It is well known that one of the properties of water is its ability to conduct electricity, meaning it should never come into contact with electronic equipment, as even a modest amount of water can result in a failure. Water can enter a laptop, desktop or even a server system all too easily, such as accidentally spilling a drink. Disasters, such as a flood, water leak or from fighting a fire can also result in water or other fluids entering computer systems and which can cause the hard disk to fail.
Water entering a computer, even if it does not enter the hard disk drive itself will often result in a short circuit, which can cause components on the drive controller to be severely damaged. If you continue to run a computer or laptop following a spillage, you risk water causing a short circuit, or entering the drive itself, which could cause physical damage to the drive platters. Outlined below are some important steps which may help avoid an issue which could make data recovery considerably more complex or in the worst case impossible.
Turn the Computer or Laptop Off
Once water has entered a computer system it is exceedingly difficult to ensure that all the water has dried out. It is therefore important to power the system off following a spillage of fluid. It is also important that no attempt is made to power the system back up again, as short circuits or water ingestion into the drive may cause a lot of unnecessary damage. Should the water enter the platter housing it can interfere with the operation of the read/write heads.
It is also important to understand that most fluids contain contaminants, a particular problem in dusty computers, which can adhere to the surface of the platters. Should the read/write heads come into contact with any contaminants stuck to the platters, it is likely to damage both the head and the platter surface, possibly leading to it sticking to the debris and stopping the drive spinning. A short circuit induced by water is likely to result to a rapid discharge across an drive controller chip, which will increase the temperature rapidly, leading to an explosion, which will render all data inaccessible without sending the drive for data recovery.
Never Dry the Disk Drive
Besides the problem of contaminants which can adhere to the drive platters, another more serious issue of corrosion can develop if the drive is allowed to dry out. This corrosion is the result of oxidation, effectively etching the platter surface, which is likely to lead to large scale damage of the magnetic recording layer. This problem is at its worst when the drive is allowed to dry out with it being properly cleaned.
If the drive is allowed to dry out any particles on the platter surface will become extremely difficult to remove. It is important that these particles are removed before any attempt is made to recover the data, as contact with the read/write heads will damage them almost certainly result in severe damage to the platters too.
If the disk is allowed to dry out, it make it much more difficult to remove any particles from the platter surface and also promote their corrosive effects. The best advice is keep the drive wet, which appears to be counter-intuitive, but may save a lot of work and avoid unnecessary damage resulting.
Sealed Container Ensures Drive Stays Wet
At DiskEng we advise placing any wet hard disk drive into a sealed container prior to sending it for data recovery, which ensures that the drive will not dry out. This gives our hardware data recovery specialists the best chance of dismantling, cleaning and reassembling the drive in our data recovery laboratory while minimising the risk of further damage occurring to the hard disk drive.
Water Damage Disk Recovery Issues
The above steps are intended as a guide for anyone whose hard disk becomes wet, which ensures the best possible chance of successfully recovering the data held on it. It is important that our hardware data recovery specialists adhere to the strict guidelines which should be followed when attempting to recovery data from a water damage hard disk.
Due to the conductive properties of water, it is important to note that the basic guidelines for handling a hard disk drive are adhered to, to avoid any data loss which could result from a failure to clean all the contaminants from the drive enclosure.