Melted CCTV System Data Recovery

Friday, 23 January 2015 by Jennifer Duits

Ontrack on occasion sees CCTV systems that have been involved in a business premise or house fire. As you can imagine the owners of investigators see real value in the data hence the reason they bring the units to Ontrack for recovery. The golden rule of data recovery for all types of mechanical hard drives is if the platters are still shiny, then there is still hope for data to be recovered !

Over nearly 30 years of operations, Ontrack has seen lots of fire-damaged storage devices and recently we had another system that was located at a suspicious fire at a commercial premise. Certainly the plastic casing of the CCTV system was melted and the unit was suffering lots of contamination from the fire, but inside the hard drive was still intact and there were no visible signs of damage. Certainly if a fire is hot enough then the platters and actual chassis of the hard drive can distort, something we have seen before in bush fire recoveries.

In this case, the engineers carefully disassembled the hard drive and clean the components within including the platters and head assembly. In the same way as a flood damaged hard drive, the mechanical components will suffer from contamination and this has to be corrected before the hard drive is powered up again, the platters need to be clean and smooth for the read / write heads to move across them.

Once cleaned and ready to go, the hard drive from the CCTV system was imaged and using proprietary software tools, our engineers worked through the video compression problems and decoded the data into moving video images. Typically each and every model of a CCTV system will be running its own unique way of recording video which is fine when the unit is working but not so when the actual unit is melted.

Ontrack in this instance could provide the client with invaluable data that would help in their investigations of the fire.