How do I choose a data recovery company?

What is data recovery?

Data recovery is the process of salvaging data from damaged, failed, corrupted, or inaccessible secondary storage media when it cannot be accessed normally. Some common situations that may require data recovery services include:

  • Hard drive crashes
  • Accidental deletion or formatting of data
  • Physical damage to storage devices from fires, floods, etc.
  • Logical damage to file systems or operating systems
  • Ransomware attacks that encrypt files

Data recovery is often performed by specialized technicians using advanced techniques and specialized software or hardware equipment to extract the wanted data from the storage device. The recovered data is then copied onto another medium or device so the user can once again access it.

When should you consider professional data recovery services?

You should consider professional data recovery services if you have important data stored on a device that has become inoperable or inaccessible through normal means and attempts to recover it on your own have failed.

Some specific situations when professional data recovery may be your best option include:

  • Your computer will not boot and you cannot access the files
  • An external hard drive has been physically damaged or is not being recognized
  • Important files have been accidentally deleted and are not in the recycle bin
  • You have accidentally formatted a drive that had critical data on it
  • A virus or malware has encrypted your files (ransomware attack)
  • Your mobile device will not turn on or is damaged
  • A system crash has resulted in corrupt or missing data

In these types of situations, specialized data recovery firms have the best chance of being able to successfully extract your data.

How does data recovery work?

Data recovery involves several steps and techniques to attempt extracting the inaccessible data.

The basic process includes:

  1. Evaluation – The storage device is examined and assessed to determine the cause of the data loss/inaccessibility and the best approach for extracting the data.
  2. Data extraction – Using the appropriate hardware and software tools, the raw data is copied from the damaged storage device to another medium.
  3. Data rebuilding – The copied raw data is processed using specialized software to rebuild the original file system structure and folder/file hierarchy. File headers, partitions, and other metadata may need rebuilding.
  4. Data examination – The recovered files are examined to ensure they are intact and not corrupted or damaged. Usable files and data are isolated.
  5. Data transfer – The salvaged user files and data are transferred to another storage medium like an external hard drive or cloud storage.

Professional data recovery engineers utilize controlled cleanroom environments and a variety of specialized hardware and software tools based on the specific situation. The aim is to gently read data from the damaged device without further modifying or overwriting the data that needs recovering.

What can affect the success rate of data recovery?

Several factors play a role in determining how successful data recovery efforts will be:

  • Cause of data loss – The reason the data became inaccessible in the first place impacts recovery chances. Logical failures have higher success rates than mechanical failures.
  • How the device is handled – Attempting DIY recovery on a failed device often complicates professional recovery efforts later.
  • Device storage type – The type of storage device the data is on affects success rates. SSDs are more difficult than HDDs.
  • Time elapsed – The longer the delay in attempting recovery, the lower the chances of success.
  • Overwrite attempts – Repeated overwrite attempts during DIY recovery lower success rates.
  • Expertise of technician – Highly skilled and experienced specialists have more success.
  • Quality of data recovery tools – Professional grade data recovery hardware and software improves recoverability.

In general, for the best chance of successfully recovering your lost or inaccessible data, you want to avoid trying DIY methods and contact a professional service quickly before data degradation occurs.

What should I look for in a data recovery service?

When evaluating and selecting a professional data recovery company, there are several important factors to consider:

  • Reputation and experience – Look for established companies with years of experience and proven capability in successfully recovering data for clients.
  • Recovery capabilities – Ensure the company can handle the specific type of media your data is stored on like HDDs, SSDs, mobile devices, etc.
  • Data security – They should describe security precautions to protect sensitive client data throughout the process.
  • Certifications – Certifications from respected organizations demonstrate expertise and best practices.
  • Cleanroom facilities – They should have access to certified ISO data recovery cleanrooms.
  • Evaluation process – There should be a free initial evaluation of your device and proposed recovery plan.
  • Guarantee – Legitimate services will provide a guarantee of recovering lost data or refunding service fees if unsuccessful.
  • Customer support – They should be easily reachable for updates on recovery status.

Reputable data recovery firms will provide transparency by thoroughly explaining their evaluation process, recovery procedures, capabilities, and guarantees. Beware of businesses making unrealistic claims or pushy sales tactics.

What are the costs for professional data recovery?

The costs for professional data recovery services can vary considerably based on several factors:

  • Type of damage – Logical recoveries tend to cost less than those requiring mechanical repair.
  • Device types – Standard hard drives are generally cheaper than recovering SSDs and mobile devices.
  • Service level – Expedited or emergency services tend to cost more.
  • Security – Heavily encrypted data costs more to recover.
  • Cleanroom usage – If a Class 100 cleanroom is needed, costs increase.
  • Amount of recovered data – Large amounts of recovered data increase costs.
  • Destination of recovered data – Copying to new device costs extra.

While costs can range widely, here are some typical average price ranges:

  • Standard hard drive recovery – $300 to $1000
  • RAID recovery – $1000 to $2500
  • External storage media – $300 to $700
  • Solid state drive (SSD) – $500 to $1500+
  • Mobile device (phone/tablet) – $300 to $1000+
  • Tape cartridge recovery – $500 to $3000+

Many firms provide free initial evaluations to diagnose the problem and provide a price estimate for recovery services. Advanced options like emergency turnaround or new storage media can increase costs further. Make sure to understand all charges before authorizing a data recovery attempt.

How can I choose the right data recovery company?

Follow these important tips when selecting a data recovery service to ensure making the best choice:

  1. Research reputable companies – Search for firms with strongindustry references, proven history, and positive customer reviews.
  2. Verify capabilities – Confirm they have experience recovering data from your specific media type and issues.
  3. Check certifications – Look for companies holding certifications from respected IT organizations.
  4. Ask about the process – They should explain their evaluation, recovery and security protocols.
  5. Discuss pricing – Obtain clear information on their pricing structure, fees, and payment policies.
  6. Inquire about guarantees – Legitimate services will guarantee recovery or provide refunds if unsuccessful.
  7. Read reviews – Look on trusted review sites to view real customer experiences.
  8. Choose convenient location – For in-person drop-offs and pickups, proximity is beneficial.
  9. Compare options – Weigh factors like capabilities, pricing, and guarantees to select your best choice.

Taking the time to carefully select your data recovery partner can give you the peace of mind that your valuable data is in the most capable hands.

What questions should I ask before choosing a company?

Important questions to ask potential data recovery companies include:

  • – Do you have experience recovering data from my specific device and type of issue?
  • – What is your evaluation process and how long does it take?
  • – What data recovery methods and tools do you use?
  • – Do you have access to a certified cleanroom if needed?
  • – What is your expected success rate for this type of recovery?
  • – What is your complete pricing structure and payment policies?
  • – Do you provide any guarantee if data is not recoverable?
  • – How is my data and privacy protected throughout the process?
  • – How long does the recovery process take?
  • – How will recovered data be returned to me?
  • – Can I get references or read reviews from past clients?

Honest, detailed answers to these questions will help give you a clearer picture of a company’s capabilities, professionalism and security standards. Legitimate data recovery firms will be transparent and direct in addressing your concerns.

Warning signs of an untrustworthy data recovery company

Watch out for these red flags when evaluating data recovery providers:

  • – Lack of direct answers to questions
  • – Vague explanations of recovery process
  • – Lack of established online presence or reviews
  • – Reluctance to provide references
  • – Pushing for immediate service authorizations
  • – Requests to perform additional damage to device
  • – Upfront fees before completing evaluation
  • – Lack of clear pricing with hidden costs
  • – Refusal to provide service guarantees
  • – Missing or invalid credentials and certifications

Avoid companies exhibiting these warning signs, as they likely lack the capabilities, security controls, and transparency needed for safe, professional data recovery.

Can I recover data myself without a professional service?

It is possible to attempt do-it-yourself data recovery using free or low-cost software tools and tutorials available online. However, for severely damaged media, complex failures, or critical data, amateur DIY methods are often unsuccessful or lead to further data loss.

Advantages of professional data recovery over DIY efforts include:

  • – Advanced tools and techniques unavailable to non-pros
  • – Years of specialized experience and expertise
  • – Access to certified cleanroom facilities
  • – Better chances for intact data recovery
  • – Reduced risk of exacerbating damage
  • – Stronger guarantees if recovery fails

For best results, DIY attempts are generally most suitable for minor deleted file or software-related file system issues. For hardware crashes, physical damage, or encrypted files, hiring a professional is highly advised. But if you wish to cautiously try DIY recovery first, research methods specific to your situation and device.

Data recovery tips to maximize chances of success

Follow these tips to help ensure the best outcome when recovering important data:

  • Don’t continue using device – Cease further write activity to avoid data overwrites.
  • Avoid DIY methods – This can often compound damage when problems are complex.
  • Only let professionals open device – Don’t try opening up failed hardware yourself.
  • Research companies thoroughly – Verify expertise, security controls and guarantees.
  • Get recommendations – Talk to others who used providers successfully.
  • Act quickly – Rapid action gives best chance for intact recovery.
  • Follow specialist advice – Listen to recovery pro’s suggestions and plan.
  • Understand costs – Get complete pricing details before approving service.
  • Be patient – Depending on damage, recovery can take days or weeks.

Planning ahead by regularly backing up irreplaceable data provides protection should disasters occur. But when critical files become inaccessible, partnering with a trusted professional recovery service gives you the best odds of getting back your lost data.

Can I get a free initial evaluation or quote?

Reputable data recovery companies will often provide a free initial evaluation or quote. This allows them to inspect your storage device, diagnose the specific issue, and give a price estimate for the recovery services needed.

The evaluation process may involve:

  • – Interview about failure circumstances and data value
  • – Diagnostic tests to identify problems
  • – Assessment of viable recovery options
  • – Estimation of costs and timeframe
  • – Advisory on next steps

This evaluation phase is important for determining recovery feasibility and likelihood of success. It allows the company to outline the procedures, tools, cleanroom needs and labor involved to inform an accurate quote.

Beware any firm asking for large upfront payments before evaluating your device and recovery scenario. Legitimate specialists may charge a small diagnostic fee but will apply this towards the final recovery cost if you choose to proceed.

Getting a free initial quote and evaluation from 2-3 reputable firms allows you to make the best choice for your critical data recovery situation.


Suffering data loss can be stressful when important files become inaccessible. While DIY recovery efforts are sometimes successful for minor issues, partnering with a professional firm is advisable for complex storage failures. Taking time to carefully research and evaluate data recovery companies will help identify a trusted specialist best equipped to safely and effectively extract your valuable data. Asking critical questions and following key tips can give you the highest chance of success. With the right recovery partner, you can breathe easier knowing your irreplaceable data has the greatest odds of being rescued.