How to Recover Data from a Failed NAS Appliance

    We all know that storage drives are prone to failure, and accordingly, SMBs implement regular backups or redundant physical drives to protect themselves from data loss.

    RAID, or redundant array of independent drives, is a widely adopted technology that uses multiple hard disk drives to offer redundancy and avoid downtime. Depending on the chosen configuration, data is either mirrored or spread across multiple drives in such a way that it can survive the failure of one or more storage drives simultaneously.

    Today, the technology is natively supported by most operating systems, and also implemented in affordable network-attached storage (NAS) appliances. But what happens when the NAS appliance itself fails, either due to buggy firmware or an irreparable hardware component?

    In most cases, this means that the data will be spread across multiple disks. When that happens, plugging individual HDDs into a PC will not work, and attempting to reuse the disk drives in a new NAS may cause it to reinitialize them – thereby destroying the existing data.

    It is due to these challenges that the traditional advice for NAS recovery is to send it in to a data recovery vendor. Times have changed, though, and tools do exist to help cash-strapped small businesses to extract data from RAID volumes themselves.

    One such tool is the ReclaiMe Free RAID Recovery tool from data recovery expert ReclaiMe. Unlike other solutions that will only work with NAS appliances made by certain vendors, ReclaiMe says that its free RAID recovery tool will work with a long list of NAS, including those from Buffalo, Iomega, Synology, Thecus, NETGEAR, QNAP and even Drobo (only if all the HDDs are of the same size), among others.

    To be clear, all HDDs must be removed from the failed NAS and plugged into a working Windows PC for the tool to do its magic. Note that any damage at the file system level will require the use of data recovery software to fix.

    If you are thinking of going this route, below are some pointers you will want to take note of:

    • Power down the recovery PC completely prior to disconnecting or connecting HDDs.
    • It is a good idea to clearly label the disk drive according to the drive bay number in the NAS.
    • Recovered data should always be saved onto a separate storage drive.
    • Allocate plenty of time for this; don’t expect it to be completed quickly.

    And if you’d like a visual, I found a video put together by ReclaiMe demonstrating the process of recovering data from a RAID system.

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