Monday Aug 08, 2022

Data Recovery : The ABC Of Bad Sectors

Anyone who has ever had any sort of problem with their hard drive knows that one of the most common consequences of any drive failure is that one of the sectors on the drive has been damaged. Now, what does it mean that one or more of the sectors have been damaged? What does it really mean? In this article we will try to explain the basic aspects of a damage in one or more of the sectors of the disk.

When talking about data being stored on the hard drive, the sector refers to that subdivision of a track on a disk. A certain amount of data is stored in each sector, depending on the type of disk or file system.

Each physical sector is made up of three fundamental parts: the header, the data area and the ECC or error correction code. In the header we find all the information used by the controller and the unit. For example, synchronization bytes, fault marker, address identification and even an alternative address that will be used if the Wikipedia data area is not completely reliable.

The data area contains, of course, the user’s information whether it is a file or part of a text file, a spreadsheet, videos, images or a PowerPoint presentation. The ECC contains codes that are called upon to possibly correct any errors that may have been introduced into the data.

When a data recovery expert or our own computer tells us that a file cannot be accessed because the sector is damaged, what is it really telling us? It’s very simple: it’s a sector of the storage device (no matter what it is) that cannot be used or accessed either because of a defect in the magnetic emulsion, damage to the head that deals with that sector, very small scratches or because its information has been corrupted. 

Usually, these bad sectors are easily detected by the operating systems that we normally use on our computers. There are special programs in operating systems that detect these damaged sectors and rearrange them to a spare sector, Likewise, the hard disk itself remaps sectors that it detects as damaged within its operating protocols. This allows the head to ignore them in subsequent readings.

The issue of bad sectors is not a minor issue: they can seriously damage the head. Furthermore, as this damage can increase with use, although it may seem paradoxical, resorting to recovery software to access lost data can be even more damaging, leading to failures that are impossible to recover from. It is essential to prevent files from being corrupted or overwritten as data loss is irreparable.

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Mike Steward

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