Hard Drive Search: The Million-Dollar Mistake that Won’t Be Left In Peace

4 min readOct 31, 2023

British crypto investor James Howells gained worldwide fame due to his absentmindedness. In 2013, he accidentally discarded a hard drive containing 7,500 BTC. For a decade, James relentlessly attempted to recover his fortune, reaching out to Newport authorities with pleas and demands for assistance in finding the disk.

At the very least, he was hoping to get permission for excavations at the landfill where millions of dollars now lay buried. Unfortunately, Howells’ request was never fulfilled. Exhausted by his efforts, the persistent man decided to turn to the court.

How did Bitcoin get lost in the dumpster?

For a long time, this story circulated on the internet as a tale of a crypto investor’s misfortune. James Howells, once a computer engineer, dabbled in casual cryptocurrency mining as far back as 2009. It was nothing extraordinary, at the time — it didn’t require immense computational power or expenses. The process was relatively simple, and Howells himself didn’t have high expectations for it. One ordinary August day, while cleaning up his office, he accidentally discarded a device containing his Bitcoin into the trash, which soon found its way to a landfill in South Wales along with the rest of the garbage.

The crypto investor only realized his mistake when the price of Bitcoin sharply surged. Howells rushed to the landfill but immediately encountered a problem — its territory turned out to be enormous.

Howells’ plan

James decided not to give up, especially as the Bitcoin price continued to rise. He devised a plan in which only a small portion of the landfill needed to be excavated to locate the hard drive and recover the data with the help of specialists. To aid in the search, Howells intended to enlist the assistance of artificial intelligence and even robot dogs from Boston Dynamics.

Howells promised the Newport City Council to pay them 25% of the current cryptocurrency’s value stored on the disk in exchange for their help in excavating the landfill. He intended to donate these funds to all the city’s residents and sponsor its development.

Despite the seemingly reasonable plan, the Newport authorities repeatedly declined these requests, citing concerns about irreparable environmental damage from excavations. They turned him down not once or twice — it has continued for a whole decade! In the end, Howells decided to take legal action against the city council.

The crypto investor emphasized that the city authorities didn’t take his requests seriously. At the current cryptocurrency exchange rate, there’s approximately $198 million somewhere in that landfill.

Howells’ crypto search team

James Howells is not working alone. Currently, he is joined by 16 enthusiasts in the quest to recover the lost crypto, including a former landfill manager and data recovery specialists. In the event of a successful outcome and the return of the 7,500 BTC to the owner, members of Howells’ team will receive compensation — a part of the crypto assets from the device.

The opinion of the Newport City Council

According to statements from Newport authorities spokesman, issuing permission for landfill excavation is legally impossible. They claim it would have a significant negative impact on the environment, and the entire process of waste storage and processing would come at a substantial cost, all while offering no guarantee of finding and recovering the hard drive.

Authorities confirmed that since 2013, they have received multiple requests and pleas regarding the retrieval of an IT device from the landfill, presumed to contain Bitcoin. However, according to Howells, the Newport Council refused to listen to him and engage in direct dialogue.

A new twist in the story

James Howells is not willing to give up and part with his money prematurely. His determination is truly admirable — he has been fighting for his fortune for a decade now, a fortune that may no longer be recoverable.

The story has now escalated to a legal battle. Howells is delving into new expenses, and the likelihood of recovering his lost millions is still uncertain. In the event of their recovery, he will, of course, cover all the costs and finally find peace of mind. However, if not, the unfortunate investor may find himself deep in debt.

Regardless of whether Howells finds his hard drive or not, he has certainly gained popularity. It makes one wonder how many more investors there are in the world, who accidentally let their fortunes slip away.


In an ironic twist of fate, James Howells’ quest for his lost Bitcoin has turned into a crypto soap opera of epic proportions. As he continues to dig both metaphorically and literally, the world watches him with bated breath. Now we’re all wondering how many others might be out there, inadvertently transforming their gold mines into a garbage. Will James Howells recover his treasure, or will it remain buried in the landfill of missed opportunities? Share your thoughts in the comments.

If you want to learn more interesting facts about crypto then check out our blog! You might like our articles “Ripple Won the Case Against the SEC” and “Bitcoin Pizza Day: the History Behind Bitcoin”.

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Originally published on our Publish0x blog.




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