How does the data recovery process work?

Engineers will evaluate your hard drive, provide a quote for recovery, then wait for your approval. If the drive is physically damaged, engineers will work in an ISO Class 4 cleanroom to restore the drive to an operable state, then make a copy (clone) of the device. If the drive has sustained permanent damage, our engineers can often access the data from the undamaged portion of the hard drive. We work under carefully controlled conditions to minimize the chances of an additional hard drive failure after the repairs.

If the hard drive lost data due to accidental deletion or for another logical (non-physical) reason, we create a clone of the drive, then use proprietary tools to restore your files.

After recovering the data, we transfer your files to another device, then send that device to you. We maintain a temporary copy of the data onsite for a short period. Datarecovery.com offers a “no data, no charge” policy for standard hard drive recovery cases. If our engineers are unable to recover your data, there is no recovery fee and there will be no charge at all unless you have a specialty return shipping request.

Does the “no data, no charge” policy apply to every case?

If your case requires 24/7 emergency treatment, we may charge a non-refundable fee for our evaluation. However, our “no data, no charge” policy still applies to the quoted recovery fee.

Why do some companies charge evaluation fees?

Hard drive evaluations require trained engineers to spend time analyzing failures, and some companies charge fees for this service. We offer free quotes for standard cases because we understand that no two cases are the same — if your case isn’t recoverable or if you decide not to pursue recovery after receiving a quote, we don’t think you should be penalized. It’s no-risk for the customer.

What happens if I decline data recovery after receiving a quote?

We will return your hard drive via your selected shipping method. You’ll only pay for shipping and handling. Your drive will be in its original condition; because we open hard drive enclosures in a certified cleanroom during evaluations, some stickers may be replaced.

If you do not need your hard drive returned, we can securely destroy and recycle it using appropriate media sanitization techniques at no charge.

Why do data recovery companies evaluate hard drives before providing quotes?

No two cases are identical, even when hard drives are manufactured by the same brand. Evaluating the drive allows us to determine whether recovery is possible and which components will need to be repaired. Data recovery companies that charge flat fees tend to have lower success rates, since certain cases may not result in a profit.

However, flat rate pricing may be appropriate for some other types of data storage devices; these devices typically don’t require treatment in a cleanroom, and their recovery processes are more predictable.

Can I reduce the costs of data recovery by targeting certain files?

In most cases, no. When restoring physically damaged hard drives, our engineers make a complete clone of the entire drive. We are unable to target specific files during this process. That’s also true for cases that don’t have physical damage — the first step is to create a complete clone, and targeting individual files doesn’t save time or reduce the costs.

Even so, if you’re searching for a specific file (or files of a specific type), let us know. Our no data, no charge policy applies to the files you identify as important. If we’re unable to recover that data, you’ll pay no recovery fee.

Can I remove or replace the hard drive’s printed circuit board?

We would advise against it. The printed circuit board may contain firmware that tells the drive how to operate. This firmware is drive-specific, and it’s written at the factory. Even if you’re able to find a printed circuit board from the same model of hard drive, installing it could cause irreversible media damage. We can only attempt data recovery on hard drives that have all of their original components.

Can I run data recovery software on a failed hard drive?

Running data recovery software will cause the drive to operate — and if the hard drive is physically damaged, this can literally remove the magnetic material that stores your data. We recommend turning the hard drive off at the first signs of damage, particularly if you hear unusual noises or if your operating system doesn’t recognize the device.

Why is a cleanroom important for hard drive data recovery?

Hard drives rely on extreme precision to operate, and a series of filters prevent contaminants from entering the drive’s enclosure. Opening a hard drive in an unsecured environment introduces contaminants and can cause permanent media damage.

With a certified cleanroom, data recovery engineers can safely repair or replace the physical components of the hard drive. The minimum cleanroom classification for hard drive recovery is ISO Class 5; in the ISO classification system, lower numbers mean fewer contaminants per cubic meter. All of our cleanrooms are certified as conformant with ISO Class 5 or Class 4. View our certification information and testing results here.

What makes a case unrecoverable?

Hard drives store data on a thin layer of magnetic material, which covers one or more platters. Actuator heads read this data without ever coming into contact with the platters.

If the heads come into contact with the platters, the magnetic material may be removed, and data recovery engineers cannot restore data when this occurs. However, they may be able to read data from around the damaged areas.
Permanent data loss can also occur when files are securely deleted — meaning that the magnetic charges are fully overwritten — or when malicious software encrypts files with newer encryption algorithms.

With that said, most hard drive data recovery cases are successful. Recovery chances vary by model and failure scenario, but we maintain industry-leading success rates for all major hard drive brands.

My drive clicks or makes another unusual sound. What’s causing the noise?

Hard drives may make unusual sounds for a number of reasons, and strange noises don’t necessarily indicate that your drive is unrecoverable. The most common causes include:

  • Failure of the hard drive’s actuator heads, which read and write data.
  • Failure of the spindle, which spins the platters, allowing the actuator heads to function.
  • Failure or damage to the motor that operates the spindle.

Noises are serious symptoms. We recommend turning your hard drive off immediately if it stops functioning normally, even if it’s still accessible. Running the drive in a failed state can cause irreversible data loss.

Does my hard drive’s warranty cover data recovery?

Generally, hard drive warranties do not cover the costs of data recovery. There are exceptions — if a well-known flaw in the drive’s construction led directly to data loss, or if the drive had vulnerabilities that allowed for a malicious attack (via a virus or ransomware), the manufacturer may extend their warranty to cover certain data recovery services. Check with your drive’s manufacturer if you believe this is the case. However, most hard drive warranties only cover the replacement of the actual hardware.

Will data recovery services void my hard drive’s warranty?

No. Warranty terms vary greatly, but all major hard drive manufacturers allow professional data recovery companies to open and repair drives. You’ll still be able to submit a request for warranty replacement of your device.

Will my home or business insurance cover hard drive data recovery?

Some business insurance policies offer coverage for hard drive data recovery, but you’ll have to check with your insurance provider to see whether your case is covered. Most home insurance policies do not cover data recovery under typical circumstances, but we’ve worked with insurance providers that cover our services for fire- or flood-damaged drives.

We recommend reaching out to your insurance provider. Data recovery can be expensive (though that’s not necessarily the case), and if your insurance company will cover the costs, you’ll want to document the process carefully. Datarecovery.com can provide assistance if you have coverage — when opening your case, let us know, and we’ll take appropriate action.

Will the data recovery company return my drive in a usable state?

If the drive has sustained physical damage, no. If your drive sustained logical damage — for instance, you accidentally deleted files — the drive may be usable. However, we will return your files on a separate device such as an external hard drive or flash drive (see below).

If engineers repair my drive during the data recovery process, why can’t they return my files on that same device?

At Datarecovery.com, we take data privacy seriously. All recovered data is stored on closed systems that aren’t connected to the internet, and our engineers operate on non-disclosure agreements. Any purposeful or accidental disclosure of client data is grounds for immediate termination and litigation. Confidentiality is a standard part of every data recovery case.

Even if our engineers are able to restore your drive to a functional state, it probably won’t remain in that condition for very long — repaired components are less reliable than factory-built components, and our laboratories use specialized techniques to read the data from recovered hard drives. To put it simply, the “repaired” drive isn’t reliable or usable.

When data is lost due to accidental deletion, malware infection, or for another reason unrelated to the physical state of the hard drive, we still return data on a separate device to ensure that our clients receive a full, working copy of their files.

Does Datarecovery.com keep a copy of my data?

We maintain a copy of recovered data for 30 days after shipment. If your return shipment is lost in the mail or if the return media arrives damaged (we’ll note here that both of those scenarios are extremely rare), we’ll be able to prepare a second shipment.

However, we do not store data indefinitely. We destroy all client backups in accordance with National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines for data sanitization.

Will data recovery engineers look at my data?

With your permission, we may open individual files to ensure that your recovery is successful. Wherever possible, we’ll use other methods to verify the recovery — our laboratories have developed software tools specifically for this purpose.

At Datarecovery.com, we take data privacy seriously. All recovered data is stored on closed systems that aren’t connected to the internet, and our engineers operate on non-disclosure agreements. Any purposeful or accidental disclosure of client data is grounds for immediate termination and litigation.

How can I improve my chances of successful hard drive data recovery?

The short answer: Turn off your hard drive immediately. Don’t make any attempt to recover the data. Regardless of the failure scenario, operating the drive reduces the chances of success.

You can also improve your case outcome by packaging your hard drive properly (see below) and by providing as many details as possible about the failure. Make a note of any unusual noises, error messages, or other symptoms that could help our engineers analyze and address the problem.

How should I package my drive for shipping?

Internal hard drives should be placed in an anti-static bag (these can be found at most electronics stores). If an anti-static bag is not available, aluminum foil or a clean plastic bag should provide sufficient protection from static discharge. External hard drives do not require static protection. Wrap the hard drive tightly in 3 or more inches of bubble wrap, taping all sides to prevent the drive from impacting the sides of the box.

Pick an appropriately sized box. We do not recommend envelopes since one tear could cause your device to be lost during shipment. The drive should not be able to move around; if you hear it shifting in its box, you’ll need to re-package it. You can also ship your hard drive in its original factory packaging, but make sure it’s completely immobile. Choose a shipping company that can provide tracking information.

How can I prevent data loss in the future?

Every digital storage device eventually fails — while hard drives have an expected lifespan of 3-5 years, some fail much sooner. Others function for over a decade, but eventually, their mechanical components wear out. Solid-state drives and other devices have similar lifespans.

The only way to prevent data loss is to keep backups of your important files. We recommend keeping at least two backups, including one offsite backup (cloud backup services are an excellent option for consumers). Check your backups regularly to make sure they’re complete and usable.

If you’ve suffered data loss, we’re here to help. Fill out our case form for a free quote or call us today

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