The DeepSpar Disk Imager 4 (DDI4) is the premiere hard disk drive (HDD) data recovery system. It is the first disk imaging system built specifically to recover data from damaged drives.
Hosted by a desktop computer, the DDI4 is a PCI Express (PCI-e) card that uses a DOS operating system located on a USB Flash drive to run proprietary data recovery software. The software is then able to send the source drive specific ATA commands without needing to go through the computer’s BIOS or a standard operating system.
With one internal Serial-ATA (SATA) and one internal Parallel-ATA (PATA or IDE) source port, the DDI4 connects to old and new hard drives alike. In addition, a single destination drive is connected to the Disk Imager using an external SATA port located on the back end of the PCI-e card.
Also included with the PCI-e card is a small set of adapters, providing connections for 2.5-inch and 1.8-inch PATA, Zero Insertion Force (ZIF), and Compact Flash (CF) drives. Lastly, the DDI4 comes with a single set of SATA, PATA, and power cables for the source drive and a single SATA cable for the destination drive.
The DOS-based disk imaging software looks old and antiquated but works perfectly for data recovery. The default keyboard shortcuts make navigating the application simple, quick, and easy.
Also bundled with the DDI4 is a PCI-e network LAN card. This card provides the DDI4 with a network IP address and makes it accessible over a local area network. When used in conjunction with a Windows computer running the DeepSpar Recovery Environment (DRE) software, the DDI4 is capable of recovering specified files and folders.
What Makes the DeepSpar Disk Imager Unique
Firstly, DDI4 treats every head differently. It diagnosis each head and configures different algorithms for different levels of degradation for each head. First, DDI4 images sectors from good heads. Then, it images the drive head by head to avoid the extra stress of continuously switching between heads while imaging.
Secondly, DeepSpar Disk Imager 4 treats every problem area differently. It uses a lighter touch by disabling background firmware processes and bad sector auto-relocation. It configures different imaging algorithms for each pass. For example if:
- The source drive stays busy for more than a prescribed period of time, the DDI4 resets and re-powers the drive.
- A sector has corrupted media, the DDI4 processes it using different read commands.
- A certain number of consecutive sectors have a specific type of error, the DDI4 jumps over those sectors and returns to that area on later passes.
Thirdly, DDI4 treats every type of user data differently. It processes file system elements such as boot sectors, file allocation tables, and file attributes with the highest priority. Sectors belonging to files requested by the client are imaged immediately, as well. No matter what type of user data each sector contains, the DeepSpar Disk Imager uses a drive linear imaging sequence. This takes into account all other factors such as head-by-head imaging and sequence defined by the specific media issue.
DeepSpar Disk Imager 4 Benefits
- Save time with unresponsive drives. When failing to read sectors, DDI4 eliminates the need to manually note the sector LBA, re-power, and reboot before continuing. It accomplishes this because it performs those functions itself when errors occur.
- Save more drives. DDI4 permits users to change algorithms to first recover data from sections of media that work well. This reduces stress endured by the source drive and recovers the most amount of data as quickly as possible.
- Get more data from bad sectors. DDI4 processes each byte in a sector, ignoring error correction codes (ECC). The imaging software responds appropriately to sector errors and uses probability to determine correct data values.
- Save more time. The DeepSpar Disk Imager uses read timeout control to identify and skip problematic sectors for recovery on later passes.
- Data Quality Checking During Imaging. The DDI4 software displays a hex representation of each sector’s data onscreen as the imaging hardware reads it. It also shows a count of the most common file types imaged to that point at the bottom of the window. And unlike with other hard disk drive imagers, DDI4 can pause the entire imaging process and restart it at another time. This feature is indispensable during power outages or when switching between data recovery projects.
DeepSpar Disk Imager 4 Features
- All-in-one PCIe hardware device for data recovery imaging.
- Supports native SATA functions for drive diagnostics and imaging such as PHY and COMRESET.
- Configurable, visual, interactive data recovery imaging environment.
- Extensive drive diagnostics: individual heads, media, PCB, and mechanical issues.
- A hardware solution bypassing the computer’s BIOS.
- Full sector map and metadata store on a configuration or destination drive.
- Stop and resume imaging at any time.
- Fully configurable multi-pass imaging.
- Drive ready timeout processing.
- Read sector timeout controlled by software/hardware reset and power cycle.
- Backwards imaging.
- Validation of data on-the-fly: hex view, file counters, and file system elements.
- Support for drives over 2TB.
- Imaging selectively by head.
- Disable S.M.A.R.T. subsystem.
- Disable Read Look-Ahead option.
- Multiple methods of bad sector recovery.
- Bit-level analysis of corrupted data to filter out read-write channel noise.
- Imaging of only the desired partitions, directories, and files.
- Set and clear the Host Protected Area (HPA).
- Source drive power protection.
- Adjustable read block size.
DDI4’s Indispensable Features
The DDI4’s very powerful, advanced features listed below are requirements in performing successful data recoveries from the most severely damaged and malfunctioning drives. They include the abilities to:
- Enable and disable approximately 10 drive initialization procedures. Malfunctioning drives often fail when performing standard initialization procedures. Since one cannot image a non-initialized drive, this feature is paramount in recovering data from damaged and malfunctioning drives.
- Set the specific Direct Memory Access (DMA) or Ultra Direct Memory Access (UDMA) mode for communicating with the source drive. Certain modes work sometimes with some drives when others do not. I figure this out only through trial and error.
- Force the DDi4 to communicate with the source drive using Programmed Input-Output (PIO) mode. This is the slowest speed imaging mode but works well with older and severely damaged drives.
- Individually program up to 4 imaging scans (passes) at a time. The default settings perform a single forward imaging pass followed by a slow, reverse-direction second imaging pass.
- Alter the read buffer size in sectors down to 1 sector. A larger buffer size reads sectors in larger blhe ocks, increasing the imaging speed. but increases the probability of encountering an unreadable sector.
- Change the Read Timeout duration and the read timeout error response.
- Read sectors in the reverse direction. This is often the second imaging scan performed after a standard fast, forward imaging pass in the default imaging routine.
- Reread or skip sectors based on timeout or specific error types. One should always try to image the best performing sectors first and leave the poorer performing sectors for later. Reading and skipping sectors based on timeout duration or error type greatly aids in that process.
DDI4 Imaging Speed
The DDI4 images HDDs at up to 300MB/s which is faster than most commercially available drives can read and write data at. The drives I purchase for use in data recoveries, which include 3.5-inch Western Digital Black and Gold drives, only write between 200MB/s and 250MB/s. Therefore, the DDI4 operates the source and destination drives at the maximum speed they will operate at.
I personally own a DeepSpar Disk Imager 4 and use it on the most difficult hard disk drive data recoveries. It does everything conceivable that a HDD data recovery system can do (except edit drive firmware). I am extremely happy with my DDI4 and I use it regularly to recover data on a variety of drives.
Costing $2,500, the DDI4 is an expensive system. However, it costs less than its only competitor, the ACE Labs PC-3000, which sells for roughly 2 to 3 times the amount the DDI4 does. Considering its enormous list of capabilities and its price, the DeepSpar Disk Imager 4 offers the best return on investment of any professional hard disk drive data recovery solution currently available.
If you would like to learn more about the DeepSpar Disk Imager 4 or speak with a data recovery professional before attempting a data recovery of your own, please call, e-mail, or contact IT-SD through our website. We are always happy to speak with you.