CCTV DVR Hard Drive Recovery

CCTV DVR Hard Drive Recovery Services

CCTV DVR Hard Drive Recovery is the process of recovering a video recording from the original equipment that created it. These are video files stored on the hard drive that may have been damaged, deleted, extracted incorrectly, or falsely represented. Accidentally deleted video files as well as intentional deletion are both possibilities. Hard drives may be physically damaged in which case video files need to be carefully recovered.

In order to accurately recover the recordings, investigators rely on qualified forensic recovery by a video forensic expert.

This process is important for investigative and courtroom use for many reasons:

  • Maintaining an authentic chain of custody of the CCTV DVR video evidence.
  • The system is old and may be too fragile for a lay person to extract the recordings from.
  • The system that produced the low quality copy may also have a higher quality copy stored.
  • This can assist an investigation if additional video enhancements can be made to the CCTV video evidence recording.
  • The trier of fact, law enforcement agency, or litigators may require addition authentic copies to be created.


It is important that litigators understand the importance of recovering CCTV DVR video evidence forensically. There are three main reasons:

  1.   When we recover evidence on site, we document the process and video record it, which establishes an authentic chain of custody.
  2.   We take special precautions during the recovery process with the original recording we leave the recovery with.
  3.   We recover the recordings to minimize any degradation in quality. A multi-million dollar lawsuit may hinge on the analysis of a surveillance video evidence for example. It is best to trust the recovery of digital evidence to a forensically trained technician.

CCTV DVR Video Evidence

Common recording systems consist of IP or server based phone systems, CCTV DVR or NVR (network video recording) surveillance video systems, MDVR (mobile digital video recorder) video recorders,  police dash camera systems, and many more. Once recovered, the analog or digital  video evidence can be used to forensically enhance. Our recovered CCTV video recordings will pass forensic authentication testing. DVR hard disk data recovery requires an attention to detail. The investigation is carefully documented so that the digital evidence is preserved for further investigation.

The courts must be aware of the processes the expert used to recovery the recording. This helps to confirm that the recording was not retrieved under false pretenses or inaccurately. If the expert cannot provide information about the protocols used,  the evidence may not be admissible. This will diminish the credibility of the expert and the investigation as a whole. A forensic expert must ensure thorough documentation of the retrieval, or their evidence may not make it into the courtroom.

When performing a CCTV DVR Hard Drive Recovery from video surveillance systems there are many quality factors to consider. Compressing or converting the recording may effect its quality in a negative way. Necessary compression will reduce the success of the forensic video enhancement.

Preparation and Research

Most fixed and mobile DVR-based surveillance systems employ proprietary computer operating systems and record digital video to proprietary formats. Preservation of picture quality with minimal degradation during the conversion of proprietary to courtroom ready video is difficult. This is a challenge for both law enforcement agencies and video forensic experts.

There are a wide variety of surveillance systems and an even wider number of models of DVRs. Because of this, the technician is required to prepare ahead of time and acquire the appropriate equipment. Furthermore, they must also prevent accidental loss of files, and preserve the quality of the video recording. The preservation of quality is important if the files need to be converted for courtroom use.

 The technician must also follow guidelines set forth by the scientific community. These guidelines ensure that the CCTV hard disk data recovery processes are admissible in a court of law. Primeau Forensics recommends that every technician prepare a forensic recovery kit that includes but is not limited to the following:

  • I/O cabling
  • Various storage device such as external hard drives and flash drives in an assortment of sizes
  • Hard disk cloning device
  • Video camera equipment
  • write blocker,
  • evidence bags,
  • Specific proprietary power cabling, remotes or keys unique to that system


CCTV DVR Data Recovery Process

Primeau Forensics has developed a proven methodology used when CCTV DVR Hard Drive Recovery is necessary:

  1. Establish an evidence recovery protocol when another forensic expert is involved from the opposing side in the litigation.
  2. Establish and document a chain of custody of the audio & video evidence, and all litigators and experts present.
  3. Identify the recovery scope of work. How much and what type of digital video needs to be recovered?
  4. Research must be done to determine the status of the device, along with its nuances. The forensic experts must know not only how the device works, but also study the manufacturers specifications and technical information.  In addition, it is common for an expert to reach out to the manufacturer for further inquiry about the device. This helps the expert accurately obtain the evidence in an authentic and non-destructive manor
  5. Discover by inquiring that all system components will be on site when you arrive. These components may include remote control, DVR locking key, power supplies and other cables.
  6. Create a forensic clone of the drive if time permits. This will allow for CCTV hard disk recovery to be completed at a later time for further investigation.
  7. Determine if the system was connected to the Internet or networked to other computers. Who had access and monitoring to the system at the time of the incident.
  8. Obtain the software necessary to access the audio & video evidence or digital information. Though many media players support various formats, the change in codec can alter the recording. Even if the recording is altered slightly, this is a big problem in the grand scheme of maintaining chain of custody. Researching software and codecs necessary beforehand will ensure that the evidence is obtained properly, with no risk of alteration.
  9. Photograph the evidence or equipment used to create it before you begin the inspection.
  10. Document the recovery process using a video camera or audio recording. This is another element that has to do with chain of custody.
  11. Take detailed notes during your entire forensic recovery process. Pay careful attention to any markings or signs of tampering. This includes scratched screw heads or broken manufacturer seals, which may reveal prior disassembly of the equipment.
  12.  The expert will identify the scope of what needs to be recovered. Using the correct interfaces to the device, the expert will create a carbon copy clone of the evidence for further analysis. The clone will assist the trier of fact in analysis of the digital information.
  13.  Make sure your computers power settings are set to “always on” so no interruption occurs from power saving modes.
  14.  Access the system administrative or event log and note or print all activity before, during, or after the incident.
  15.  The evidence must be retrieved in a way that will maintain quality to the highest degree. The expert should bring the manual to the recovery so they can best understand the methods for highest quality extraction.
  16.  Establish a system for organization of digital video files for chain of custody purposes.

Click HERE to learn about what some of our clients have said.

Video Forensic Expert Edward J Primeau Curriculum Vitae


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