Where to go for hard drive data retrieval?
April 4, 2013 5:43 PM   Subscribe

I have a couple of old hard drives (one Mac, one PC) that I've kept around because I thought some day I might want to retrieve the data on them. Well, that day is here, and I've googled around a bit looking at places that do this work, but I'm not sure how to evaluate the options. I live in NYC and think I'd prefer dealing with a business in person rather than using one of the (many) mail-in options. That said, though, finding an inexpensive place is more important to me than finding a local one.

The problem is that most of these places seem to offer free diagnostics but will not give a quote until they've looked at the drives. I get this, of course, as some recoveries are more difficult than others. But it does make it hard to do cost comparisons without having diagnoses done at multiple places, which kinda seems like more trouble than it's worth (both to me and to all but one of them).

So my questions are, 1) is this the sort of service where the cost is going to be basically the same wherever I go, so I should just pick a place and run with it, AND/OR, 2) does anyone in-the-know have a recommendation for a recovery service that is comparatively inexpensive? Preferably but not necessarily in New York?

Thanks for any help!
posted by torticat to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Are the drives damaged somehow? You could try putting them in an external enclosure and seeing if they are readable.
posted by procrastination at 5:51 PM on April 4, 2013

Best answer: External enclosures are really inexpensive and very easy to use. Here's one from newegg for 12 bucks. You just pop your hard drive in it and plug it in to your pc. It works like an external drive, and you can add or delete data, just like any other drive. You really don't need to pay someone to do it. If I can do it, I promise it's almost idiot-proof.
posted by raisingsand at 5:57 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Oops yeah, procrastination, I meant to put that in the question. I don't actually remember what happened with these computers, since it was years ago (the mac is a powerbook g3 from '98). Basically each of them stopped working, and was old and slow enough at the time that I was ready for a new computer and went ahead and got one without finding out what was wrong with the old one.

Regarding the external enclosure option, are those mac/pc-specific? (Apologies for this being an explain-it-to-me-like-I'm-five kinda thing for me!)
posted by torticat at 6:06 PM on April 4, 2013

Best answer: If you want to go the "take it in" route, try Tekserve. They're not shady in the least (in my experience); they can handle the basic stuff on site; and they work with some of the big data retrieval firms when necessary. They do enough volume that they may even give you a quote over the phone -- worth a call.
posted by rdn at 6:15 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can still try the external enclosure, they are not OS specific, though they do need to match the connector on the drive. I am not sure what kind of drives you have, but they are probably 2.5" parallel ATA. If you do try an external enclosure, don't tell the computer to format the drive if it isn't recognized.

If I were you, with drives that old and possibly damaged I would probably just take them in to a service.
posted by procrastination at 6:55 PM on April 4, 2013

Best answer: Regarding the external enclosure option, are those mac/pc-specific? (Apologies for this being an explain-it-to-me-like-I'm-five kinda thing for me!)

Nope! all you need is a 40 pin(laptop sized) IDE to USB adapter, and a modern mac to connect it to. I wouldn't play around with trying to get the data off on a PC, it'll just be annoying.

A real cheap one like this would more than do the job. And this guide will show you how to pull the drive out.

Is the PC hard drive from a desktop or laptop. Because if it's a laptop from a similar time period, that case will work with it as well.

I would definitely try that out before taking them in somewhere and getting a quote and such. I'm sure pretty much any data recovery place would be happy to charge you $75+ just to burn your data to a stack of DVDs or a new external hard drive(plus of course, the cost of that drive they'll try and sell you).

I've been doing these types of jobs occasionally, and unless the drive is actually dead/damaged or you're not confident in your ability to take apart the machine at all(and you can't reasonably hurt the drive pulling the laptop apart) i would be seriously hesitant to pay someone. It's going to cost a lot more than it should for what it is.
posted by emptythought at 8:48 PM on April 4, 2013

Best answer: computernyc.com will take your disk and put it in an enclosure for you. They charge a bit more than paying $12 bucks on Amazon and doing it yourself, but not all that much more.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:46 AM on April 5, 2013

Response by poster: You folks are awesome! I'm marking all answers best but will start with getting the enclosure and seeing what I can find out for myself.
posted by torticat at 11:54 AM on April 5, 2013

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