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Pitfalls of DIY and Discount Data Recovery

Updated on November 15, 2016

Data recovery can often be very expensive, and many people often can’t afford to pay a reputable data recovery specialist. Instead, they attempt to recover the data themselves, or they pay for a not-so-reputable company that offers ‘guaranteed’ recovery for an unbelievably low fee. Doing this is the equivalent of playing russian roulette - you might end up with nothing to show, or you might end up shooting yourself, but you’re not likely to end up with anything good.

If your data is important enough for you to pay to recover it, no matter how much you’re willing to pay, your data is important enough to entrust to a reputable recovery specialist. This is the most compelling reason why: any failed attempt can cause your data to be permanently lost, even to reputable data recovery specialists with cutting edge tools and techniques.

What Happens When You Try To Recover Data Yourself

There are a large number of data recovery programs available on the market, targeted at consumers who are looking to recover small amounts of personal data. Each and every one of these programs will tell you how easy it is to recover data yourself, and how you can recover just about any missing file, even if you’ve formatted the computer. Since professional data recovery companies make these same claims, it’s not unreasonable to think that a program can help you accomplish this yourself. Unfortunately, while these programs do provide the ability to do what they say, using a program like this in your own home is likely to result in the data you’re trying to recover being lost. This is why:

  1. Unbootable = Unrecoverable
    If the drive will not boot, you will be unable to recover the files yourself. This is because the drive requires physical repairs that you will be unable to complete in your own home. If you attempt to repair a hard drive yourself, you will expose the drive platters to contaminants in the air, permanently damaging the hard drive beyond repair.

  2. The Missing Files Are Overwritten
    If you do not have the ability to create a clone of your drive, the very act of turning the drive on has the potential to overwrite the data you are looking to restore. When a file is deleted - purposely, accidentally, or mysteriously - the area that file is on is not erased, but instead marked as ‘available’. When the computer needs that space, it treats it as though the space is empty, and writes new data overtop of the original data. While it is sometimes possible to recover data that has been partially overwritten, in most cases as soon as a file is overwritten, it is lost and no longer has the potential to be recovered. As soon as you turn a computer on, it immediately starts writing. The operating system requires read/write functions almost constantly, even if you’re not actively using the computer.

  3. Treating Physical Damage as Logical Damage = Continued and Extended Physical Damage
    If your data loss is due to a head crash that created a bad sector, you will not know that is the case. Minor physical damage often resembles logical damage. File recovery programs you use at home have no way of determining what actually caused the data loss, so you have to assume what the reason is. Physical damage that leads to loss of data can happen at anytime, and may not be directly linked to any physical trauma that the hard disk sustained. Minor physical damage can quickly become major physical damage, as the read/write heads drag debris back and forth across the disk. Even the best professional data recovery specialists cannot recover data from disks that are too badly damaged.

There are more potential problems you could encounter while trying to restore your data yourself, but those are the most common. A failed attempt to recover your data by yourself can lead to your data being irrevocably lost, to the point even the most talented professional data recovery specialist cannot recover your data.

Have you ever used the services of a professional data recovery services company?

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What Happens When You Chose A Discount Data Recovery Company

Discount data recovery companies aren’t a friend that is saving you money by not charging exorbitant amounts. Reputable data recovery companies are not purposely charging you more than is necessary. The discount data recovery companies ‘save’ you money by cutting corners. They often save money by using older, less sophisticated equipment and programs - sometimes even just using the same programs you could buy for $30 online, and charging you $300 to copy your data to a $30 disk and run a $30 program on it. Of course, that $30 program likely only cost them pennies per use, and the disk they transfer your data on has likely been used multiple times, meaning they are charging you hundreds of times what it actually cost them to restore your data.

Discount data recovery companies also tend to cut costs by not actually using a cleanroom to repair your hard drive. If they even attempt a repair, the potential for damage to your disk is the same as if you tried to complete the repair yourself at home. This leads to the same outcome of the disk being damaged beyond repair or retrieval from a reputable data recovery specialist. While it is possible that you could have a good experience from a discount data recovery company, you are still running a high risk of having your data damaged and becoming irrevocably lost.

Reputable data recovery specialists not only use special (and often proprietary) software, but also specialized tools to help recover your missing data. The first step in proper data recovery is diagnostics that pinpoint the reason for the loss or failure and address how to avoid making the loss or damage worse. Often, the hard drive requires repairs, which require the drive to be opened inside of a cleanroom. A donor drive is needed - it must match the original drive perfectly - and even after physical repairs are completed, it is necessary to ensure that the drive is properly updated to reflect any changes before the drive can even be powered on. Completing this process properly requires extensive training and expensive equipment and tools. Once any physical damage is repaired properly, a copy of the disk is made, so that any recovery attempts do not further damage the data. Data recovery technicians have multiple tools and techniques they can use to recover and rebuild your missing data that aren’t available to consumers. Many of the programs that are offered to consumers are only pale shadows of the programs that are available to data recovery professionals.


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