What is Data Recovery?
We've all heard of data recovery companies and the possibility of retrieving lost files from a compromised hard drive, but what exactly do data recovery specialists do, and what is the likelihood of being able to bring your files back from the brink of oblivion?
In simple terms, data recovery is the process by which files can be restored from any storage medium that has been rendered inaccessible using conventional methods.
The first thing you should do if you suspect a loss of data is to stop using your hard drive or other storage device. Continuing to use a compromised storage medium increases the chance of accidentally overwriting your data, causing it to be lost forever. Instead, shut down your computer, remove the storage medium if you can and take it to a data recovery specialist.
Data Recovery Steps
A data recovery service provider will first evaluate your hard drive to discover the nature and extent of the damage. In most cases, data can be recovered from the drive. Most service providers will then give you an estimate of the cost based on the amount of work required to retrieve the files in question. Sometimes, the recouping your data will be an easy process, sometimes it may be a painstaking and exhaustive process.
Once you've agreed to the estimate, the service provider will usually attempt to "image" or make a copy of the data within each sector of your drive to prevent losing further data.
If internal physical repairs are required, this will be done in a clean room environment to prevent dust and debris from getting to the surface of your hard drive. The internal components of a drive are so small and finely tuned that even the tiniest of dust particles can interfere with its operation.
Most physical repairs to a hard drive require a class 100 clean room, which means a room that has 100 or less particles per cubic meter. As a matter of comparison, the air in a typical urban environment has about 35,000,000 particles per cubic meter, so you can see the danger of attempting to repair your hard drive yourself.
When the repairs are complete and the data has been retrieved, it's best to buy a new drive on which to store your data. Most hard drives that have been repaired are no longer suitable to be put back into service. Choosing a new storage media and a secondary hard drive for your data protects you against future data loss.
The likelihood of recovering your files depends on the reason for the data loss and the extent of the damage. Files that have been accidentally deleted are relatively easy to recover, while data from a hard drive that has been damaged by fire, flood or deliberate misuse will be much more difficult to recover. Overall, the industry-wide success rate is around 95% on hard drives that have failed naturally without further deterioration from past failed recovery attempts. This is the importance of selecting a good service provider.
If you've recently lost data files for any reason, the best advice is to contact a professional data recovery specialist who can give you advice on how best to proceed given your specific situation.