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Micro-Surgeon

1. Restoring an encrypted laptop drive (Business)

Our client, a major international accounting firm, deploys a large number of laptop computers in the field for use by their employees while performing on-site audits or other corporate on-site work. Although there is a regular network backup plan, it takes weeks, sometimes months, to successfully complete this backup. This leaves all of the employees out in the field exposed to many types of software or hardware failures.

To make it more complex, because of the sensitive data they hold, all of the files on these drives are encrypted, so that they cannot be viewed by anyone if they are stolen or lost. Micro-Surgeon has done many such recoveries over the years; here is an example:

The laptop drive was making a regular clicking noise. This is never a good sign, and sure enough the field accountant was not able to access anything from her computer. When she sent it in to us we discovered that the read/write head assembly was irreparably damaged and needed replacement.

Because the data was encrypted, we could not use the most direct method for retrieving data - that is to view the files and recover the specific data they needed - which is usually a small fraction of the drive's total capacity. Instead we had to clone each and every sector of the disk surface onto another drive, so that the client could then employ their own decryption key to extract the data. This is a very time-consuming process, which requires that the great majority of disk sectors be successfully read, not just the particular sectors that may hold the data. (Note that encryption does not allow for direct recovery of data - this would defeat the purpose of the encryption in the first place.)

However, in spite of the additional challenges that this kind of disk failure entails, and the extra time it takes, we were successful, and the client was able to use the encrypted clone we produced to recover all required data.

Next: The external "backup" drive that fails (Consumer) »