Data recovery
July 5, 2005 12:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm seeking recommendations for hard drive data recovery...

My computer crashed last week. An IT guy at my office was helpful enough to run an initial diagnostic work-up and told me the 60G hard drive won't function at all. I'm looking for a good service that might be able to recover my music, pics, etc.
posted by docpops to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're affiliated with higher education, you might consider DriveSavers. They examine edu-affiliate hard drives for free, and the cost of recovery is about 2/3rds that of OnTrack.

Even if you're not with education, check out DriveSavers, because while OnTrack is an option, it's an expensive one (in the neighborhood of $500-2100, standard) and they charge a non-refundable examination fee up-front ($100, standard).
posted by Rothko at 1:08 PM on July 5, 2005

Response by poster: Interesting - I just spoke with Drivesavers and they told me a standard recovery was 1400-2400 dollars, so I'm hoping for something more affordable. Thanks for the advice.
posted by docpops at 1:14 PM on July 5, 2005

Oh, and I've used both, and both services have worked well for me.

Here's a third tip for free: Try putting the drive into a freezer overnight, and then pop it back into your computer the next morning. This can sometimes revive a drive long enough to get data off it and onto a new drive.
posted by Rothko at 1:15 PM on July 5, 2005

Did the IT guy pull it out, and install it in another computer?

There may be ways to save it. Say, for example, for some insane reason the circuit board on it died. Well, it is possible to buy the exact model drive and replace that circuit board.

How did it happen? Were there any signs of it going out on you?
posted by Dean Keaton at 1:40 PM on July 5, 2005

Just FYI: for drives which have no physical problems but which have otherwise unrecoverable data (FAT screwed up and so forth), Stellar Phoenix Recovery Suite has worked very well for me. It's not cheap, but it's very effective.

For drives with physical problems, I agree with Rothhko: the freezer trick often works. Just make sure you put the drive in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag; you don't want condensation on the drive as you 'thaw' it.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:47 PM on July 5, 2005

Yeah, that's a pretty typical price I'm afraid. The work is very complicated (clean rooms, tiny electronic hardware etc.) and it's only really companies that need data so badly that they're prepared to pay for it. Hence: expensive.

Before you go down this route, make sure that the drive really is screwed. Try installing it in an external mounting and reading off it. The feezer trick has been discussed many times before in AskMe - have a look through the archives for more info. Try this, this, this or this. There's more out there.
posted by blag at 1:57 PM on July 5, 2005

Response by poster: Dean,

The IT guy put it in a different computer, yes.

I recall my housesitter telling me there was a clicking noise before it went dark, but nothing else.

Thanks for the advice.
posted by docpops at 1:58 PM on July 5, 2005

A clicking noise definately shows signs of hard disk damage.

Now I have you tell you what i've told people before: You didn't back up your things and now you have to pay a lot of money. Buy a DVD-Burner next time.
posted by Dean Keaton at 2:12 PM on July 5, 2005

Response by poster: Message received. I have a DVD burner, and all my music is on a laptop, but there are possibly a few months of photos and home movies I wouldn't have backed up. So that's sort of influencing the mathematics of paying upwards of a grand or more for a few memories.
posted by docpops at 2:22 PM on July 5, 2005

When the IT guy plugged it in, did it make any sound at all? Or is it completely dead when power's applied (doesn't spin up, don't hear the head moving, etc.)
posted by SpecialK at 4:04 PM on July 5, 2005

1. Try booting with a Knoppix CD - if the drive isn't dead you'll be able to send your stuff to an FTP site and Knoppix is easy to use.

2. if you can't do that, try DriveSavers. We used it for my company and it was $2000. Is your stuff really worth that?

PS, back up ... for real. Almost no data is worth $2000 (unless it was an entire clothing line. What a dumbass to keep the entire line on his laptop.)
posted by k8t at 4:07 PM on July 5, 2005

Unless the lost "few memories" included the birth of a child, I'd spend the grand on obtaining more memories.
posted by blag at 4:14 PM on July 5, 2005

Take a look at the Data Recovery Blog at ( Dane is an IT/IS guy and spends all day researching this kinda thing.

He's got a great archive with tons of useful stuff including how you can use a Mac to mount the drive and pull stuff off then burn it to DVD or CD, the Knoppix way, and info on places that'll help you recover the data for a fee.
posted by loyd at 7:48 PM on July 5, 2005

When I corrupted my RAID 0 320gb hard drives I patiently fiddled with it, researching online until I recovered it. What is worth more to you, your time or your money? It may be possible to learn how to fix this yourself.
posted by Dean Keaton at 9:11 PM on July 5, 2005

Assuming the worst (physical problem) there are ways to fix it yourself for (relatively) cheap, but it's very risky stuff.

In a nutshell, buy an identical drive, open the Winchester cavities and swap platters.

I've done this before on a 20 megabyte ST-225 (01d 5ch001, baby), in an improvised clean-room (a couple of HEPA filters and some plastic tarp). Of course, this was my pre-smoking days. With data densities being so high (particularly on notebook drives), any introduction of dust will mean lost data. If you can see specks on the platters, it's too late, and even then, you will have some errors. The idea is to revive the drive just long enough to pull most of the data off.

I'd only recommend this route when you're slighly impovershed, the data isn't that valuable, and you're dying to satiate some hardware curiosity.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:11 AM on July 6, 2005

« Older Anklefilter   |   help me sell a video camera Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.