Case Study: Manchester Mortgages

manchester mortgages web siteThis month I was called out to Manchester Mortgages (http://manchestermortgages.co.uk/), a mortgage brokers based in Eccles, Manchester who had lost access to some of their data.

Background

Manchester Mortgages provide advice and assistance to people requiring mortgages for buy-to-let, remortgage and people with poor credit amongst others. Much of the information they hold is stored on an Access database and for one reason of another they held no backup of this data.

File Won’t Open

When attempting to open the file by double clicking it the computer hung and the file would not open. Analysis of the hard drive showed that the drive had many bad sectors – including bad sectors inside the Access database.

Bad sectors on a hard drive are areas that can’t be read due to the drive degrading to such an extent that the hard drive is unable to read the data from the bad sector. Bad sectors are rarely single isolated occurances – hard drives usually have hundreds or even thousands of bad sectors. Modern hard drives have effective management and control systems that detect bad sectors on a hard drive and swap them out, replacing them with a good sector from a pool of good sectors they keep in reserve. Eventually the pool of good sectors dry up and the bad sectors then spread across the hard drive.

Recovering the File

Recovering a file affected by bad sectors is a difficult thing to do. By double clicking the file, the computer attempts to open the file but it can’t because it can’t read the information from the bad sector. Rather than give up, the hard drive tries repeatedly to read the data from the bad sector. This places a high amount of stress on the hard drive’s head which will eventually lead to a head crash and all the data on the hard drive being lost.

Therefore the only course of action is to use a hardware approach that turns the error checking off and also circumvents the operating system. Fortunately I have this piece of hardware in my equipment, and hooking the Manchester Mortgages hard drive up to it I was able to recover their file fully.

Backup

This case study is a fine example of why it’s essential that we all backup our valuable data. A study has shown that 70% of businesses go bust within a year of a major data loss event (http://www.capitalnetworks.co.uk/news/2010/07/21/70-of-businesses-that-experience-a-major-data-loss-go-out-of-business/). Manchester Mortgages had most of their data stored in one file. If I had been unable to recover this data that may well have been the end of the business.

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