Atola Technology

Exporting and importing cases from one computer to another

It is possible to transfer all or some of the cases stored in one Insight’s case management system to another one. The only requirement is that both computers have the same version of Insight installed.

Whenever cases need to be transferred from one computer to another one, start by exporting the cases.

1. Go to Cases category of the top level menu and click Export.

2. In the Export Cases window select folder where the cases should be stored, then select the cases you would like to be exported and click Save button.
3. The cases are now saved as a package in a zip file (with the default name, which can later be copied to a different computer.

NB Whenever a case is exported, a record about it is added to the case’s history.

Importing cases

To import cases from a zip file into Insight on a different computer.

1. Click Import in Cases category of the top menu of Insight.
2. Click Browse icon and select path and name of the zip file.

3. Select some or all of the cases in the table and click Import button.

Please note that if there is a match between existing case numbers and the imported ones, Insight will prompt you to either cancel the import or save the case that causes the conflict as a copy.

Splitting an imaging session to separate targets

A situation may occur when multi-target imaging is paused to be continued later, but one or more targets become unavailable. The drive may need to be taken and used by another technician or broken, or the server with the image file may become unavailable. But you may need to finish the imaging to the remaining target asap to start working on the evidence.

It is for such cases that we have added the splitting imaging sessions functionality to the 4.9 release of Atola Insight Forensic.

With the source drive connected to Insight, go to Imaging category and view the details of the interrupted imaging session to several targets. If not all target drives and image files are available, it is impossible to simply resume imaging. However it is possible to split the previous imaging session into separate ones: one per each target. To do that click Split all sessions to separate targets link.

Once the session has been split, it is possible to resume imaging to each separate target by clicking Resume button in each target’s Imaging Session.

The resumed imaging session will skip all sectors imaged to the target within the previous session.

This way one can complete imaging to all targets at different times, as they become available.

NB Please note that if a target becomes unavailable during imaging, the process will automatically stop running, and you can try to either resume imaging to all targets, or split imaging sessions should it be necessary.

Multi-pass imaging of damaged drives

Atola Insight Forensic has a complex imaging functionality, which allows imaging even physically damaged hard drives, while avoiding further drive deterioration. Damaged drives require a complex imaging approach, which would balance thorough data extraction with forensics’ need in expediency and measured treatment of damaged media.

Most imagers have a linear imaging process, and whenever such imager encounters a bad sector on a drive, the process slows down drastically, which often causes the drive to freeze. To speed up imaging of damaged drives and maximize the amount of successfully retrieved data, Insight operates using a special imaging algorithm that provides deliberate timeout and block size control.

Using small block size pays off when you need to thoroughly retrieve maximum data from an unstable drive, but it also significantly slows down imaging process. What’s worse, such approach increases the possibility of causing further damage to the media. That’s why Insight’s multi-pass imaging engine uses large blocks with short timeouts on the first few passes, scheduling reads inside slow areas for later and then using the smallest block size on the last pass when fewer sectors are left to be read.

This technique helps achieve imaging speeds of 500 MB/sec in good areas of the drive, while approaching bad areas in the most gentle way possible and reaching unbeatable overall speed of disk duplication.

The best part is that Atola Insight Forensic will handle block sizes automatically, thus providing the best possible results in the shortest amount of time. This allows Atola Insight Forensic to be faster in virtually any job than any other data recovery or image acquisition tools commercially available.

Block sizes and timeouts are adjustable. However, the default settings of the passes are based on our decades-long experience in data recovery market to fit most problematic drives. Therefore, it is advisable to follow them, unless a particular drive requires specific settings.

On the first pass, Insight allows 1-second Timeout per block, and the Max read block size is set to 4096 sectors. The settings of the first pass allow smooth sequential imaging of all modern hard drives, whose media is sound. But when imaging damaged drives, these settings make Insight skip any areas that slow down reading and perform Jump on error by 1,000,000 sectors at a time. These settings ensure imaging data from the healthy areas of the drive at top speed, while forcing Insight to return to the problematic areas during the following passes, splitting such areas into smaller ones and allowing more time for reading the data within.

While Max read block size remains the same during the second and the third passes, the Jump on error is set to 20000 sectors and 4096 sectors respectively and slightly longer, 5-second Timeouts are allowed for attempted reading of the blocks.

On the fourth pass, both Jump on error and Max read block size are yet again reduced, this time to 256 sectors.

On the fifth pass Insight allocates 60-second Timeouts to read the Maximum block size of 256 with just 1-sector Jump on error. It is the last and the most scrupulous attempt to read the remaining bad areas of the drive.

After the final pass the Imaging Results report will appear to show the eventual number of errors on the drive and other detailed statistics.

When looking at the settings of the imaging passes, you will see the Reverse direction check boxes. With this function selected, Insight will approach skipped areas of the drive from the other side on any selected pass. This way Insight can get more data from a drive before entering a damaged zone, which needs to be concentrated on during the following passes.

Another option in the imaging pass settings, which is worth mentioning is Disable read look-ahead option. Most contemporary hard drives have read look-ahead functionality, which makes the drive read more blocks sequentially than requested by software. In good drives, this functionality helps the drive to operate faster by reading more data and caching them. But with bad drives, read look-ahead leads to bad areas being addressed more often, which slows down the process and may lead to a complete freeze of the drive. In such cases, disabling read look-ahead option is advisable.

Please note that when dealing with a damaged drive, we strongly recommend using Segmented hashing because this method supports multi-pass imaging and handling of bad sectors, and provides better resiliency against data corruption.

To read about the way Insight handles imaging of freezing damaged drives please follow this link.

Case management: Changing details in a case

Insight’s case management system has been created to help users efficiently keep track of hard drive-related information.

Even if a hard drive has already been used for a while, imaging and hashing have already been performed, it is still possible to open the case and make adjustments to its details.

Click the Plus icon next to the Case Number in the top right corner.

Now you can enter or change the Case Number and Description. To save your changes click OK button.

You will see the description visible next to the Case History. For quick changes, you can also click Change link located right below the description.

A little lower there is a green Plus icon, which you can click to add a document or an image to the case.

In the Attach File window enter the file location path and leave a comment in the corresponding field.

If you tick the Copy to work folder check box, the file will be copied to the same folder where any other related files are located, e.g. tables with segmented hashes, logs, imaging maps, file signature lists etc.

You can now see all the uploaded files in the case’s Homepage below the description, and you can view all the details and change them when necessary by clicking Manage attached files link.

Attached Files window contains the list of files including an icon representing the file type, the name, the folder where the file is located, the date when the file was attached to the case and the comment added by the user.

Right-clicking a file provides the Edit option enabling a user to edit the Comment or copy the file to the case folder at any time.

Connecting MacBook using Thunderbolt extension module

Last week we released Atola Insight Forensic 4.9, which includes Thunderbolt extension module. This extension provides Insight users with the capability to image, calculate hash and perform other forensically sound operations on all generations of MacBooks.

This guide will explain how to connect a MacBook to Insight using Thunderbolt extension.

Extension and cables

Thunderbolt extension enables Insight to operate on all MacBooks with FireWire, Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3 interfaces. There is no need to remove the SSD, Thunderbolt extension allows connecting the whole Apple laptop to Insight.

The extension module comes with:

  • Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter (by Apple)
  • Thunderbolt 2 to FireWire adapter (by Apple)
  • FireWire cable

Connecting MacBook to DiskSense unit

1. Connect MacBook to DiskSense unit with the help of Thunderbolt extension and the FireWire cable (NB Both MacBook and DiskSense have to be turned off). Use the adapters to connect to the MacBooks with Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 3 interface.

2. Start DiskSense unit and launch Atola Insight Forensic on your computer.

3. Boot the MacBook in Target Disk Mode. To do that, start it up while holding down the T key. You should see a Firewire or Thunderbolt icon displayed on screen signifying that Target Disk Mode is detected and working.

4. Select Identify device option in the pop-up window.

5. In Source – Select MacBook Case window click Add new case button.

6. If this is the first time this MacBook is identified by Insight, you need to enter the Serial number of the MacBook in the pop-up window and click OK. The device has been identified. (NB MacBook’s serial number can be found on the bottom case).


Now you can perform these operations with the connected MacBook:

  • imaging
  • hash calculation
  • hash verification
  • comparing
  • media scan
  • file recovery

When a MacBook is connected to Insight for a subsequent session, it is possible to simply select the appropriate case from the table.