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How to Choose a Data Recovery Company

Data Recovery

If your hard drive fails, you’re up a creek without a paddle. There’s not a really good way to get the data off of your drive yourself, provided that it’s physically damaged, so if you can afford it, your only real option is a data recovery service; however, the industry has a lot of imposters and a lot of scam artists. Here’s a list of things to look for when choosing a data recovery company, and my recommendation for a great one.

Clean Room
In order to perform any internal process on a hard drive, a class 100 clean room is necessary. Hard drives are incredibly sensitive devices, and even the smallest contaminant coming into contact with the platters of the drive can mean absolute disaster and unrecoverability. For this reason, all good data recovery companies have class 100 clean rooms or clean flow benches. The rating “100” refers to the number of microparticles per cubic foot of air, and a class 100 rating should be completely safe for work with hard drives.

Past Clients
The best way to judge any business is to look at who uses them. Check testimonials for Fortune 500 companies and major government programs – the more, the better. If the companies’ names are on the website of the data recovery, chances are very good that they’re repeat clients, or at least that said companies gave the data recovery business permission to list their names.

Nondestructive Methods

Many low-end data recovery companies get the drive in and immediately run it through software that can recover some data – but running those programs on physically damaged drives can permanently damage the platters and kill your data for good. Always ask if your recovery company uses nondestructive methods. A good way to tell is to see if hard drive companies refer clients to the data recovery company you’re looking at; most major hard drive companies have very strict standards, and they’ll investigate a data recovery lab before they give it their blessing.


$2000 is too much for data recovery. $400 is probably too little (for a physical problem with the drive, at least). Generally, you should expect a physical recovery to run from $800-1500, depending on the problem. Many data recovery companies offer free evaluation services, which are great, but be aware that they will open your drive during the evaluation; your warranty will still be intact, but if you decide to send the drive somewhere else, it’s likely to cost you quite a bit more.

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No Flat Fees
Don’t look for flat fees; usually, these are a scam. There are some exceptions, especially with non-hard drive media such as SD cards, but usually, if a data recovery company claims to be able to get data for X amount of dollars, they’re going to be using a standardized method of recovery with a low percentage chance of recovery.

Percentage Chance of Recovery

Most data recovery companies shoot for about an 80-90% chance of recovery, so be sure to ask about percentage when calling around to data recovery companies. Ask how they figure that number; sometimes, a company will have a misleading figure. For instance, they may exclude drives that are declared unrecoverable as soon as they arrive, or count partial recoveries as complete recoveries. The more questions you ask, the safer you’ll be.

There are a few major data recovery companies that meet all of these criteria. Some of the websites of these companies are listed below. Call around and get pricing; if you choose a data recovery company not listed, just make sure they fit these criteria and you should have no problem getting your data back.