Data recovery isn’t possible without clean rooms; here’s why

We are, quite literally, surrounded by particles, pollutants and contaminates that are invisible to the naked eye. Fortunately, the vast majority of them are unhazardous and it’s extremely unlikely that they would cause you any harm. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for your hard drive!

Don’t worry, you don’t need to keep your HDD in a hermetically sealed environment – it’s only the platter of the drive itself that is sensitive to these impurities and this is protected by the outer shell of the hard drive itself. Should it become necessary to open the drive – in order to repair damaged parts or recover data, for example – then it is essential that this is done in a controlled environment to prevent the drive becoming irreparably damaged. This is where cleanrooms - one of the most important facilities required whenrecovering data from a failed hard drive - come in.

These rooms are remarkably clean, bright and are populated exclusively by technicians in lab coats, surgical masks and gloves.  They would not look out of place on the set of a science fiction film. They use high-tech filters and fans to exclude adulterants from all air before it enters the room and also continuously recirculate it in order to remove any contaminants that may have developed in the room itself.

It is important that these particles are kept away from an open hard drive as they will inevitably find their way onto its platters. These cannot be removed in their entirety following this and, as they will inevitably get caught between the drive’s heads and platter when the drive is used, a layer of the platter will be, quite literally, destroyed by the abrasive effect caused, thus completely destroying the data contained on it and making a recovery absolutely impossible. Much like burnt or shredded physical documentation, it ceases to exist in any kind of readable format.

You may now be wondering how a cleanroom can help when just one speck of dust can do so much damage. It’s an understandable and reasonable question and the answer lies within the sheer number of impurities and particles that such rooms can actually remove from their respective atmospheres.

Imagine the following scene: it’s the weekend and you’re enjoying a well-deserved lie in. It’s a beautiful summer’s day outside and, whilst your curtains are drawn, light is creeping into your room through a small opening. We’ve all experienced this, but can you remember how many dust particles you could see dancing in this small funnel of light? Masses!

You see, the air around you has, on average, 35 million particles per cubic metre. Cleanrooms, though, can reduce this to a meagre 12 particles. The particles that can find their way into a cleanroom are also significantly smaller than those that surround you throughout your everyday life and would therefore, even in the event that one were to find its way onto a hard drive’s platter, be too small to get caught between the platter and write head and would be unable to damage the drive as a result.

So, if you need your hard drive repaired, make sure that any company or person that you may instruct has access to a cleanroom or you might just lose your data forever.