Your worst nightmare has just become a horrifying reality. You keep screaming that little voice in your head “you should have supported that thing” The voice echoes throughout your head while you make a quick inventory of all the important information you just lost ….. your customer database, one year to email, your entire inventory database, even your family photos.
Even worse, you received a statement within two weeks and the key information needed to win the case was also lost. You quickly call a service technician and have them come over to check out the computer, only to hear the worst news of all … your data has been lost. When a hard drive crashes, it’s too late to worry about what you “should have done.”
Today, data recovery is a multi-million dollar industry. The number of data recovery companies seems to surpass the number of fast food outlets across the planet. These companies specialize in helping their customers retrieve data on everything from hard drives to flash ROMs. In the next report we will discuss what data recovery actually is; the different types, costs and what you can realistically expect when it comes to recovering your data.
What to do in case of data loss?
About 44% of all data loss is caused by hardware failures. It is important to ensure that you shut down your system immediately if you suspect that the hard drive has crashed. Don’t even try to go through the shutdown procedure, just pull the plug out of the wall. Do not attempt to run the standard data recovery software or use utilities. Often these applications assume that the disk is working properly and increase the risk of permanent data loss.
Types of hard drive problems
When discussing data recovery in this report, we will primarily focus on hard drive failure issues; since this type of malfunction is most common. There are actually two primary forms of hard drive failure: logical and physical. Logical failures are usually the result of file system corruption. This can happen due to a virus, accidental deletion of key files or registry components and in some cases even electrostatic discharge. In most cases where a logical error has occurred, the disk is still recognized by the system BIOS, but does not boot. In most cases, your data should still be intact on the disk even though it may seem inaccessible.
If the system BIOS does not detect the presence of the hard drive, there is a high probability that a physical failure has occurred. Physical failures can result from a wide variety of causes. There are actually two subcategories for physical hard drive failure; mechanical and electronic. Mechanical failures are usually the result of a malfunction in the spindle motor. Spindle motor failure can result from excessive heat due to a bearing failure. The increased heat due to the bearing failure will expand the drive shaft and thereby grip the spindle motor. Suddenly your disk will stop working. Every now and then you get a warning that something bad is going to happen. You may hear a loud whining, a grinding noise, even high-pitched screams. If something like this occurs, back up your data IMMEDIATELY.
Another physical problem that sometimes rears its ugly head is an electronic malfunction. If you look at a hard disk, you will see a printed circuit board at the bottom. This board is basically the brain of the disk and it is where the computer interfaces with the hard disk. An electrical fault can occur unexpectedly at any time. Even brand new hard drives are not completely immune to electrical failures. Sometimes it is just a faulty part, sometimes it is improper installation (i.e. electrostatic discharge, grounding of the board, damage to circuits during installation). It’s important to also keep your system clean and well-ventilated, as excessive heat can damage the electrical components on the drive. If you have a system that is in a slightly enclosed area, consider adding an additional 80mm fan to cool the system’s internal components, especially the hard drive. No other part of a computer works as well as the hard drive, which is why it is vital not to overlook it when cooling problems occur.
How will my data be recovered?
One of the most frequently asked questions customers ask is: “how do you get my data back?” Well, it really isn’t black magic or rocket science. It’s just a matter of the right tools and the knowledge needed to know what to do, just like a surgeon performing bypass surgery. Many leading data recovery facilities have a large number of hardware, software and tools for data recovery.
Generally, when a hard drive is received by a data recovery company, the first thing they do is evaluate and determine what recovery solution is needed. If the disk error is a logical problem, as mentioned earlier, a scan of the disk will be performed to try to repair the file system corruption. Sometimes a partition can be repaired and the disk can be restored to the state it had before the failure. If this is not possible, a very low level scan is performed that searches for files in essentially every sector of the hard drive. Once the files are found, they can then be copied to the media of choice, i.e. a CD-ROM, DVD-ROM or other hard drive. Logical recovery can take a tremendous amount of time, especially if the drive is on the verge of physical failure. It is not uncommon to allow a day of scanning and a day of restoring found files.
If the drive has suffered a physical failure, the recovery procedure is a lot more challenging. As mentioned above, there are actually two sub-categories of physical failure; mechanical and electronic. An important element in recovering data from a physical failure is that you have the necessary parts to get the drive working again. Unfortunately, with hard drives if you have a 20 GB Maxtor hard drive, for example, you still need an identical 20 GB Maxtor hard drive to store parts. In cases where the electronic circuit board on the hard drive has failed, you must have the exact same circuit board on hand to pick up the necessary circuit components for replacement. Often you can not even exchange a circuit board for a circuit board. These repairs generally require soldering skills and a thorough knowledge of electronics to be successful. You will probably hear “Class100 Clean Room” throwing around a lot when talking to data recovery professionals. Simply put, a Class100 Clean Room maintains exceptional air purity and contains less than 100 airborne particles larger than 0.5 microns in each cubic foot of air. This is essential for protecting sensitive internal hard drive components. Whenever an invasive procedure is performed on a hard drive, a Class100 cleanroom or better is required.
The recovery time frame is generally 5-10 business days for physical problems and 2-4 days for logical problems. Sometimes, if components are not readily available, it can take weeks to complete the repair. Some companies offer fast service and you certainly pay for this extra attention.
What about Data Recovery Software
This is an area where you really get what you pay for. Try to stay away from software in the $ 20- $ 60 range as these utilities are generally very limited in what they can do. Also, make sure you NEVER, and just to emphasize, NEVER get data recovery software that doesn’t write anything to the damaged disk at all. You risk overwriting data that might otherwise be recoverable but will be lost forever. If you are fairly computer savvy, there are a few good data recovery software solutions available.
What to look for when shopping for data recovery
There is an old saying, “you get what you pay for.” In most cases this is true. But just because a company with a nice website quotes you $ 3,500 for data recovery doesn’t mean they’re better than a company that quotes you $ 1,500. Also, try to stay away from companies that want to charge $ 50- $ 300 for evaluating your ride. There has been a movement in the data recovery industry in recent years to offer a number of free services. Most reputable data recovery companies will evaluate standard IDE drives for free; so don’t let the word “free” stop this or “free”. The data recovery market is quickly saturating, and a company doesn’t necessarily have to make itself cheap or lack expertise by offering free evaluations.
You will find that while you are shopping for data recovery, prices vary widely. You will get quotes ranging from $ 300 to $ 5,000 for restoring standard hard drives. It’s not uncommon to get quotes literally with a spread of at least $ 1,500 high / low. We bought a leading data recovery company where we gave them specific indicators for a physical hard drive failure. We ended up with a price range of $ 600 to $ 2,900 for the recovery. Often this is a tactic of bait and link type. They let you send in the drive at the cheap price of $ 600, and they let you know it will cost $ 2,100 for the recovery. You’ll fall well below the high-end price of $ 2,900, but well above what other reputable companies would ask. Since most customers don’t have to go through the pain of returning the drive, but have to send them to another company, these bait and switch companies end up making huge profits on unsuspecting customers.
Try to find a company that will cost you upfront for a logical or physical recovery. Most companies will be able to tell you the cost of a recovery within a few hundred dollars. However, don’t understand a company that gives you a price for two different procedures. For example, some companies will give you a price if the outage makes sense and a price if the problem becomes physical. We called a company and were told that if the drive had a logical failure, the price would be $ 400 and if it became a physical issue, the price would be $ 1,600. This is not a high / low spread as mentioned in the previous example, it is simply a price for two different types of chargebacks.
On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $ 400 to $ 600 for logical recovery, and $ 1,200 to $ 2,000 for physical recovery on standard IDE hard drives. If you have RAID drives, SCSI, etc. depending on the configuration, prices can go up to $ 15,000. Remember, backup backup backup backup !!
Can my data be recovered?
In most cases, the answer to this question is yes. On average, the success rate for data recovery professionals is about 75-85%. However, there are times when the data is simply lost, either due to extensive damage to the platter or due to the unavailability of replacement parts.
How do I start?
If you have a hard drive that has crashed, immediately contact a data recovery professional. Make sure you don’t be charged an evaluation fee if you have a standard IDE hard drive. Most companies charge evaluation fees only for complex RAID and network server drives.
It is important to do your homework, call and talk to the companies. If you find one that you feel comfortable with, give them a shot. Your hardest job may be finding data recovery companies that actually have someone available to answer the phones. Ask questions and have the following information available:
Size of the disc
Operating System (eg Windows 98, Windows XP, etc.)
Failure situation (what happened just before the drive stopped working)
Is the drive recognized by the computer or not
Good luck in restoring your data and make sure you always back up your important information on a daily basis.