WGBH Boston Public Radio: Segment on DriveSavers, Hurricane Harvey Relief and Data Recovery Story

WGBH Boston Public Radio

Originally aired on WBGH NewsBoston Public Radio

From WGBH in Boston. Hosted by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. Guest: Tech expert Andy Ihnatko.

Jim Braude: On a good news front, particularly in light of the suffering that’s going on in the southwest and is about to happen, sadly, in the southeast, tell us what DriveSavers is and the value of it for people…well, tell people what it is.

Andy Ihnatko: They are a data recovery superhero team. DriveSavers—”Drive” and then the word “Savers”—all one word. You can go to their website. No matter what happens to your phone, your hard drive…if you’re going through an old closet and you find out your grandfather had a 4.25” floppy disk of his memoirs from 1982…They can get that data and recover it. They literally have a huge hardware library of every data storage mechanism ever made. So if your computer is consumed by a flood, buried under mud and is physically destroyed, even under those circumstances, if you send the hard drive to DriveSavers, they can take it into a cleanroom, take it apart, take the actual platters out, put it into the same make and model of mechanism, even if it’s forty years old, and then give you the data back. It won’t be cheap, but they can do it. And they’re making an offer for victims of the hurricane that if you have a phone—again they can pull the chips off of the phone and get those pictures back—and they’ll do that recovery for free.

Jim Braude: They will?!

Andy Ihnatko: Yep!

Jim Braude: That’s fabulous. Tell your great story—you wrote all about a great personal experience. I love this.

Andy Ihnatko: This was a couple of years ago. Now you know that in the over at the Public Garden they drain it once a year.

Jim Braude: I didn’t know that until I read your piece.

Andy Ihnatko:  And, they also bring in like Bobcat’s in too just to grate it and you know whatever. So, I like to take a walk. It’s like when you get to walk through the lagoon and go to the island. And so I’m taking my annual walk and I see a half-buried digital camera in there and someone must have had it on the swan boats and had been taking pictures and just dropped it (into the water).

And, so I picked it up put it into a plastic bag or something took it home. I was able to get the SD card out of it but it was rusty. It was corroded there’s no point to it. So smelling the idea for a column, I sent it to DriveSavers. They agreed to try to do a recovery and they got every picture back.

Margery Eagan: It’s amazing.

Andy Ihnatko: And the last dated picture proved that this had been dropped into the lagoon two years earlier. And they also showed me microscope photographs of what they had to do. This is this is how good they are.

Jim Braude: And you tried to find the people lost that unsuccessfully correct?

Andy Ihnatko: Unsuccessfully. And this is two reasons to think that DriveSavers is wonderful. Number one they were able to micro solder all the broken connections inside that memory card to make it work again. And also they were able to get all the pictures back, but they sent me some samples back, so I can see the pictures and also see if I can find these people. And there weren’t many documents that had names or addresses on them. But, there were some you can see where they went, what they did including the last picture off the side of the swan boat.

Margery Eagan: Was that the picture of the little girl looking away with her back to the camera? 

Andy Ihnatko: Yeah.

Margery Eagan: It was amazing. It was a beautiful clear picture of this young child.

Andy Ihnatko: And the reason why you see the back of her is because they have data privacy policies in place. They say that “we don’t know who the camera belongs to, but we know this isn’t your camera so we can’t release any identifiable photos to someone who is not the owner of this camera.”

Margery Eagan: I love that.

Andy Ihnatko: So, I worked really hard. There was one deleted file that made mention of a jewelry store in downtown crossing, so I visited the jewelry store like a gumshoe. “Do you know the back of the girl’s head?”

So, that was in the Sun-Times column a couple of years and ago tried hard to find the owners of the camera but didn’t find them. I should probably post them on reddit again. But, that just shows you if the data is important enough to you like the last picture the last family Christmas before your dad died. And the drive broke or you dropped it or whatever. It won’t be cheap. This data recovery would cost about a thousand dollars. Again a memory card was buried for two years. But they (DriveSavers) can get the data back.

Margery Eagan: OK we’re talking to Andy Ihnatko, our tech genius here.

Listen to the full broadcast: http://news.wgbh.org/2017/09/08/news/bpr-0908-full-show-post

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