Myth: I need a clean room to recover data from a hard drive.

The “clean room data recovery myth” revolves around “clean rooms” and “Level-3” repairs. It’s based on the false belief that you need an expensive “Level-3” repair in a dust-free clean room environment to safely and successfully recover data from all bad hard drives.

We have an ISO Class 5 clean room (pictured below), but it’s not required for most data recoveries we perform, and we do not charge extra when we need to use it.

cleanroom hard drive data recovery and microscope

The truth is clean rooms are only necessary when the hard drive’s cover needs to be removed, and the platters inside are exposed to dust particles:

Left: Cover on; Right: Cover off, exposing platters to dirt, dust, and other particles

Left: Cover on; Right: Cover off, exposing platters to dirt, dust, and other particles

This makes sense: if a dust particle or speck of dirt 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. Therefore, opening a hard drive’s cover outside of a clean room can lead to scratched/damaged platters and/or broken heads.

But it’s important to note, only an experienced data recovery technician (not a computer technician, Apple “Genius,” or even your company’s top IT guy) can accurately diagnose a hard drive to determine that a Level-3 repair is necessary. Even the most computer-savvy user would suspect a “clicking” hard drive has bad heads — it’s often not the case. Only by using our specialized data recovery tools, along with years of research and hands-on experience, is an accurate diagnosis possible.

Even other top data recovery companies fail to diagnose hard drives accurately!

While most clean room data recovery companies have the experience and tools to diagnose a bad hard drive properly, a data recovery company’s diagnosis cannot always be trusted. Companies with high prices will tell you that your hard drive needs level-3 repair (the “most expensive” scenario), regardless of the problem (often even before they properly diagnose the drive).

In our experience, about 70% of all bad hard drives can be successfully recovered without the need for level-3 (“expensive”) repair in a clean room. If the drive wasn’t dropped, this number jumps to around 85%.

Below is an example of a drive that needed a clean room repair. The drive was making scratching noises and the heads were physically broken. The only way to recover the data from this drive was by opening the drive in our clean room, removing the bad heads, and replacing them with good heads from a compatible donor drive.

The only way to get a truly honest diagnosis is by taking it to a company like ours, with flat rates for all data recoveries and the tools and experience required to provide an accurate diagnosis. We have no incentive to “fake” our diagnosis since you pay the same amount regardless of the actual problem with your drive (and this includes “Level 3” repairs like head swaps).

 

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