I have a fairly new iMac with a Fusion hard drive that crashed. When I took it to the Apple Store, they said that data recovery wasn’t possible and that I had to start from scratch. Is there a data recovery option?
This question was answered on June 24, 2015. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Apple’s Fusion technology is a proprietary version of what’s become known as ‘hybrid hard drives’ because they combine traditional magnetic storage technology with the faster solid state memory (similar to USB flash drives).
Hybrid storage systems can be one of the best upgrades you can make to any computer because for a little more money than a traditional hard drive, they can greatly improve the overall performance of your computer.
They accomplish this by storing often used programs and files on the faster solid state portion and less used files on the traditional drive.
The intelligence built into the drive monitors your activity and automatically moves programs and files to the faster portion as you use the computer.
Apple’s Fusion technology, however, does have a dark side when it fails. Unlike traditional hybrid hard drives made by companies like Seagate and Western
Digital, the Fusion’s proprietary system makes it very difficult to reconstruct data when it fails.
Apple Stores lack any of the sophisticated data recovery tools and knowledge to even attempt such a difficult task, so they all they try are a few simple ways to try to access your files.
Even the most sophisticated data recovery labs would have a difficult time reconstructing your data because of the proprietary nature of the Fusion drive.
This is not to say that it’s impossible, just incredibly difficult and as a result generally very expensive.
Many newer storage technologies are proving to be more difficult to recover data from when they fail.
I can remember when 40 Megabyte hard drives were considered ‘bigger than you’ll ever need’ (the smallest iPhone or typical USB flash drive has 400 times the storage).
Traditional mechanical drives that store data magnetically have been around so long that the methods for recovering data from them have evolved tremendously, making a successful data recovery more likely.
When solid state memory devices such as flash drives, camera cards and SSDs fail, physical damage to the actual circuitry can often make recovery extremely difficult or even impossible.
When you throw in proprietary technology that connects and stores the data on hybrid devices, like what Apple is doing, yet another layer of complexity is added making recovery even that much less likely.
The moral to this story is clear: the newer and more sophisticated your storage system is, the more important it is to have a well thought out backup scheme in place.
Incorporating the 3-2-1 method of backup should eliminate the need to ever pay for expensive data recovery:
3 copies of your data on 2 different devices with at least 1 copy off-site.
The best configuration is an external hard drive as your 2nd copy (and local backup) with an online backup service like Carbonite as the 3rd copy that is off-site (we include it in our QC membership plan!)
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on June 24, 2015