Hard drive recovery near baltimore
May 22, 2014 6:00 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a hard drive / data recovery service near Baltimore? Or failing that, a non-local one / a non-spammy explanation of how to find such a service that is reputable and not too expensive? Perhaps a sign of the times, but google is really being unhelpful, and mostly giving me fake local ones that seem to be aiming to SEO-trick people who are doing the obvious searches into thinking they're actually local.

In case it's helpful the drive is a seagate backup portable 1TB (not mine), with what from other, more successful google searches, could be a seized spindle, or perhaps some sort of power problem (though I've tried hooking it up to regular external power through the sata jack without success). If this is right the data is fine, and I've even found people who claim to have basically just taken the thing apart and got the spindle unstuck manually, but I'm really not enthused about trying that.
posted by advil to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Actually, DC metro area recommendations would be helpful too if that's what you have.
posted by advil at 6:05 PM on May 22, 2014

Drive Savers is legit, but not local. You ship the drive to their cleanroom, they'll evaluate it and pull any data they can off it.
posted by toxic at 6:06 PM on May 22, 2014

Seconding DriveSavers. They're probably the best in the business, and you pay nothing if they can't get data. If you want more detail about why I can recommend them so highly, MeMail me. I wouldn't even try to go local for this sort of thing.
posted by The Michael The at 6:13 PM on May 22, 2014

The only two services I can unreservedly recommend are DriveSavers and Datarecovery.com. Unfortunately neither service has a facility near Baltimore.
posted by RichardP at 6:13 PM on May 22, 2014

I can't vouch for this service, but a couple of years ago when I was looking for a similar service I found Disk Doctors in Columbia, MD. It's near 32 and Eden Brook Drive in Columbia. I drove buy the place and it looked OK, I just decided I didn't want to spend the money.
posted by Rob Rockets at 6:14 PM on May 22, 2014

There are basically two things that can be done to possibly save a dead hard drive nowadays, depending on why it failed.

1. If the electronics have failed, you can replace the HD circuit board with one from the EXACT same model. Amazon and eBay are good resources for finding the donor drive. For the most part these boards connect with a shitload of very small plug-in connectors, so it's a tedious job requiring magnifiers and jeweler's screwdrivers but not a soldering iron. And if it works, you have the second drive to use after putting the donor board back on it.

2. If the spindle bearing has gotten stiff or the motor drive is weak, you can sometimes get the platter spinning by giving it a push start. This requires removing the drive's top cover. If you try this you should do so in the cleanest possible room with as little air movement as possible to delay the entry of dust into the mechanism, and be prepared to IMMEDIATELY copy the entire contents of the drive to new storage if it works. Contrary to urban legend drives will generally run OK for some time with the cover off.

2a. Not so common nowadays, but some drives do bring the rotating components out of the sealed box; this may not be apparent unless you remove the PCB. You might be able to give such a drive a little kick to unstick the spindle bearing without opening it up.

There really isn't a 3. Drive tech changes year by year and new heads won't read old data, so removing platters and mounting them in another drive or some kind of universal platter reading mechanism really isn't practical. If you send your drive to a pro they will most likely try the two things I just described and tell you the drive is unsalvageable if they don't work. Being pro they might have a clean room for trying option #2 but you really don't need one if you don't intend to try to save the drive itself.
posted by localroger at 7:16 PM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had great results from DriveSavers about 7 years ago.

Not cheap, but they got most of my data back. And it was easy.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:50 PM on May 22, 2014

Thanks for the answers so far, it seems like local isn't really the way to go for this kind of thing any more. We have a quote request in with DriveSavers.

I'm probably up to localroger's #2, but not 1. I've also found some people who've had success with #2 in exactly the same scenario with this drive (the drive doesn't spin up at all, which is why I think it is a stuck spindle), and it doesn't sound that hard. However, some people who got the drive to spin up this way report that then it wasn't readable -- though presumably if one has the right software in this situation there might be recoverable data. It's this sort of contingency that makes me think paying someone (potentially lots) of money might be worth it...
posted by advil at 7:47 AM on May 23, 2014

Final update (hopefully). DriveSavers recovered all the data (as far as we can tell; they claimed within 5% but I think this was hedging just in case). They did say that it was a problem with the spindle (localroger's #2), and described the repair as actually replacing the spindle; I don't know if that was really necessary but it's certainly not something I could have done. The recovery was smooth in terms of process and they were very easy to deal with, but it was very much not cheap, on the order of $2000. Probably still worth it.

The owner now has a crashplan account and redundant backups of everything crucial.
posted by advil at 3:10 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Yeah, I probably should've mentioned it cost me about $1800, and they weren't even able to recover quite everything. But it did include the cost of the drive they shipped the stuff back on. And, of course, my data!)
posted by leahwrenn at 10:00 PM on June 17, 2014

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