Sooner or later most computer users will experience some form of data loss. Depending on the importance and relevancy of the data that has been lost, you may want to consider hiring a data recovery company to help you get your files and information back. In many cases, you can recover your lost data if you take the correct steps to protect your drive and your files from further damage. Data recovery specialists generally have a success rate of around 80-90% when recovering lost files.
So, what happens when you send your drive to a company that specializes in data recovery? Every company is a little bit different, but here are some general procedures that you can expect.
The Diagnostic Phase
The first step is to run a complete diagnosis of your drive and discover exactly what the problem is. Hard drives typically lose data for three main reasons: mechanical failure of one or more of the components of the drive, logical problems such as file corruption or a computer virus, and finally, user error such as inadvertently deleting files or reformatting your drive.
The diagnostic phase aims to answer three questions:
1. What is the root cause of the data loss?
2. Can the data be retrieved?
3. Exactly which data can be recovered?
The purpose of this phase is to give the customer enough information to be able to make an informed choice as to whether you wish to proceed with the data recovery. You may find that the data you hoped to retrieve is not recoverable or that it’s not worth the expense to retrieve it. On the other hand, your data may be valuable enough for you to go ahead with the recovery procedure.
Most data recovery companies will make a copy of your hard drive during the diagnostic process and then recover the data from the copied drive. The reason for this secondary copy is to protect the data. Sometimes, recovering data can cause further damage to a mechanically compromised drive, which could cause further deletion or corruption of your data.
The Recovery Phase
The second phase involves the actual recovery of your data. During this phase, a data recovery technician will work with your hard drive to recover as much data as possible. At reputable, professional data recovery companies, this work is carried out in a dust free clean room – which reduces the risk of your disk being further contaminated.
Given that the read/write heads on your hard drive are mere 50 nanometers (about half the thickness of a human hair) from the platter, it doesn’t take much dust to contaminate this section of your hard drive. Hard drive repair generally requires a “class 100” clean room, which means there are less than 100 dust particles per cubic foot. By comparison, the air in an average urban environment contains about 35,000 particles per cubic foot.
The need for a clean room environment, coupled with the special tools required are the main reason you should never attempt to repair a compromised hard drive on your own.
Once the data is extracted, it is organized into a file directory and copied onto a CD or DVD, and then returned to you. From there, you’ll have to purchase a new hard drive for your computer and transfer the files onto your new drive.
The cost of using a data recovery service varies with the type of procedures required, the amount of data at risk and is different depending on the specific company you use. You can usually expect to pay several hundred dollars for a comprehensive hard drive recovery. It makes sense to shop around a bit and see where you can get a good deal, however, beware of companies that offer extremely cheap rates. They may not use the most sophisticated methods and usually have a lower chance of success in getting your files back.
An important point to remember is to make sure that you get a signed confidentiality agreement from your service provider. Your data may very well contain sensitive information, photos, financial records and the like. Reputable service providers will, of course, respect your privacy but it makes sense to get it in writing before you begin.
Finding the Right Data Recovery Company
As with any business, there are some excellent companies out there and some others that are not so good. Talk to a few and see if you can find a company you’re comfortable with. Find out how long the provider you’re considering has been in business and whether they have a good track record. You can even consult the Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce to find out if they have had any prior complaints.