Data Recovery Superheroes Rescued Lost Photos from Burned Hard Drive

Our home is a reflection of our lifestyle. It takes years of hard work to build a home that tells the story of who we are, where we’ve been, as well as the things and people we love. Imagine what if all of a sudden your “happy place” turns to nothing. What if suddenly everything is lost, forever! Imagine losing that first cricket bat your father gifted you, that antique piano that you inherited from your grandfather, the first bicycle of your child, and all those precious memorable pictures hanging on the wall of your living room. It can be traumatic to lose the things that money can’t buy. But life is full of unexpected, tragic events. And one such awful incident happened this year with Ethan Miller, a resident of Los Angeles.

On July 25, 2020, Miller, along with his wife and twin daughters, was sleeping peacefully. It was the weekend so nobody was expected to wake up early morning. Also, last night the couple celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary so everyone was tired. But at 4:30 in the morning Miller felt uneasy in his sleep and got up. To his surprise, the bedroom was filled with smoke. He immediately alerted Karen, his wife and they both rushed to their children’s bedroom. Before the family could understand anything, their life changed completely. Their home went up in flames right in front of their eyes. The lovely family of four was standing in front of their happy place, watching it burn to ashes. 

It is believed that the fire started in the kitchen and the party’s leftover alcohol bottles and candles ignited the flames. The fire spread to the nearby furniture across the living room and eventually the whole house. The family managed to escape the fire without any physical injury but by the time help arrived they had already lost most of their possessions. Luckily, the family had insurance but rebuilding life after losing everything takes a while. Of all the things lost, the family was most upset about losing the things that money can’t buy- their memories. 

Miller is fond of photography. He had an extensive collection of vinyl records, as well as photographs that were all destroyed. The pain of losing your precious collection that you’ve maintained over the years can be unbearable. When sharing his experience, Ethan Miller said, “I always knew that fires are common in Los Angeles but never thought it could happen to me. This incident left shock, horror, and emptiness. We have both practical and emotional hurdles to overcome. Besides the monetary loss, the most traumatic part was the loss of one particular hard drive that contained the most precious moments of my life. From my wedding photographs to the last pictures of my parents- everything was stored in a hard drive that was burned in that tragic fire. It was this same hard drive that contained a video reel of my twin daughters. I was collecting clippings of my daughters from the moment they were born. There were videos of all their birthdays, the first word they spoke, the first step they took- all moments that can’t be recreated. I wanted to compile these pictures and clipping to make a video when they both turn 16. But then all of it was lost. I was insured and could buy new stuff but not these memories.”

Miller was disheartened looking at the state of his charred hard drive. But it was Karen who did some research and found Platinum Data Recovery. The couple approached this data recovery company with little hopes because their drive was badly damaged. But after facing troubles for the past several days, this time they were not disappointed. “I approached Platinum Data Recovery knowing that there’re little or no hopes of recovering our data. But these geniuses didn’t let us down”, said Karen. 

Los Angeles County experience intense heatwave and the strong winds often help to fan the flames in the region. Fire accidents are common in this region due to which Platinum Data Recovery receives many cases of recovering data from fire-damaged media. “When we received Miller’s hard drive, it was deformed but luckily the platters with information and ROM chip were intact. We took the PCB (printed circuit board) out of the damaged drive to extract the small chip called “ROM”. ROM chip is what makes hard drive’s PCB unique. We have cleaned and unsoldered ROM chip to read the information from it. This information was written to the donor PCB. After that we took the drive to our ISO 5 class 100 cleanroom and moved the platters to the donor drive’s base casting that had new read/write heads assembly. All these steps allowed us to recover about 97% of the lost data. With years of experience, our team has become proficient in recovering data from damaged platters and rebuilding electronic components.” avers David Green, Senior Engineer at Platinum Data Recovery.

Unlike other cases of data loss, recovering lost photos from the burned drive is extremely complicated. This is because fire damage results in physical component failure. In this case, data extraction was challenging because engineers needed to find the right model of the donor drive, which was very rare. Severely damaged drives can’t be cloned easily and need to undergo a meticulous recovery process in the cleanroom to make it cloneable. After performing several levels of work on the drive, the team at Platinum Data Recovery was finally successful in retrieving the precious memories of the Miller family. “I can get new furniture and appliances but without David Green and his team, I would have lost the most precious memories of my life. When I lost everything, these superheroes rescued my most valuable belongings.”

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