You’ve lost important data that you need back, but you’re not sure if you should seek out professional data recovery from a lab or simply go to your local PC repair shop / Attempt your own do it yourself data recovery.
This article is intended as a guide that will help you determine if you actually need specialized data recovery, or can perhaps even handle it yourself. The first determining factor to know if you need professional data recovery service is to….
Determine if the Hard Drive has Mechanically or Electronically Failed
The first way to determine this generally comes down to a listen test. Connect the drive to a computer power supply with the SATA or IDE cable disconnected and power the computer on. It might be a good idea to use a different computer than the one the drive was originally in just to rule out the chance of a bad power supply or molex connector.A healthy drive should spin up, make a few quick grinding/crunching type sounds and then just continue spinning without making any more grinding sounds.
If the hard drive starts clicking, spins up then back down, makes a soft repeating humming sound, sounds like a scratched record player, or doesn’t make any sound at all you will need professional recovery. Immediately power down the drive and seek out a pro.If the drive’s start-up sounds normal the next test is to see if it’s recognized by BIOS. The drive should show it’s correct model number in BIOS, if it doesn’t but instead shows a codename such as “XYZ HAWK” then it has failed to properly read it’s service area (sometimes called firmware) and you will again need a professional with the proper tools to repair it. A SATA/IDE to USB adapter is also an easy way to determine if the drive is identifying itself correctly.The final test is to attempt to clone the drive. You can use a variety of software to clone the data of the drive onto a blank drive. If the software is able to successfully clone the drive with no more than a few bad sectors, then your hardware is in pretty good shape. But if you get ton’s of read errors, CRC errors, or other errors that prevent the drive from cloning, or if the estimated time to complete is in days/weeks instead of in hours/min you will need to seek out professional recovery. There they will have the proper tools to safely read as much data as possible around the damaged areas of the media.
If the Drive Has Failed You Need Professional Data Recovery
It might be tempting to go to the local $25/hour PC repair shop or the “Genius Bar” to see if they know a quick trick to repair the drive, but DON’T DO IT!!! While it’s true that most of these shops advertise “data recovery” and may know a few tricks that they use on damaged drives, they don’t have the proper equipment/tools to properly diagnose and repair hard drives.Hard drives are very different from other computer components and most computer guys actually have no idea how they really work. A simple test to know if your local place advertising “data recovery” can actually handle hardware issues is to ask if they have a PC-3000 and a clean room.
Without those two items which are found in every data recovery lab, there is no way to even properly diagnose a damaged hard drive.While they might occasionally get lucky with their “tricks”, far more often they actually cause damage that makes recovery more difficult & expensive, or even impossible. It’s very common for a $500 data recovery to be turned into a $1500 nightmare due to the well meaning efforts of a general computer repair guy. Usually these “tricks” consist of little more than dropping/hitting the drive with a hammer, or even things as ridiculous as putting the drive in the freezer. And it they are bold enough to open the drive themselves, you’ve just guaranteed a higher end cost, as all labs charge more for drives previously opened.
If the Drive Hasn’t Mechanically or Electronically Failed
Here’s where it get’s a bit trickier to determine if you need professional data recovery. The first determining factor is the value of the data. If you’ve lost something that could bankrupt your company if you don’t get it back, I’d always recommend that you seek out a dedicated data recovery laboratory.Even though your local guy might be able to handle it, mistakes are common in data recovery due to inexperience. A simple mistake such as mixing up the source and destination drive when cloning can make recovery impossible. A dedicated lab that handles recoveries every day, will have procedures and/or hardware in place to eliminate the possibility of such mistakes.If on the other hand the data isn’t life or death important, or perhaps only has sentimental value, then your local shop might be the way to go. Or you might even attempt recovery yourself using software such as that featured in the software section of our store. But just be prepared that mistakes do happen that can make the situation worse. Whether you handle it yourselfAnother factor to keep in mind is that dedicated data recovery companies will have greater capabilities than your local repair shop. If it’s just a matter of an accidentally deleted pictures folder, your IT guy can handle it just fine. But if it’s more complex, like having the operating system re-installed over the drive, a professional will be able to recover more data.Also important to consider is what kind of data you’re trying to get back. Just about any data recovery software can recover lost JPG pictures from a drive, but might not be able to recognize less common file types. If the lost data is from a specialized software that stores data in its own format, you may ultimately end up needing a professional to write a custom search algorithm. In such a case you’ll just be wasting your time / money at the repair shop.Have a specific case that you’re not sure if you need a professional? Or need other data recovery advise? Give us a call at the number above.