Wet drives brought back from dead

The warehouse of Murray Hobson's Wellington company, Total Records Management, had half a metre of water through it during the floods that hit the lower North Island last month. Not only were several cubic metres of paper files submerged, but so were two 6.4GB PC hard drives.

Murray Hobson is counting his lucky stars.

The warehouse of his Wellington company, Total Records Management, had half a metre of water through it during the floods that hit the lower North Island last month. Not only were several cubic metres of paper files submerged, but so were two 6.4GB PC hard drives.

“They contained mainly business records,” Hobson says; data you only realise is missing the day you need it.

Miraculously, he has the data back after the drives were taken apart and cleaned under a microscope.

“The first thing they had to do was sort out the electronics,” Hobson says.

He has a background in electronics and says it was no mean feat to clean the drive controllers and restore them to life.

“They had to float off one integrated circuit and replace it, which is not an easy thing to do with surface-mount components.”

The drive platters are contained in a chamber protected by a fine filter but that wasn’t sufficient to keep the water out.

Brian Eardley-Wilmot, of Auckland company Computer Forensics, which carried out the work, says the chambers had to be opened and flushed out with distilled water. Once reassembled, the drives spun up and the data was recovered.

Hobson says the near-disaster has led the company to take a closer look at its backup procedures.

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