The claim “My hard drive failed” is the modern day equivalent of saying “The dog ate my homework”. While hard drives do indeed fail, it is an extremely rare case that data cannot be recovered from that drive, by computer forensic professionals.
There are several causes of hard drive failure, the experts have this information and statistics on the matter:
“Hard drive failure may be related to mechanical, electronic, or firmware failures. Mechanical failures occur when physical components of the device itself begin to wear or malfunction. Electronic failures occur when the printed circuit board (PCB) begins to produce errors. Finally, many hard drive failures are related to out-of-date, corrupt or buggy firmware.
In approximately 40% of cases–when there has been no physical damage to the hard drive–data may be retrieved by an in-house technical support person. These cases are often caused by human error, software corruption, or computer viruses.”
As I am not an expert in this field, I will leave it to my peers to qualify the likelihood of “irrecoverable” data loss. What I can offer is more than 20 years of experience with computers as a very intense user who thrashes on hard drives non-stop with massive databases and huge file repositories – I would gamble that my usage far surpasses that of Louis Lerner.
I have had numerous hard drives crash from numerous causes. Only once was I not able to retieve 100% of my data – and then I could only retrieve about 70% and it was because I opened the drive myself and tried to repair it – knowing I might mess it up.
I’m not saying that it is not possible that her data could not have been retrieved – I’m saying that if that is truly the case then the hard drive should have been examined for criminal tampering and damage of government equipment – because the possibility that she crashed so hard that a forensic lab could not recover the data is so small that it is much more likely that she intentionally damaged her hard drive beyond the ability to recover the data.
Michael Stevens does an excellent job of covering this topic in a way that anybody can understand in this video: