Don't believe everything that you read or hear about data recovery!
Data recovery companies will often intentionally spread misinformation to confuse and deceive customers into paying thousands of dollars to get their data back. Adding to the confusion, people who aren't qualified to give data recovery advice unintentionally share bad information and suggest dangerous methods for reviving hard drives.
Read the truth about some of the most costly and hazardous data recovery myths:
• I need a clean room for data recovery.
• A "clicking" hard drive means it has "bad heads" or is "physically broken" and needs to go to a clean room for data recovery.
• Professional data recovery is expensive (starts at around $800).
• My two options for data recovery are running software data recovery applications or paying thousands of dollars for a clean room data recovery company.
The biggest myth about data recovery is the "clean room" myth. This is the idea that you need an expensive dust-free clean room environment to safely and successfully recover data from a bad, dead, or dying hard drive.
The truth is "clean room" environments are only necessary when the hard drive's cover needs to be removed* and the platters inside are exposed to dust particles (see photo below). This makes sense: if a dirt particle or piece of dust lands on the platter when the hard drive is powered on, the head (which reads the data off the platter) may "crash" into the obstruction, scratching the platter and/or breaking the head.
Left: Cover on; Right: Cover off, exposing platters to dirt, dust, and other particles
When we receive a hard drive with problems we diagnose as "needing a clean room," rather than risk our client's data by not using the proper environment, we refer our clients to a more expensive clean room data recovery company.
It's important to note that only an experienced data recovery technician (not a computer technician, Apple "Genius," or even your company's head IT guy) can accurately diagnose a hard drive and determine that a clean room is necessary. Only by using our specialized data recovery tools, in addition to years of research and experience, is a proper diagnosis possible. Even other data recovery companies are often incorrect with their diagnosis.
While most clean room data recovery companies, like $300 Data Recovery, have the experience and tools to properly diagnose a bad hard drive, a clean room company's diagnosis cannot always be trusted. Clean room companies will tell you that your hard drive must be recovered in a clean room, regardless of the problem (often even before they diagnose the drive). They say this to justify their unreasonably high rates. The truth is, a clean room may not be necessary to safely and completely recover your data.
In our experience, about 80% of all bad hard drives we receive can be successfully recovered without the need for a clean room.
The only way to get a truly honest diagnosis is by taking it to a company like ours where we have one flat rate for 95% of all data recoveries, the tools and experience required to provide an accurate diagnosis, and no clean room -- so we have no incentive to "fake" the diagnosis ("your hard drive has several bad heads and needs a clean room") and get you to pay an outrageous price.
Myth: A "clicking" hard drive means "bad heads" (or that your hard drive is physically broken and needs a clean room).
"Bad heads" are likely not the cause of the clicking noise. In our experience, bad sectors, bad PCB components, corrupt firmware, or bad power supplies are the most common causes for clicking noises.
There are dozens of different sounding clicks which are all caused by different problems and have different solutions. The cause of "clicking" also depends on the hard drive manufacturer. For example, if your Western Digital hard drive is clicking, the most likely cause is a bad PCB or corrupt firmware module(s). These are problems which can be fixed by $300 Data Recovery without a clean room (and without clean room pricing) because the hard drive's cover doesn't need to be opened for the data to be recovered.
For about 20% of all hard drives we receive, the "clicking" is caused by a crashed head or scratched platters and will require an expensive clean room data recovery. We are able to diagnose these cases and refer you to a trustworthy and reasonably priced clean room if necessary (and you will pay nothing for our data recovery attempt).
Any company that charges $800+ would love for you to believe that safe and secure data recovery is expensive!
The cost of data recovery depends on many factors. One factor is what you do to your hard drive after it fails. Trying "risky" methods to recover the data, or even just connecting to your Mac or PC (which may try to automatically "repair" the drive in the background and end up destroying the data), can damage the drive to the point that only a clean room (read: "expensive") data recovery company can get the data back (if data recovery is possible at all).
Another factor in the cost of data recovery is the company you choose to recover your data. With $300 Data Recovery, you already know exactly what a successful recovery will cost: $300 (excluding rare conditional rates).
With any other professional data recovery company, you will find a "range" of prices. Often these companies try to entice you with rates like "Starting at $199," but you will find the actual starting price is closer to $499 and goes up to $3,000+ (not to mention fees like "donor parts" and "rush" rates to get your data back in a few weeks).
Another consideration in the price of a successful data recovery is the problem with your hard drive. General rule of thumb: if it needs a clean room it'll be at least $600, but could be more than $2000. This all comes down to the honesty and integrity of the data recovery company you choose. Many companies charge different rates for different "levels" of data recovery. With $300 Data Recovery, our price is firm for 95% of all drives we receive: $300 --no matter the problem, if we can recover data you want back. We charge you nothing if we can't recover data you want back.
Turn-around time is another crucial factor in determining the total cost for your data recovery. Look around and you'll find other companies charge extra fees for a "reasonable" turn-around time. It's not unlikely you'll find fees of $300 or more for faster turnaround (non-refundable). At $300 Data Recovery, our average turn around is 2-5 days, for no extra cost. We also offer 1-2 day Priority Service for a very reasonable fee ($100 up-front, non-refundable, +$100 if successful).
You can't go wrong sending your hard drive to $300 Data Recovery first because we are safe, honest, and affordable. Every day we hear stories from our clients who were told by clean room data recovery companies: "your hard drive has bad heads, needs a clean room to recover, and will cost $800-$2,500." Most of the time, we recover the data for $300. For the 20% of hard drives we can't recover, at least you will know for sure that you really do need an expensive clean room data recovery company.
Myth: My two options for data recovery are running software data recovery applications or paying thousands of dollars for a clean room data recovery company.
This myth really boils down to the belief that there are only two kinds of data recovery: software-based data recovery and clean room data recovery. If this was true, $300 Data Recovery would be out of business. Instead, we are pioneering a third kind of data recovery: hardware-software based data recovery. But first, lets examine the other two methods.
Software-based data recovery requires the hard drive to mount in the operating system. On a PC, that means it shows up in the BIOS or Window's Disk Management. On a Mac, this means the hard drive appears in Disk Utility or on the Desktop. If the hard drive doesn't show up on the computer, then software data recovery tools can't access the hard drive and therefore can't recover any data.
Even if your drive is visible to your OS, running software data recovery tools can easily kill your hard drive. Repeatedly encountering bad sectors and re-reading problem areas on the drive can result in increase damage to the platters and a greater number of unrecoverable sectors.
Another big risk when running software on your PC or Mac is that your OS may also attempt to "repair" your hard drive while it's connected to the computer, which can completely destroy data when the hard drive has bad sectors (and most hard drive's we get have bad sectors along with more serious problems). This automatic repair often happens in the background without any user approval or knowledge.
In summary: if you need your data back, don't run the risk of destroying it forever by running software data recovery tools!
Clean room data recovery companies, in theory, can recover just about any bad hard drive (although there are hard drives which are unrecoverable by any means or mis-diagnosed by clean rooms as unrecoverable).
Most people believe that if software can't recover the data or if their computer can't "see" the hard drive, then the hard drive is physically broken and needs to go to a clean room data recovery company. This unfortunate misconception could end up costing them thousands of unnecessary dollars.
Most of the time clean room data recovery companies don't utilize their expensive clean room to recover the data. This is because most hard drives don't need a clean room for a safe and successful recovery. Our secret to affordable data recovery is our "hardware-based data recovery" techniques, which avoid the need for an expensive clean room and save our customers lots of money.
Working with a hard drive on a firmware level, we can do things like: disable corrupt hard drive features (i.e., smart), disable bad or weak heads, use different methods to read (and re-read) the bad sectors off the hard drive, and avoid bad sectors on the hard drive (to name a few). These types of features are impossible to access using software tools alone or by hooking up a hard drive directly to a PC or Mac. Read more about the tools used by $300 Data Recovery and most "clean room" data recovery companies on our Tools page.
A crucial aspect of our hardware-software based data recovery is addressing firmware problems on the hard drive. The firmware on the hard drive is comparable to the operating system on your computer. If the operating system crashes (i.e., Window's "Blue Screen" or Mac's Kernel Panic) on your computer, the computer won't function properly. Similarly, if the hard drive's firmware becomes corrupt, the hard drive won't function properly (it may "click" or it may not spin up at all).
Using specialized data recovery hardware and software designed to help identify and fix firmware problems, just about all firmware issues can be fixed without the need for a clean room. Software-based data recovery tools can't deal with these problems because they can't "talk" to the hard drive on a vendor-specific base-level.
Finally, our hardware-software based data recovery techniques deal with the hardware on the hard drive itself: the PCB. The PCB is the circuit board on the bottom of the hard drive. This circuit board, just like your computer's motherboard, is filled with small components (like resisters, flash RAM chips, ROM chips, fuses, and jumpers). If any of these tiny components fail, the entire hard drive may stop working. Diagnosing and fixing these tiny PCBs safely is something you only learn from experience and practice. At $300 Data Recovery we have the tools and experience necessary to replace and fix all damaged PCBs.
Our Process details all the steps we take for every hard drive we receive.
Hard drive's PCB and PCB repair tools.
Myth: Hitting, slapping, or intentionally dropping my hard drive, can bring it back to life.
There are loads of rumors around the Internet about various thing you can do to bring your dead or bad hard drive back to life. The truth is, it's slightly possible these could help, but the chances are very low (less than 1%). It's much more likely these techniques will further damage your drive to the point that even we can't recover it (further damage caused by trying these techniques is almost a guarantee) and the only remaining chance for recovery is with a $600+ clean room data recovery company.
"Hitting," "slapping," and "intentionally dropping" a hard drive, as crazy as it sounds, has been known to work before. However, this was back in the good-old-days when hard drives were prone to "stiction." "Stiction" occurs when the heads of the hard drive "stick" to the platter and cause the drive to not spin. Slapping the drive then, offered a chance of freeing the stuck heads and freeing the platters so they can spin up. Even if the hard drive starts spinning again, the chances for recovering all the data is very small, since now there is very likely platter damage.
However, "stiction" is no longer a problem with modern hard drives. Not to mention, there are much safer techniques that clean rooms use to free up "stuck" heads. Hitting, slapping, or dropping a hard drive will almost always lead to scratched platters. Once platters are scratched, it's likely no one will ever be able to recover the data (no matter how much you're willing to pay).
These techniques should never be used on a hard drive containing data that is valuable to you. It's guaranteed that they will lessen your chances for recovery with us and likely some data will be permanently lost.
Putting your hard drive in a freezer, or heating with a hair dryer, are two more common "Internet solutions" to fix a bad hard drive. While they both have a very slight chance of working, they are much more likely to cause serious damage. It's a weekly occurrence that we get a previously "frozen" hard drive that is too damaged to be recovered. If your data is worth at least $300, then freezing or heating your hard drive should never be attempted.
There are a few theories behind the "freezing" and "heating" ideas. Some people say the temperature change from hot-to-cold or cold-to-hot will expand the metal inside the hard drive (in particular, the spindle/motor) and allow a non-spinning drive to spin again. Other people say that freezing will cool down a drive that has a problem overheating.
The truth is, even if freezing does allow a drive to spin again, it will only be momentarily (often only a few minutes) and will not work repeatedly. This will typically not be enough time to recover all your important data. And subsequent attempts will last for even less time (if they work at all).
When "freezing" a hard drive, the drive's platters are being filled with condensation. These platters need to remain perfectly "pure" for the magnetic data to be read off of them. The circuit board (PCB) on the bottom of the drive, which is filled with electronic components, will get wet from the condensation and it's electronics can easily become damaged once the drive is powered on. There is no question, the chances for a successful $300 Data Recovery greatly decrease after a drive has been in a freezer.
Here is a look at the top platter of a hard drive that was in a freezer for 1 hour (if you can't tell, this looks really bad!):
If the hard drive has "heat" issues (which alone is extremely rare), it's almost always caused by a faulty PCB, something we have a 95%+ success rate recovering data from. Solving "heat" issues using a freezer, is like pulling out a bad tooth with a rocket. It may work, but there are much more reliable and safer methods to recover your data.
In conclusion, attempting either of these techniques should only be used as a last resort if you simply cannot afford $300 for your recovered data, or if you data isn't worth $300. Even then, the chances of it working are minuscule and will likely end up further damaging the hard drive to the point that clean room recovery (read: "very expensive data recovery") is your only remaining option.
Myth: I can swap the PCB (circuit board) from my bad hard drive with a good hard drive's PCB and recover my data.
First of all, it's important to know when a PCB is bad and when swapping it with a donor PCB could work. A thorough diagnosis using special data recovery tools is required.
But more importantly, a straight forward PCB swap can only work with really old hard drives (10 years+ old), aside from a few very rare exceptions. The reason for this is due to the PCB's ROM information. Embedded in a chip (or two) on the PCB is "adaptive data" that is unique to the hard drive it's attached to. This "adaptive data" includes information about the hard drive's heads, its firmware version, any bad sectors in the drive's service area, and more. Since each PCB comes from a particular drive with different head maps, number of heads, firmware versions, and bad sectors, it cannot simply be swapped and provide access to your data.
It's possible, if the "bad" hard drive is completely dead, that swapping the PCB may get the hard drive spinning again. However, it will likely start clicking, or at least not provide any access to the user data area of the hard drive. In this case, the only way to successfully perform a PCB swap is to move that unique ROM data from the original "bad" hard drive's PCB to the donor PCB. This is accomplished using special data recovery tools or by manually moving the ROM chip(s) to the donor PCB.
It should also be noted that sometimes a PCB is bad and the electronics in the hard drive failed. Swapping the PCB in this case could end up destroying the donor PCB. Even more serious, sometimes swapping the PCB (without moving the ROM information) can seriously corrupt the "bad" hard drive's firmware. It's possible even a clean room cannot recover from this problem.