A partner sent us a link the other day claiming their local computer distributor performs data recovery services, free of charge, using Seagate Rescue Plans. Does this mean that with a Seagate drive your locked into Seagate recovery as your only option?
Seagate Rescue & Replace
So what is this Seagate Rescue & Replace all about? Clever marketing and insight from their Research and Development Team, nothing more.
Let’s take a closer look at this offer. Seagate warns that in the event something happens to your drive, it could potentially cost you hundreds of dollars to replace your lost music, photos and documents. They claim that with this plan, for a fraction of that cost, they will recover this data for you. Seagate is yet another data recovery provider claiming a leading role in the industry and boasting a near 90% recovery success rate.
How is this even possible?
How They Do It
The only real difference between Seagate and other data recovery providers is the fact that they are the actual producers of the very drives we use today. Seagate has invested heavily in their data recovery facilities, mostly through the acquisition of other companies. By buying out companies such as, Action Front, the guys who spent most of their careers reverse engineering storage technology, they have their hands on the tools of the trade that recovery providers spent years developing. With this control, they’ve decided to make life harder for everyone else in the game.
Over the years drives have gotten more sophisticated, now able to store terabytes of data on a single platter. The latest models of Seagate and Western Digital drives prove the statement. But, under the hood, things look much the same as they did 10 years ago. Spinning platter’s, heads stacked on the actuator arm, and neodymium magnets are familiar components. The only major difference is in platter density, with increased density, heads fly closer to the platter. Closer flying means that more sophisticated internal software or firmware is required.
Today it is fairly easy to update firmware on almost any electronic device you have. People frequently update firmware on their cellphones, motherboards and other computer components. But, what about hard disk drive firmware?
Technology to access hard drive firmware is readily available at moderate costs and there are dozens of companies around the globe providing this kind of equipment. In some cases you can simply tweak the firmware through the drives terminal using very cheap electronics from retail electronic stores such as Radio Shack, as in the case of a well known Seagate firmware issue that occurs when a drive looses its capacity or model name.
Hard disk firmware is a relatively complex set of programs and lists integrated into the media itself. When a drive is powered up, printed circuit boards read a set of instructions from the actual ROM chip and use this data to access the second part of the firmware stored on the drive’s platter. When this procedure is performed with no errors the drive is then calibrated and operational. During the past decade the industry has witnessed a shift from firmware technology that is interchangeable between drives within the same family, to one in which every single drive uses it’s own unique firmware. Yes, this means your terabyte drive is locked into the specific firmware currently installed on it. In cases where firmware is damage or missing, recovery of data is impossible.
Impossible that is, except for those who have access to the manufacturers service data or the original firmware. With the Seagate Rescue Plan, they use the firmware data previously recorded and stored on their servers for recovery even in cases where it has been damaged. Interestingly, this data is not officially shared with other provider’s, thus insuring all recovery is done through their provided service.
Clever marketing, indeed!
They basically sell you a product that leaves you no option but to use their, arbitrarily priced, services in cases of data loss. Easy, they have firmware from every single drive ever produced in Seagate factories.
So the question remains. Can anything be done to avoid this?
The easiest way to protect yourself without Seagate is to download all of your drive’s firmware and store it in a safe place before you encounter a problem. You can do this with the help of your local data recovery service provider. Depending on the provider they may charge a small fee and return this for your safe keeping. While other’s may keep this on hand for your return should future recovery services be needed. Many providers already work in ‘secrecy’ with drive distributors to store this information before a drive reaches the store. Thus, increasing the likelihood of a successful recovery.
And yes, this can be done for any drive, any size and any make.
It is worth noting that having a drives original firmware will not protect you from problems related to bad heads, scratched platters or a seized spindle motor. Yet it will increase chances for a successful recovery of your data. We can think of firmware as stem cells. This genetic material increasingly collected just after a childs birth that parents now have the option to store in special facilities, waiting until such time as may be needed, increasing the chances for successfull recovery in cases of life threatening illness.
Thank you for your interest. We really hope this article helps you understand your options and make more informed choices when it comes to your personal data.