Data Recovery

Many of you have probably lost valuable data like family pictures and work files due to a failed hard drive.  So many people have pictures of weddings, anniversaries and kids growing up stored on their computers.  I know that it can be a heart breaking experience when you feel like you have lost all of those memories.  Maybe I have an answer for that.  I have purchased some new data recovery equipment that can potentially get data back from hard drives that are in pretty bad shape.  This is far more than just running a piece of data recovery software to look for files.  This is specialized hardware that can actually make repairs to hard drive firmware, diagnose problems and image the bad drive to a good one for better chances of recovering data.

Please read through the information below before attempting to use data recovery software to recover your data.  You can sometimes do more harm than good.  Think before you act because you might not get but one chance to get your data back.

What I have seen in the data recovery market is that most home users cannot afford what it can sometimes cost to get valuable data back like family pictures and such.  Many times all it takes is to move the drive to a good computer and take the data off.  But, if a drive is in bad enough shape it could mean having to send it to a data recovery company.  I have sent drives in to places like that and typically we are talking anywhere from $800-$1,500 to get the data back.  I can potentially get your data back for a fourth of that or even less.

I am going to give some information that will help explain why hard drives fail.  There are a number of reasons.  They typically come under three categories.  Those categories are drive level failures, disk level failures and data level failures.

A disk level failure can be caused by several issues.  Hard drives have a circuit board attached to the drive.  Those can be one source of failure.  There are software chips on those boards that can get corrupted.  The circuitry on the board can also fail.  That can make the drive unreadable.  Hard drives are spinning devices that use a moving head to read and write data to the drive.  The drive heads can fail and render the drive incapable of reading data.  Another issue that can happen is the failure of the drive motor.  These types of failures cannot be repaired by simple data recovery software.  Sometimes the drive needs to be opened up and items like heads changed out.  A board on the drive might need to be replaced.

This is very important to understand.  DO NOT open a hard drive without having that drive inside of a environmentally controlled clean cabinet.  If you get dust in the drive or contaminate the disks you can kill any chance of recovering data.  If it comes to that I have a clean cabinet that I can use to open the drive and prevent contamination.

This is another myth.  Sometimes there is an assumption when the circuit board fails that they can just be swapped out.  That is NOT true.  Circuit boards have to be matched as closely as possible to the original and the ROM chip from the old board MUST be moved to the new one.  It has data in the chip that is critical to reading the drive.

A disk level failure is when the spinning disks inside the drive fail.  Drives are formatted and divided up into sectors before writing data to the drive.  If a sector with operating system files goes bad the computer will not start.  Many times the computer will not start but the important data might be fine.  The old drive needs to be imaged to a new drive and then recover the files.  Another issue can be degradation of the disk surface.  Hard drives have a special coating on the surface of the disks.  Over time the surface coating of the disk can start to fail and make it impossible to read the data.  With that in mind don’t let old computers with valuable data just sit in the garage without getting the data off of them.  Most of those types of situation are dirt cheap to get data off of.  If the drive is fine I can get your data off of it for $35-$50.  Something that could be very easy can become a nightmare if those computers just sit for years in all of those temperature changes.  At least bring them inside in a controlled environment.  Another issue that is quite common with laptops is that they get dropped.  When this happens it can cause the read/write heads to hit the spinning disks and physically damage the disks.  In this type of situation heads have to be changed out and hope for the best in recovering data from the damaged disks.

Another issue is data level issues.  What can happen is a computer gets hit with a virus and it wipes out the boot sector or the master file table.  Some viruses will corrupt data.  The computer will not start.  The physical drive can actually be a healthy drive.  You just can’t read the data.  A disk like that has to be imaged and then recovery software run on it to retrieve data that has not been corrupted.  Another issue is that a software update or operating system upgrade can go bad causing a situation where the computer will not even start.  Sometimes it can be easy to get the data back and sometimes it takes more specialized tools.

This is very very very important.  Any time you are trying to recover data with a free data recovery software program do not install it on the drive that you are trying to recover data from.  You can easily install that software right over the top of your data and make it unrecoverable.  You MUST install data recovery software on another computer and then attach the drive you are recovering data from to that computer.

Another reason to have a professional look at the situation is that sometimes a bad drive can be very unstable.  It can have problems that are just made worse by trying to run data recovery software on it.  Data recovery software can take hours to scan a drive, especially if it is a large drive with lots of data.  Time is of the essence on an unstable drive. You might not get many opportunities to get your data back.  Another problem with a lot of data recovery software is that unless it is high end stuff it tries to read data several times even in bad sectors.  That puts stress on the drive and increases the chance of total drive failure.  That is what makes the process of imaging the drive first much more critical.  Imaging the drive basically makes a copy of the old drive and puts it on a new drive so that data recovery software can then be run on the new drive without fear of harming the bad drive.  I have special imaging hardware that can perform this step with minimal stress on the bad drive.  It can be programmed to read over bad sectors so that on an unstable drive I can get as much data as possible off of the bad drive.  After the first imaging I can always go back and run a more intrusive scan.  The important part is to get as much data as quickly as possible on the first pass without the drive failing.

If you have a failed drive or old drive with valuable data on it I can easily diagnose it and give you a quote on getting your data back.  A quote does not obligate you to purchase the service.  If I cannot get the data back you do not pay one penny.