How old is your backup hard drive?

You backup your computer monthly, weekly or even daily, and you actually perform a test restoration once a quarter.  You are “dialed in” on your backup procedures!!!  One question – how old is the hard drive you are backing up your data onto?  We often see customers coming in for data recovery that thought they had a good backup.  They have suffered a drive failure on their computer or server and have come to learn that their backup drive has not been working for the last 2 weeks or even months.


It goes without saying that hard drives have a limited lifespan, but there is some question about just how long it is.  Manufacturers rate their drives in MTBF.  That is NOT an acronym you might use while texting.  MTBF is defined as Mean Time Between Failure.  That is a measurement of the Mean time that a random sample of hard drives might fail. MTBF for Enterprise level drives, those intended for use in scenarios where a failed drive is unforgivable, can be over 1 Million hours.  Consumer level drives have a MTBF of 500,000 hours.  MTBF can’t to tell you how long your drive will last, it is more of an indication of how likely a drive is to fail prematurely.


ct genie posterWe see drives of all ages in our lab for recovery. So, I can tell you that all drives regardless of their MTBF will suffer failures.  We have seen hard drives fail within a week of being pulled out of the anti-static bag.  We have also seen drives still running after 10 or more years.  What does that mean for your back up drive?  It means that you just never know when the drive might fail. Only a hard drive genie would be able to accurately predict the failure and warn you to replace a drive.  


The best way to protect the data that you are so diligently backing up is to pro-actively replace your backup drive on a regular schedule.  Hard drives, both internal and external models, have become very inexpensive over the last 5 years.  For less than $150 you can get a quality drive that will back up all the data you could store on your home or work computer. We have always recommended to our data recovery customers that they replace their backup drives every 3-4 years at the very least!  The best way to make sure that happens is a very low-tech solution… take a Sharpie and write the date the drive was placed into service on the case of the drive.  If you insist on being more high tech, then set a reminder in your calendar application of choice for a year or two down the road.


If you find yourself with both your main drive and your backup drive having failed give us a call.  We can evaluate both drives to determine the best location from which to recover your data.

Data Recovery of Encrypted Western Digital drives.

Did you know that the majority of external hard drives that you can buy today, manufactured by Western Digital (WD), have hardware encryption built into the enclosure?  Seems like a good idea right?  It is a great selling point for Western Digital, right??

We are all for protecting your data. Keeping it safe from those who might use the picture of you dressed up like Little Orphan Annie from last Halloween as blackmail is important.  little orphan annie

But, when data is encrypted at a hardware level you have very little control over your data should something go wrong.  And with they way WD has implemented this encryption, your data isn’t really all that safe just because it is encypted.  Consider this, the data on the drive is only protected if the hard drive is removed from its enclosure.  The enclosure itself has the encryption chip.  So, if your hard drive is stolen from your office anyone could plug it into a computer and see your data.  Not much protection, eh?

Encryption works by running your data through an algorithym that scrambles the data based on an encryption key.  So, saving the word “CAT” in an encrypted format might look like “$r,”.  If you lose that key, there is NO way to decrypt that data.  What happens if your encryption key is actually stored on a computer chip and determined by WD, then that chip stops working.  Cancel Christmas!!data encryption


We have recovered data from many, many WD drives that other firms and IT groups have determined that the data is lost because of this encryption.  If you have a WD external drive do not ever throw away the enclosure – it is the key to a successful recovery.