Read hard drive with AFM

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Title Read hard drive with AFM
Summary See if it's possible to read bits from a hard-drive with an Atomic Force Microscope
Keywords electronics, physics, computer engineering, security, digital forensics
TimeFrame spring
Prerequisites An understanding of digital electronics and physics
Author Stefan Axelsson
Supervisor Stefan Axelsson, Struan Gray
Level Master
Status Open

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Hard drives store data by magnetizing a disk that spins by a read head at high speed. Hard disk density depending on how close together the tracks are (and how small the magnetic domains are) increases all the time. However, recovering data from broken hard drives (whether by accident, or someone put a sledge hammer to them to try and destroy the data) is always important. Both to understand what's possible when it comes to securely deleting data (and destroying data), and for e.g. criminal investigations.

At the school we have a fairly good AFM - Atomic Force Microscope, that we'd hope to put to use to read the magnetic data regions on a disassembled, modern, hard drive. This is work that has been done before, but it needs to be done repeatedly as hard drives develop.