The average computer user has only a vague understanding of how their data is stored. They know they have this “hard drive thingy” inside the computer and they know that’s where their data is kept. That’s about as far as it goes for most users. Many don’t even know what a hard drive looks like.
However, when you are faced with data loss, you quickly learn a lot about hard drives. Not only do you begin to get an understanding about how complex they are, you also find out how expensive it can be to get your data back. At least once a day customers will ask “Why does it cost so much? I only paid $100 for my hard drive”. Yes, data recovery can be that expensive. My answer is simply this, if you had a million dollars sitting in a $50 safe, and you couldn’t get to it…does it really matter how much you paid for the safe? Data recovery should only be sought, if the value of the data exceeds the cost of the recovery.
Data Recovery Costs
On average a reputable data recovery company is going to charge anywhere from $400 to $700 for a logical hard drive recovery. A logical recovery is where there is damage to the file system, or partition table and the data becomes inaccessible. This can be caused by an accidental format, electrical issues, viruses, etc. In some cases physical issues with the drive can also cause this problem, especially if the drive has weak or degrading read/write heads. A logical recovery can typically be performed without having to make any repairs to the drive.
Physical recoveries can be priced all over the place. It really just depends on who you call. A physical recovery actually requires the hard drive to undergo some type of repair before the actual data recovery process can begin. In most cases a physical recovery entails swapping out the read/write heads, repairing the electronics or transplanting the platters. There are a handful of companies out there that are very skilled at performing this type of recovery. A word of caution though, for every one good company, there are probably five dozen others out there that will make the situation worse.
Budgeting Your Data Recovery
If data recovery is not in your budget now, and the data is not time sensitive, one thing you can do is just keep the drive stored somewhere safe. This gives you time to save up money in order to have a competent lab recover the data for you. You should look for a lab that offers free evaluations, and will give you a firm quote in writing before they start the recovery process. That way if the price ends up being too high you can just have the drive shipped back to you, and you would know the exact amount you would need to save up in order to get the recovery done at a later date. It’s not going to hurt the drive, or make the chances of a recovery any less possible if the drive is stored somewhere while you save up to have it recovered. Keep in mind that any reputable company will not charge you anything if the data is unrecoverable. This is one critical thing to verify with any company you contact. Consumers can be caught paying a lot of money for data recovery services, and still not have their data when it’s done. It’s not uncommon for some companies to charge $150 to $300 for parts, lab fees, attempt fees, or whatever they want to call it even on cases where the data is not recoverable.
Things You Can Do Yourself
If you suspect your hard drive has failed there are a couple of things you can try on your own to avoid the costs of shipping the drive to a data recovery lab. First of all, if the drive is clicking, knocking, or making any unusual noises, you are out of options to try yourself. Those cases definitely need professional data recovery service. Regardless of what you read about putting drives in freezers, opening them up, or whatever, anything you do in a case like this can only make the situation worse. If the drive makes any unusual noises at all, it’s best to just immediately power down the drive.
If the drive sounds ok, you may want to try it in another computer. It could be an issue with your motherboard, or even the cabling in your computer. Make sure all connections are secure to the hard drive. If you don’t know what to look for, see if you can find a family member who is knowledgeable with computers to help you.
If the drive is in an external enclosure, like a backup hard drive, and it no longer powers up, remove the drive from the enclosure. Check for signs of an electrical short. If it was severe enough, you will smell the burnt electronics. In a case like this, a data recovery professional would be needed. In most hard drives today, you can’t simply replace damaged electronic boards from one hard drive to another. There is unique, adaptive information that is stored on various chips on those boards and the data won’t be accessible without it.
If there are no obvious signs of physical damage to the drive, then you might want to find another computer or another hard drive enclosure and try the drive in that. It may have been an issue with the drive enclosure that prevented the drive from powering up. If it still has problems, then chances are you are going to need a data recovery professional help you.