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The client organization is a large shipping company based in India, with offices at 29 locations spread across the country. It provides end-to-end shipping solutions globally and has large amount of business data that it archives and backs up in LTO tapes.

Recently, for a business need, the organization required 13-year old company data that was saved in two LTO-6 tapes of model HP C7976A.

About LTO-6 Tape Media: LTO (Linear Tape Open) is a magnetic tape data storage technology. LTO-6 is one of the LTO tape formats that offers 2.5 terabytes (TB) of native capacity and 6.25 TB compressed capacity. The native sustained data transfer rate of LTO-6 is up to 160 megabytes per second (MBps) and compressed sustained data transfer rate is up to 400 MBps.

The client’s 6.25 TB capacity LTO-6 tapes contained crucial incremental backup in compressed form. When it tried to access data, the tape reader couldn’t detect the media. As the information was critical to business, the organization sought an expert help, which could also ensure data privacy. It contacted ISO-certified Stellar® to get back LTO tapes data.

The client submitted the two LTO-6 tapes to Stellar for data recovery. At Stellar Data Recovery Lab, examination of the LTO-6 cartridges revealed that they were broken and affected by humidity.

This was a challenging case of magnetic tape recovery from broken LTO-6 tapes.

Problem Statement

Recover data from broken LTO-6 tape media of model HP C7976A that was not detected by tape reader.

Recovery Challenges

  • Repair broken LTO-6 tape ribbon
  • Modify cloning software to read the repaired tape with optimal speed to avoid chances of breaking it again
  • Recover large compressed data in readable form
100% data recovery from broken LTO-6 tape

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Data Recovery Approach

Stellar® allocated a dedicated team to administer the LTO tape drive recovery process in this case. The LTO experts started with investigation of the two tapes. Based on their observations they chalked out the LTO data recovery plan.

The team employed the following steps to recover data from LTO-6 tapes:

1. Stellar Lab Diagnosis

The team examined both the tapes in Class 100 Clean Room Lab and below were the observations:

The first LTO-6 tape was tampered. Its leader pin was broken. The team replaced the leader pin and inserted the tape into Ultrium tape drive to access it. But the tape drive couldn’t detect it. There was noise, the tape got stuck, and was later ejected. Like the first, the tape drive couldn’t detect the second tape as well.

The team observed humidity had damaged both the tapes’ ribbon. They dried the tapes using proprietary baking technique and reinserted in Ultrium drive. This time again the drive couldn’t detect the first tape while the second tape was detected but it didn’t rewind to allow reading of the data.

The LTO Tape Drive recovery team sought tampering permission from the client, and performed the next level of physical examination on the first LTO tape. They found magnetic coating on the reel was damaged. This was the oxide side of a tape that stores information. Further, on unspooling, a part of the tape length was also found missing. It was ascertained that data recovery from the first LTO-6 tape was not possible by any measure.

The physical examination of second tape revealed that the ribbon was broken into two parts due to which it was not able to rewind to read the data. The team decided to go ahead with recovery of the second LTO tape.

2. LTO-6 Recovery Steps

Step 1: Repair of broken ribbon

The first step was to repair broken reel of LTO-6 tape media. The experts used Stellar proprietary technique to join the tape ribbon parts. The whole process was done in state-of-the-art Class 100 Clean Room Lab under temperature, humidity, pressure and contaminant controlled environment.

After fixing the broken LTO tape ribbon, it was inserted into tape drive. This time the drive detected the magnetic tape.

Step 2: Cloning of LTO-6 tape

Once the LTO tape was detected, the next step was to create a clone of tape media for data recovery.

As the LTO-6 tape had now become more fragile after repair, the challenge was to develop a tool that reads tape data gently without breaking the ribbon again. The experts modified the Stellar cloning software reducing its reading speed.

Finally, the clone file of LTO-6 tape was successfully created. It took over 22 hours to create a clone file of LTO tape with the help of the modified software.

Step 3: Extraction of tape data from clone file

The recovery experts next used the software to extract LTO-6 data from the clone file.

Although the software successfully extracted complete data from the clone, but it was not readable

On in-depth analysis, the experts’ team identified that recovered data was the incremental backup that the client had created by using Veritas software and thus was in compressed form.

To extract files in readable form, the team had to decompress this data.

Step 4: Decompression of recovered LTO tape data

Decompression was again an arduous task as large compressed files often become fragmented, which can make the files recovery difficult.

But when the LTO recovery experts used proprietary decompression software, they were able to successfully obtain complete readable data of the client in the first attempt.

Over 1 TB data containing MS Office, MS Excel workbooks, PDFs, PPTs, and other files were recovered with their original name.


This was the case of 100% recovery of compressed backup from broken LTO-6 tape media. Stellar LTO recovery experts managed to recover entire data in its original form, as verified and attested by the client.

The detailed assessment and recovery report was shared with the client organization. The whole LTO-6 tape data recovery project was completed with 100% integrity within the committed timeline.

"We are very thankful to Stellar for recovering our crucial incremental backup from damaged LTO-6 tapes."