the hard drive cannot operate. This results in data loss if a computer user does not have a backup of important files and folders.

The most common causes of firmware damage include:

  • Actuator Head Failures Resulting in Platter Damage
  • Power Surges, Blackouts and Other Electrical Events
  • Improper Voltage from a Computer's Power Supply Unit
  • Corruption Caused by Shutdown During Firmware Update
  • Controller Board Damage from Electrostatic Discharge

Secure Data Recovery Services offers firmware repair and data recovery services. With more than two dozen offices across the United States, we provide industry-leading turnaround times and excellent success rates. Contact our customer service team to set up a free media evaluation or read on for more information regarding firmware damage and data recovery.

How Hard Drive Firmware Works

Most of a hard drive's firmware is microcode located on part of the magnetic platters known as the service area. A small amount of the firmware is usually on a chip on the controller board.

When a hard drive boots, it checks the service area, which contains a list of damaged or worn sectors. The heads then relay this list to the controller board. The firmware microcode also contains operating information that tells the heads hard drive how to function as efficiently as possible.

Hard drive manufacturers write unique firmware for each hard drive that they produce. No two modern hard drives share identical firmware, although segments of the firmware microcode are the same among drives of the same series. Because of this, hard drive data recovery companies cannot simply copy the microcode from a working drive to fix firmware issues.

Common Symptoms of Firmware Damage

Firmware damage symptoms vary depending on the location and extent of the damage. If a hard drive has a severely damaged controller board, it may not boot or mount at all. When firmware microcode contains errors, the hard drive may report a large number of bad sectors or an inaccurate capacity.

Some symptoms of firmware damage include:

  • Motor Starts, Then Stops
  • Hard Drive Turns On But Does Not Boot
  • Bad Sector Errors
  • Frequent Crashes and Slow Operation
  • Inaccurate Hard Drive Information in BIOS

Many of these symptoms also occur with other types of hard drive failures. To accurately diagnose a hard disk with firmware damage, data recovery engineers need to test firmware and inspect physical hard drive components.

Treating Problems with Hard Drive Firmware

Before treating firmware failures, data recovery engineers need to repair damaged actuator assemblies and other hard drive components that have been damaged by firmware errors. Actuator heads and platters are extremely susceptible to contamination, however, and engineers need to work in a strictly controlled, sterile environment to safely perform repairs.

Secure Data Recovery Services operates a Certified Class 10 ISO 4 Cleanroom, which allows a maximum of 10 contaminants per cubic foot of air. This technology provides appropriate protection for hard drive component repair, and we test our Cleanroom regularly to maintain compliance with Class 10 ISO 4 specifications.

After performing physical repairs, our engineers edit the damaged hard drive's microcode to bypass or repair firmware errors. This requires specialized firmware repair tools and advanced knowledge of different hard drive manufacturers' microcode structures.

Our engineers have years of experience with firmware issues, and if the platters of the hard drive have not sustained serious damage, we can usually recover all of the drive's user data within several days. We offer several service options, including a 24/7/365 service for emergency data loss scenarios.

Finding a Secure Data Recovery Provider

Secure Data Recovery Services holds a number of certifications that show our commitment to excellent media security. We maintain strict protocols at all of our facilities and regularly host third-party audits to ensure compliance with federal privacy laws.

Our certifications include:

  • PCI Security Certification
  • SAS 70 Certification
  • SSAE 18 Type II Certification
  • Information Systems Security Association Member
  • Certified General Services Administration Contractor
  • Green Business Certification

For a full list of our credentials or to view attestation and audit information, visit our certifications page. Secure Data Recovery Services is one of the only major providers offering full access to auditor's comments and other relevant security documents.

If you believe that your hard drive has sustained a firmware failure, contact our customer service team to schedule free diagnostics. Secure Data Recovery Services can evaluate your drive and provide a no-obligation price quote and turnaround estimate in under 24 hours. To get started or for more information, contact our customer service team today.