In this article we’ll consider what a data recovery laboratory does (and doesn’t) look like.  You’ve likely seen pictures like the following if you’ve been searching for a data recovery company.  But, lookout!  Most of these pictures aren’t from inside of a data recovery company.

What does a Data Recovery Lab Really Look Like?

Data Recovery Lab SpoofIf you’ve been shopping around for a data recovery company, you’ve no doubt come across a few dozen pictures of what a data recovery lab supposedly looks like.  You’ve got lots of people working in dust masks, in full body suits, hovering over very expensive looking stainless steel furniture.  The walls of the room are mostly white or glass, and you’ve got a ton of high tech equipment and monitors around.

This picture on the left is typical of what you’ve probably been seeing.   And in fairness, there are clean rooms that do look like this.  However they are almost never data recovery clean rooms.  Take for example this picture, typical of what you’d find on many sites.  It has the hospital feel and really looks like a place where serious surgery is being performed on a hard drive.  The reality though is quite deceptive.  This picture is actually of a clean room used in Pharmaceutical work.
That’s right, it’s not a data recovery lab.  But it makes a nice sales pitch to the unwitting consumer.  Really instills confidence in their level of expertise.  I mean come on, if they spent the money on all that equipment, they must be good right.

Data Recovery Lab Spoof 2Or how about this picture?  That one has to be a data recovery lab, there’s actually guys working on computers this time.  Wrong again, this is a lab where they are making silicon components.  Might be a computer related project, but it certainly isn’t data recovery.

The reality is that the majority of the “recovery labs” that you see in various data recovery advertising are pictures taken from inside of high tech companies such as Intel, or some kind of pharmaceutical lab.  Or they may even be props filled with actors.  I’ve gotten more that a few good laughs watching YouTube videos of people in white jumpsuits pretending to perform data recovery work using various microscopes, oscilloscopes, and other tech looking equipment.  (only some of which has any actual uses in data recovery).A few labs, especially some of the big name ones, have actually built rooms such as these, but their purpose has no actual value in data recovery.  In reality these walk in clean rooms are little more than props used to dupe government bureaucrats into thinking that they have an edge over their competitors, and justify the fact that they are charging more than four times the typical market price.The reality of the matter is that a walk in clean room is not only unnecessary for data recovery, it’s also impractical for several reasons.  The purpose of a clean room in data recovery is to serve one function and one function only – to keep dust from getting inside the hard drive being worked on.  So to have a room sized clean room is a terrible waste of clean room space, when a simple hood can do just fine.  A clean room hood, or clean hood as it’s sometimes called is far more practical.  Being much smaller, these hoods are actually able to filter the air to a much higher standard of cleanliness than any walk in clean room.In fact, even companies that do have this type of walk in room, still must preform the actual work inside of a hood.  The reason for this is that the worst possible contaminant that can end up in a drive, is actually dandruff and hair.  It’s far more likely that the dust to ruin the drive will be from the technician’s head than anywhere else.  So the best option is always a simple clean hood where only a pair of gloved hands ever get within the airspace of the drive.

Inside a REAL Data Recovery Laboratory

Actual Data Recovery Lab

So what does a data recovery lab actually look like?  Most often like these pictures.  A lot of computer screens, even more computers, and tons of hard drives in blue bins.  (I don’t know why blue, but that seems to be the standard color we all use – must be how our brains are wired).  As well as some basic electronics testing, and soldering tools.  Maybe a microscope or two.The reality is that only about 5% of data recovery work is actually performed in the clean room.  Most of the time is spend using specialized diagnostic equipment such as PC-3000 to determine what went wrong with a drive, and then to get it working again after the clean room repair.  As well as the time spend babysitting the dozens of already repaired drives that are having data extracted (thus all the screens at once).  None of these pictures are actually from our lab specifically, but we have plenty of workstations that look just like them.  So if you come in to drop off a drive, don’t expect the guys in lab coats to greet you in a room that looks like the airlock of a NASA space shuttle.    Expect a work area like this, as well as a clean hood or two for the clean room portion of the work.    
Data Recovery Laboratory Workstation

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