Data recovery is the process of salvaging inaccessible, lost, corrupted, damaged or formatted data from secondary storage media when it cannot be accessed normally. Often the data is being salvaged from storage media such as internal or external hard disk drives, solid-state drives (SSD), USB flash drive, storage tapes, CDs, DVDs, RAID, and other electronics. Recovery may be required due to physical damage to the storage device or logical damage to the filesystem that prevents it from being mounted by the host operating system.
The most common “data recovery” scenario involves an operating system (OS) failure (typically on a single-disk, single-partition, single-OS system), in which case the goal is simply to copy all wanted files to another disk. This can be easily accomplished by booting from a Live CD or DVD, or by connecting the drive to another working computer using an external enclosure, and copying the files from the failed drive to the working drive.
Can deleted data be recovered?
Yes, deleted data can often be recovered. When a file is deleted, the operating system simply marks the area of the disk containing the file as available space rather than actually removing the data. Until that space is overwritten by new data, the original data can often be recovered using specialized data recovery software.
However, there are some caveats. The longer the time between when a file was deleted and when recovery is attempted, the less likely recovery will be successful. This is because as time goes on, more and more of that available space may be overwritten by the operating system or other files. So for the best chance of recovery, it’s important to act quickly.
The technique and software required to recover deleted data depend on the type of storage device in use. Logical recovery techniques can often recover deleted files from traditional spinning hard drives and SSDs in many cases, as long as the sectors have not been overwritten. Flash storage devices like USB sticks and camera/phone memory cards often require advanced recovery techniques.
What are the chances of successful data recovery?
The chances of successful data recovery depend on the type of data loss and the steps taken after data loss:
- Logical failures – Due to accidental deletion, file system corruption, virus attack, etc. – If the sectors containing data are not overwritten, chances of recovery are very high.
- Physical failures – Due to hardware damage, controller failure, etc. – Chance of full recovery is lower compared to logical failures.
- Recovering data from solid-state drives – More complex, recovery possibilities lower compared to traditional hard drives.
- The quicker action is taken after data loss, the better the chances.
- The less the device containing lost data is used after data loss, the better the chances.
- Using professional data recovery services greatly improves recoverability compared to DIY software.
In general, logical recoveries from traditional hard drives have a 70-90% success rate if addressed immediately. Physical recoveries are in the 25-50% range. For solid-state drives, chances are lower.
What factors affect the chances of successful data recovery?
There are many factors that can affect the chances of successfully recovering lost or deleted data from a storage device:
- Cause of data loss – Logical failures have higher recovery rates than physical failures.
- Type of storage device – SSDs are more complex to recover data from than hard disk drives.
- Time elapsed since data loss – The less time that passes, the better the chances.
- Overwriting of storage media – The less the device is used after data loss, the higher chances of recovery.
- File system type – Some file systems like NTFS have more recovery capabilities built in.
- Expertise of the technician – Professional data recovery experts achieve much higher success rates than amateurs.
- Recovery method used – Software programs vs. hardware/lab techniques.
- Fragmentation level – Highly fragmented files are harder to recover fully.
- Storage capacity – Recovery from larger drives is more complex.
Understanding these key factors can help manage expectations for successfully recovering data from storage media in different data loss scenarios.
How can we increase chances of successful data recovery?
Here are some tips to increase the chances of successfully recovering lost or deleted data from a storage device:
- Stop using the device immediately after data loss. More overwriting lowers chances of recovery.
- Avoid software fixes. Don’t try to repair the file system or reboot to attempt recovery.
- Use a read-only recovery approach. Don’t attempt to write recovered files back to the same drive.
- Handle devices carefully to avoid physical damage. Physical damage can render recovery impossible.
- Seek professional help quickly. Specialists have better skills, tools, and techniques.
- Have a backup strategy in place. Backups allow recovery without attempting risky repairs.
- Store devices properly while not in use. Heat, moisture, and shock can cause data loss.
- Choose data recovery specialists carefully. Look for experience, qualifications, and positive reviews.
Following best practices for data storage, backup, and recovery preparation along with seeking professional assistance quickly can significantly improve the chances of successfully recovering data after unexpected loss or deletion.
What are the costs for data recovery service?
The costs for professional data recovery services depend on various factors:
- Type of damage: Logical recoveries are cheaper than physical recoveries.
- Device type: Standard hard drives are cheaper than advanced SSDs or RAIDs.
- Urgency: Expedited recoveries cost more.
- Security: Forensically sound recoveries are more expensive.
- Capacity: Fees increase with larger storage devices.
- Number of devices: Recovering from multiple devices costs more.
- Cleanroom usage: If needed, this raises the price.
- Parts replacement: New components needed will increase the price.
Some typical data recovery costs (in US dollars) are:
|Device / Issue||Typical Cost Range|
|Hard drive logical failure||$300 – $1000|
|Hard drive physical damage||$700 – $2500|
|SSD logical failure||$500 – $1500|
|SSD physical damage||$1000 – $3000+|
|USB media recovery||$300 – $1000|
|RAID recovery||$1000 – $3000+|
Most data recovery firms provide free initial assessments to determine the feasibility, work required, and costs before beginning recovery work.
When should you avoid DIY data recovery?
There are certain situations when it is better to avoid DIY data recovery attempts and directly contact a professional recovery firm instead:
- If the storage device suffered physical damage – This requires specialized skills and tools to handle properly.
- For critical or sensitive data – Mistakes could cause further data loss, or data could be recovered insecurely.
- When time is a factor – Professionals can recover faster and minimize downtime.
- If multiple devices are involved – Coordinating a multi-device recovery is often complex.
- With specialty devices like SSDs or RAIDs – These require advanced techniques best left to experts.
- If previous DIY attempts failed – Further attempts could cause irreparable damage.
- To meet legal or compliance requirements – Experts can follow proper procedures.
- If DIY costs exceed professional recovery – The extra costs bring better results.
A professional data recovery service is recommended if any of these factors apply to ensure the best chance of successfully recovering critical or sensitive data.
Is it possible to recover data from a physically damaged device?
It is sometimes possible to recover data from a storage device that has suffered physical damage, but the chances of success depend greatly on the nature and extent of the damage:
- Data recovery from devices with minor physical damage, like connector issues, is very possible.
- Devices exposed to moisture or corrosion have a lower chance of recovery, but may be salvageable.
- Devices exposed to major physical impacts, extreme heat, or fire are less likely to have recoverable data.
- Devices with catastrophic physical damage like a shattered platter or destroyed PCB are unlikely to be recoverable.
Specialized physical data recovery techniques like platter transplants, chip-off/IC swaps, and forensic reconstruction can sometimes recover data despite substantial physical damage. However, the costs escalate quickly and success rates decline as damage increases.
How can data recovery be done from an SSD with physical damage?
Recovering data from a physically damaged SSD presents unique challenges due to the integrated storage design of solid-state drives:
- Minor damage may allow normal software recovery methods to work.
- With major damage, it requires disassembly in a cleanroom to access components.
- If NAND flash chips survive, their data may be imaged bit-by-bit via JTAG or ISP.
- If the controller is damaged, it can be replaced to access the flash storage.
- Advanced techniques like microsoldering can repair damaged component connections.
SSD physical data recovery is complex and technically demanding. Amateur attempts often result in complete data loss. For the best chance of successfully salvaging data from a physically damaged SSD, specialized expertise and tools are a necessity.
Data recovery from storage media like hard disk drives and solid-state drives is often possible, but heavily dependent on the specific nature of the data loss scenario. Quick action is crucial to avoid permanent data loss from overwriting. Physically damaged devices require expert skills and tools to recover data successfully. While DIY recovery is sometimes possible, professional services offer the highest success rates and should be utilized for critical, valuable, or sensitive data.