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What Not To Do With Your Data 319

Tiny Tim writes "Stupidity strikes! A data recovery company has revealed the dumbest data disasters it's confronted this year — including rotting bananas, smelly socks and a university professor's foolhardy application of WD-40."
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What Not To Do With Your Data

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  • nonsense! (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:15AM (#16869606)
    Nonsense! I once turned a 5400RPM drive into a 7200RPM drive merely by giving it a good squirt of WD-40. I swear!
  • Privacy aspect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomalpha ( 746163 ) * on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:15AM (#16869614)
    What's interesting about this story is how easy it might be for *others* to recover your data after you think you've wiped it.
    • Very good call. Anybody know of any usefull tools to completely wipe the contents of a drive?
      • by LordSnooty ( 853791 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:29AM (#16869812)
        Yeah - a chainsaw, a garbage compacter and a wood chipper. And a rocket to launch the fragments into space.
      • Re:Privacy aspect (Score:4, Interesting)

        by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:39AM (#16869964) Journal
        When a drive is to be re-used within the company I work for we do a "secure erase" using a utility IT has blessed. If a drive is to leave the company it is wiped with the assistance of a 1/4" drill bit through the platters in at least three places.

        A hard drive is cheap. Company data (or potentially incriminating data for those of us at home) is not.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by eggstasy ( 458692 )
          Sorry, that just means you eliminated the data on those three specific places. The rest of the platters can still be read, and whole files retrieved. The way data densities are today, even if you shatter a disk into a thousand pieces, a single, 1/1,000th piece of a 300 GB hard drive is still 300 MB... and breaking shit does not demagnetize it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by networkBoy ( 774728 )
            It's all about being harder to use the data.
            By the time someone has read and re-constituted the data from a drive that damaged the data is likely already public, out of rev, or obsolete.

            It's not like they don't wipe the drive first, it's just that they take the added step of mechanically destroying the drive. It's then off to the recyclers where (I believe) it is, in fact, smelted.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              It's all about being harder to use the data.
              Absolutly correct. Even without demagnetizing the disk, if you smash it into a zillion pieces then anyone who wants to read from it will be stuck using an electron microscope to read the polarities off the platter fragments - not a fast or inexpensive process.

              The best "oh, shit!" solution for immediate, total data destruction is still thermite IMHO. Not only physically destroys the drive, but the heat demagnetizes it as well. Behond that, a couple shotgun
      • by Sangui5 ( 12317 )
        If the drive still works, Eraser ( is a great choice. Wipe one file or every block device on the machine. Nothing will be able to get it back after a Gutmann wipe.

        If the drive doesn't work, disassemble the drive, remove the magnets (to play with later), and apply a combination of sandpaper and a hammer to the platters. Yeah, magnetic force microscopy might still get it back, but who'd pay that much for your mostly worthless data anyway?
        • I've heard that the 3-letter government agencies could retrieve data even if the drive were wiped 80 times BUT I also know from friends who are former hackers turned LEO that they actually don't have to look beyond someone doing a simple format most of the time since people are typically stupid in that regard.
      • replace "x" with your hard drive's device

        I like to run this (10 times) for a quite secure erase:

        cat /dev/zero > /dev/x
        cat /dev/random > /dev/x

        I'd put it in 10 times, but, slashdot complains
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Problem is, if the drive has any bad sectors, that fails and leaves the rest of the drive unerased.

          I use badblocks read-write test. It's designed to do stuff like that.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by _anomaly_ ( 127254 )
          C:\>cat /dev/zero > /dev/C:
          The system cannot find the path specified.
      • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:20PM (#16870540) Homepage Journal
        Anybody know of any usefull tools to completely wipe the contents of a drive?

        Yes. I call it "thermite".

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by db32 ( 862117 )
        We frequently use a heavy duty degausser for real wiping, but it also destroys the drive. But sometimes we get creative.

        We had 40 gateways that just as the warranty expired started failing like clockwork. 6 out of 40 in the first month or two after it expired so we fought with them and got a free warranty extension on them. One of the hard drives that failed on us had to be sent back for our boss told us to make sure that the data was gone and do it "however you want". So after runnin
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by PRC Banker ( 970188 )
      I don't know how effective this is, but it's how I discard an old HDD, and it's fun! 1. Dismantle (sometimes hard to do) 2. Scrape platters with wire-gauze 3. Put drive plates in a fire for a few minutes, enough to warp a little 4. Randomly punish - skate on concrete, etc 5. Place in water, for a few months (toilet tank) 6. Discard
    • by Xugumad ( 39311 )
      What do you call easy? You're probably looking at a few thousand dollars to retrieve the data on a drive, if you have to have it done professionally (in a sending it to the lab sense), assuming the owner has at least done a decent job of blanking it (zeroing all the bits or similar). Sure, it's feasible, but it's generally much easier to buy random drives on eBay, as you're almost guaranteed one that someone forgot to wipe before selling...
  • by vivekg ( 795441 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:16AM (#16869620) Homepage Journal
    Original ontrack article - Top 10 List of Data Loss Disasters of 2006 []
  • advert alert (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:16AM (#16869622)
    waste of time
  • The real list (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:16AM (#16869624)
    The article is a summary of an advert. The original can be found here: spx?hp=Top10_2006 []
  • by krell ( 896769 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:16AM (#16869628) Journal
    Someone I know had an important data disc that he used with no problems. Everything was going fine until he decided to get a little more educated about computer commands. He read a statement somewhere that said you need to "format discs before you use them." After reading this, he made sure to format the data disc before the next time he tried to access it.
  • by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:17AM (#16869638)
    One customer left a banana on top of his hard drive, which then rotted and seeped through into the device. The circuits were ruined and the drive failed to work.

    AHhahahahahaha! the perfect corporate sabotage! Disguised as a janitor in a data center, place the banana inside one of the server cases over the holiday weekend, and voila! Muahahahahahahaha......

  • Although, from people I met over the years, they have a very good reputation for data recovery. At one of the PC Expos in NYC, I remember they had a booth with a computer that was in a fire. They claimed that they were able to retrieve the data.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by King_TJ ( 85913 )
      Yeah... OnTrack has been around for *years*, doing data-recovery. I believe "DriveSavers" is another worthy competitor offering the same services.

      I used to work for a small business that partnered up with them to get a discount on drive recovery work we sent in to them (and then we'd get to keep the difference as a commission).

      The problem with these places is that the cost of recovering data is so high, it's unfathomable for most home or small business customers. For example, one of my previous customers
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Himring ( 646324 )
      And then, this other time, there was this other computer, and, like, something really bad had happened to it, and, like, they said they retrieved that data too ... it was awesome....
  • Ok... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aliendisaster ( 1001260 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:17AM (#16869644)
    according to a data recovery company that has released a list of the most remarkable cases of data loss witnessed this year.
    British comedian Dom Joly, presenter of Trigger Happy TV, thought the joke was on him when he dropped his laptop, damaging a hard drive containing 5,000 photos, 6,000 songs, a book he was writing and all of his newspaper columns.
    Is dropping a laptop really that remarkable? I think they are just trying to name drop on this part.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iainl ( 136759 )
      No, it's just that they're trumpeting how wonderful dropping a laptop could be toward saving us from being submitted to any more of Joly's dire attempts at humour ever, ever again.
    • by thebdj ( 768618 )
      Depending on the drop, yes it is. The physical parts of a hard drive do not like being banged around and with all the parts of the laptop being so tightly packed, it doesn't take a lot to give a drive a lot of shock, especially if it is spinning. It was because of this that companies (I think IBM [], now Lenovo, Thinkpads were among the first) to provide systems to protect drives by attempting to detect the impending fall and stopping the drive the drive from spinning.
    • by ZaMoose ( 24734 )
      Depends. Did you drop them on two elderly women in an attempt to take vengeance upon paparazzi []? No? Then it's probably not all that remarkable.

      Less actionable, too.
  • keyboard (Score:4, Funny)

    by joerdie ( 816174 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:18AM (#16869660)
    This is sort of OT but when i worked at radioshack, this guy was complaining about his keyboard on his laptop not working properly. After looking at the unit I realized that the customer had been hiding a thin layer of pot under the keys... I didn't "inform the authorities," but I did have a long conversation with the guy about where he should hide the pot.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gt_mattex ( 1016103 )

      I had something similar to this. I was doing computer repair some years ago when a customer walked in claiming his new scanner would not work. I looked it over and tested it. It seemed to work fine.

      I called the guy back over and asked him to replicate the error for me. He then proceeded to activate the scanner by placing his document up to the monitor and pressing the power button on the scanner.

      I laughed so hard I almost passed out.

  • My favorite is still the intern who accidentally typed 'rm -rf / home/user' as root. The machine wasn't very important and the data was restorable from tape but it was still pretty funny to see the look on his face when he realized what he had done.
    • I used to love typing that into a workstation, but not pressing enter.

      One user had the habit of clearing the screensaver by hitting Enter over and over...
    • My favorite is still the intern who accidentally typed 'rm -rf / home/user' as root. The machine wasn't very important and the data was restorable from tape but it was still pretty funny to see the look on his face when he realized what he had done.

      Similar story- once I was looking for a file so I tried to type "dir *.txt /s" or something similar from a DOS prompt, but my fingers typed "del *.txt /s" instead. Luckily I was able to stop it before it went through all of my directories, and undelete most of th
  • slashvertisement? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by minus_273 ( 174041 ) <<moc.oohay.MAPS> <ta> <aaaaa>> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:19AM (#16869690) Journal
    This thing is full of really bad puns and reads like an ad for a certian data recovery company. how the hell did this get posted on the front page?
    • The story summary said at the outset that it is the experiences of a data recovery company regarding data problems on damaged hardware. So what's the problem? It's not like that such a company is not a great source if you are looking to find out actual data loss/recovery anecdotes. Perhaps if you don't like such information, you should configure slashdot so you don't see "hardware" stories.
  • Just an advertisment (Score:5, Informative)

    by z_gringo ( 452163 ) <> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:31AM (#16869832)
    That "article" is nothing more than a commercial for using their data recovery service.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And what's worse, it's not even funny!
  • STOP POSTING ADS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rbanzai ( 596355 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:38AM (#16869940)
    "OnTrack claims it rescued the data in all cases. Jim Reinert, senior director of software and services for the company, said it pays to have your damaged hard drive or storage device evaluated because the chances of recovery are good."

    This "slashvertisement" crap has gone too far.
    • by MECC ( 8478 ) *
      I have to wonder - did /. get paid for this ad?

    • By the way how do they recover the hard disk's data?

        For example I've heard a story a hard disk fallen into the sea and they managed to recover some data. How do they do?
  • I have a confession to make. I lost my data due to my sheer incompetence.

    One late night, I surfed browsed through my government's website to look for some very important information. After about an hour of searching, I finally found a link to the document I needed. I had 5 other browser windows open, pointing to pages I needed. I thought the link would lead to an html page, but it was actually a pdf.

    I merrily clicked on the link. Adobe Acrobat opened up inside the web browser. And to my horror, but not to m
    • It always slows things down, and often has idiotic upgrade messages to wade through. Thankfully, Google often offers HTML translations of PDF files it links to. I only wish they offered this for ALL pdf files, instead of just some. PDF for web content is a nuisance to be bypassed.
  • Commonly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Himring ( 646324 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:38AM (#16869948) Homepage Journal
    The most common issue I've dealt with is jr techs deleting user profiles off xp boxes to "fix" something without first determining if there is any sensitive data in "my documents." Yes, generally -- although we tell users to put important stuff on network drives -- there are docs there that carry weight....

    I had a HD going bad once, with stuff on it I HAD to get off. I hooked it up and as it clicked and thumped and stopped spinning, I'd whack it with a flash light. This would make it spin and the copy would continue. After 30 minutes of beating it into submission, all data copied off successfully....

    I will tell this: one time we had a fire at a site. After all the damage cleaned up, machines replaced, etc., we were working with the maintenance guy who had been involved in the smoke cleanup, etc. The server was pretty messy. We were going to replace it, but he said, "no problem. Got it working." We asked what he did.

    He took the thing apart, apparently, and ran all pieces through the industrial dish washer -- all the but the harddrive. He let dry thoroughly, put all back together, and it worked. We were dumb-founded....

    • Re:Commonly (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:22PM (#16870580) Homepage
      I got a free laptop and a free $900.00 Universal MX-3000 remote that way. Both were damaged by smoke in a fire. they were being tossed at a clients home I snagged them and soaked both in distilled water for days, finally ended spraying down the boards, drying and then reassembling.

      Both work great, in fact the laptop has been running fine for 6 months now with my daughter using it. (It's a super slow Dell latitude C640 good for a kid only wanting to run simple games like UT2004 or DOOM3)

      Washing electronics is not surprising. everything you own has been washed once in it's life, typically during the assembly.. they wash off all the flux from the soldering process, typically with water if the place uses modern water soluble flux.
  • by mdobossy ( 674488 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:41AM (#16870000)
    I like my data to be private, and if I was ever in need of a data recovery company, I would expect them to be professional, and respect my privacy/data.

    Here you have a company airing their clients misfortunes all over the net.. and in one case even specifying the name of the individual. Doesn't exactly give me a warm and fuzzy feeling about how well they respect a client's privacy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I'd highly suspect that they got permission to do so in all cases. The named individual probably even got the service in exchange for the publicity as it mentions they contacted him after reading about his problem in the paper. If there was not a prior agreement then I'm sure there will soon be an article on Slashdot about the lawsuit. Your comment isn't insightful, it's silly. Many companies give away their services or products in exchange for the right to publicize. And considering that your average Joe o
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stereoroid ( 234317 )
      If you're talking about Dom Joly, did you even read TFA? He wrote about his mishap in a column in a UK national newspaper (The Independent on Sunday), after which OnTrack contacted him. So, what are you referring to?
  • N00bkes (Score:5, Funny)

    by SuperStretchy ( 1018064 ) <acatzr800&gmail,com> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:42AM (#16870014)
    Thats why I use the Microwaved-Hard-Drive method. It works! Mostly because you can't find the HD amidst the smoldering ruins of the house.
  • Can we at least *try* to avoid posting false news items that are really nothing more than thinly-disguised press releases?
  • Backup? (Score:3, Informative)

    by PhoenixK7 ( 244984 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:02PM (#16870284)
    Yet more reasons to buy a cheap external hard-disk and at LEAST back up to that :-)

    Or, you can be like me and back up to an external hard disk at home, and a filesystem on a RAID array with a hot spare, and another backup system for that array in a different location!

    Backup solutions are way cheaper than paying some person to extract data from a dead drive... even for the bare minimum external USB/FireWire drive that you backup to daily, would save probably like 90% of all accidental damage losses of data, or losses due to random drive failure. Go out and set up your backup solution NOW, not tomorrow :-)
  • by jgercken ( 314042 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:02PM (#16870290)
    I concur that this is a lousy promotional post. Therefore I'd like to make sure everyone knows the trick of putting failed/failing hard drives in the freezer for a few minutes. For reasons unknown to me, it normally gets them running long enough to pull the important data off them. If you're tempted to send a failed drive to a recovery company, try this first.
  • by khendron ( 225184 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:32PM (#16870722) Homepage
    I used to work in a camera store. Although not directly related to losing computer data, the ways customers would destroy their cameras and their film were often quite amusing.

    One guy dropped his camera into a lake at the cottage. He had read somewhere that once a camera has been immersed it should not be removed from the water. So he brought us his camera in a bucket full of lake water. I think there was even sand.

    Another guy had his film (remember that stuff?) with vacation pictures break in the camera, so he couldn't rewind the roll. He did a very intelligent thing. He went into a pitch dark room, and by feel opened up the camera, took out the film and put it into a film container. Would have worked, except that didn't use one of those black Kodak film containers. Instead he used one of those clear film containers from Fuji. When he proudly brought his "saved" film in for processing, we regretfully had to inform him that despite his best efforts, the film was ruined.

    Then there was the lady who didn't understand why her night photos of Niagara Falls (taken with a Kodax Disc camera) didn't turn out, because she distinctly remembered that the flash went off. We had to explain to her that if her flash could illuminate all of the Falls from that distance, it would probably kill everybody within 10 feet of her.
  • This was linked into the most recent thread at thedailywtf, and having just now finished reading it, it obviously deserves to be linked here as well to increase your own morning "gotta read this" time: unix horror stories []

    And never forget to mount your scratch monkey...

  • by dmccarty ( 152630 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @01:12PM (#16871420)

    Having worked in IT for a while, I've found that everyone's data is "invaluable" until they find out what the cost of recovery is.

    I remember one person's drive that failed badly. Naturally, he hadn't saved his files to the server. All his data was "priceless," of course, until we got a quote from the recovery service that was about $1,000. On second thought, he said, maybe we could just keep the old hard drive around in case we need something off of it, and then we could send it in.

    As it turned out, there was never anything important enough to warrant sending it in.

  • Fixing "Dead" HDs (Score:4, Informative)

    by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @01:20PM (#16871606)
    A friend gave me an old iMac G4 because the HD (Quantum Fireball 13 GB) was fried. The HD's motor driver chip had a nice burn mark where the chip had spewed it's magic smoke. I yanked the circuit board of a similar HD (Quantum Fireball 10 GB) -- the circuit boards "look" identical -- and the Frankenstein HD worked. My friend got her data back and I got to keep the iMac.

    The point is that electronics problems with HDs (but not mechanical problems) can be fixed by swapping circuit boards.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp