When a hard disk drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD) fails, the shortcomings of data backup schedules become more apparent. When data is no longer available in a backup, it’s time to turn to data recovery specialists.
In relatively simple cases, data recovery software can be purchased online to resolve logical data loss issues such as accidental deletion or deleted partitions.
For more advanced data recovery, vendors offer in-lab services. Business customers send failed drives to these providers to learn what data can be extracted.
The top tier of data recovery specialists includes providers like Ontrack, DriveSavers, and Gillware. These data recovery experts can deal with data loss problems that others can’t.
What kind of problems cause companies to contact data recovery companies? Physical and logical storage failures include:
- OS upgrade failures
- Failures from faulty soldering, faulty components and other manufacturer defects
- Damage caused by disasters such as drops, breaks, water, fire and power surges
- Human error such as accidental deletion or attempted repairs
- Head crashes and other physical or mechanical failures
- File corruption, viruses, and other logical failures
- Bad sector failures
- Firmware failures
Many of these data recovery companies service the PC, laptop, and server markets. But some extend those services to include tablets, smart phones, and external drives. Experts who recover physical media in a lab environment dismantle a device such as a hard drive in a cleanroom to examine the platters and salvage what they can.
What Can’t Be Recovered
Files and deleted data can often be easily recovered. However, if data is erased and then overwritten to the same physical storage space, it cannot be recovered. What other situations can’t be resolved?
- In the case of a head crash, the data that once lived where the platters were physically scraped is no longer recoverable.
- When a smart phone has been factory reset, the data cannot be recovered.
- Apple password encryption: currently it is not possible to recover data from any iPhones and iPads that have iOS6 or above installed on them due to Apple’s password encryption. The data recovery firm must have the passcode to be able to recover the data. If the passcode has been forgotten, it’s currently impossible to get access to the media.
- Device firmware damage: The operating system on a drive is not the same from drive to drive. They may have some common application code, but there is unique data on them that is critical for user data access. The drive is calibrated in the factory after assembly, and it is measured for uniqueness. These calibrations are known as adaptives. Many of them live on the platter in a low density area of the disk that also contains the bulk of the HDD O/S. Damage to this area can make recovery of part of the disk impossible.
For buyers to consider
Some recovery specialists may claim recovery rates nearing 100 percent, but according to the top tier providers, such figures are impossible to achieve even with state-of-the-art equipment. Buyers are advised to stick to vendors that don’t make outrageous or unqualified claims.
Additionally, note that pricing varies considerably. Flat-rate pricing isn’t very common since each data recovery incident has unique aspects. Some vendors will charge nothing if its efforts are fruitless. Others will charge even if nothing is found. Most services, though, offer a drive evaluation for free or a small fee. After that, they give a quote based on the amount of data they think they can recover and the difficulty of recovering it.
The best labs have ISO cleanrooms, and some provide evidence of certification. This shows they can meet rigorous standards concerning the maximum amount of particles in the room. ISO 5 Class 100 allows 100,000 particles per cubic meter and 4 Class 10 allows 10,000.
Top Data Recovery Specialists
- Ontrack Data Recovery
- Seagate In-Lab Recovery
- Secure Data
- Disk Doctors
Ontrack Data Recovery
Ontrack is one of the biggest names in data recovery. It has performed over 600,000 successful recoveries and offers a full range of services from recovery software to well-equipped labs. It sits in the top tier of data recovery specialists.
Ontrack offers enterprise recovery for servers, SAN systems, and virtual environments. For lab services, Ontrack returns data either on a drive or as an encrypted file to be downloaded from a server. Ontrack receives multiple positive customer reviews for its recovery services.
- Data recovery for accidental deletion, media corruption, fire and water damage, and cyberattacks
- Recovery for VMware vSAN environments
- Data recovery services designed for storage media and platforms that have suffered from both physical hardware and logical software failures, as well as clean rooms for hard drive recovery
- Remote Data Recovery (RDR) services, performed remotely and securely through an internet connection
- Do-it-yourself data recovery software to recover files instantly from both Windows and Mac systems.
Read our in-depth analysis of Ontrack Data Recovery.
The services of DriveSavers range from HDD recovery to complex RAID projects. DriveSavers also offers Mac and iPhone recovery. DriveSavers’ Business Partner Program gives companies an ongoing relationship that they can repeatedly access when their enterprise drives have issues, as well as benefits like discounts and free return shipping.
DriveSavers also offers data erasure services and digital forensics. Businesses that need a vendor for regular data operations that aren’t just recovery procedures will benefit from DriveSavers’ other tools.
- Proprietary techniques, tools and technologies that aid in data recovery, thanks to alliances with Toshiba, Samsung, Seagate, Western Digital, Intel, Kingston, and others
- Data recovery from SSDs, HDDs, RAID arrays, smart phones, and tablets
- Certified ISO Class 5 cleanroom
- Chip-off data extraction for devices with NAND technology, including IoT devices.
See our in-depth analysis of DriveSavers.
Gillware specializes in hard drive recoveries that few other vendors can resolve.The platform offers RAID recovery and supports solid state drive recovery, including flash drives and memory cards. Its hard drive burnishing technology promotes HDD cleaning procedures that reduce disk damage. Gillware is suitable for businesses and larger enterprises that can afford its recovery costs. Gillware also recovers virtual server data for Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESXi.
- Engineers with over 200,000 combined hours of experience and computer scientists on staff
- Digital forensics services for law enforcement organizations
- A network of over 5,000 partner businesses, like computer repair shops and MSPs
- Specializes in the handling of damaged HDDs due to embedded particulates
See our in-depth analysis of Gillware.
Seagate In-Lab Recovery
Seagate, a legacy name in data storage, offers in-lab data recovery services for both Seagate devices and storage media from other providers. It has the ability to recover data from PCs, laptops, external drives, tablets, and smart phones. Business-class recovery support includes RAID and NAS arrays. In-lab services can take anywhere from two business days to three weeks. Companies with serious issues or storage devices not under a Seagate warranty may wish to consider other in-lab specialists, particularly if they need a quick resolution.
- A range of services to recover data from PCs, laptops, external drives, tablets, and smart phones, as well as RAID and NAS arrays
- A tool for consumers and enterprises when the storage device is not physically damaged
- In-lab service with no haggle pricing.
See our in-depth analysis of Seagate In-Lab Recovery.
SalvageData offers recovery from physical and logical damage via its cleanroom in New York State. SalvageData has annual SOC 2 Type III audits for the entire organization and is a GSA-approved government contractor.
The company appears equipped for relatively straightforward recoveries to mid-level recoveries. But for extreme cases such as severe damage from flooding, fire, or badly damaged equipment, one of the top tier providers may be a better choice.
SalvageData supports flash drives like USBs . It can recover both iOS and Android devices, including tablets. SalvageData offers 24/7 emergency hard drive services for urgent disk recoveries. SalvageData doesn’t charge customers for unrecoverable data.
- Data recovery from hard drives, external drives, SANs, SSD, memory cards, and RAID arrays via ISO-5 certified cleanrooms
- Adheres to SOC 2 Type III security standards
- Onsite recovery team to deal with a hardware failure and other types of emergency recoveries
- Repair of physical hard drive damage
- A supply of spare parts from various manufacturers to allow drives to run well enough for data transfer to a new drive
- Remote recoveries
- Software that can recover data from Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.
See our in-depth analysis of SalvageData.
Secure Data has top-of-the-line cleanrooms and a consistent track record of success on hard drive recovery. It is one of the more expensive services, but its customer reviews are high overall. Secure Data’s services may be unnecessary for simpler recovery tasks because of the price, but for larger businesses with a sufficient budget, Secure Data is a good choice for recovering data from failed or damaged hard drives.
Secure Data offers software recovery for applications including Microsoft Office, Outlook email, and ActiveDirectory. Its specialized recovery services include hard drive, tape, SSD, and Mac recovery. Secure Data also offers server, database, and RAID recovery.
Secure Data offers:
- Multiple industry security certifications
- Priority and emergency service offerings for hard drive repair and recovery
- Partnerships with hard drive manufacturers Western Digital, Toshiba, and Samsung to recover data from their devices
- Digital forensics for computer investigations and other data-intensive criminal research
- Remote data recovery, emergency repairs, and on-site recovery.
See our in-depth analysis of Secure Data.
WeRecoverData can handle basic repairs for a reasonable price, so if that’s all you need, this could be a good option. Particularly for users in the New York region. While it has good reviews, there are also some negative ones claiming failure to deliver in the expected time frame, as well as price gouging. Based on that, it appears the company is competent at basic repairs, but users needing more complex work – and willing to pay for it – may want to focus on a tier one provider.
According to the provider, WeRecoverData specializes in tape, phones, and computer investigation. If your company uses phones for business operations regularly—remote sales teams, for example—consider WeRecoverData, if you’re willing to risk recovery slowdowns.
- SO 4 Class 10 and ISO 5 Class 100 clean rooms for its media recovery services
- GSA-approved government contract qualified to offer services to federal organizations
- SSAE16 certification and HIPAA compliance
- Support for Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESX and GSX environments
- Encrypts recovered data before returning to the client
- Litigation support services designed for attorneys and individuals.
See our in-depth analysis of WeRecoverData.
Disk Doctors offers both software and hardware recovery solutions. Its lab services are particularly good for hard drives and tape. DiskDoctors also offers recovery services for VMware and Citrix XenServer environments, like recovering data from lost virtual machines.
Note that DiskDoctors doesn’t emphasize lab SSD and flash recovery. It looks to be a good candidate for business HDD recovery, but users may need to consider other options for flash recovery projects or more complex HDD crashes.
Disk Doctors offers:
- Data recovery from damaged, corrupted, and dropped drives, and a variety of failed storage devices
- Hard drive recovery, Mac recovery, server recovery, RAID recovery, remote recovery, and more
- Software solutions that enable users to recover data due to logical failures.
See our in-depth analysis of Disk Doctors.
This article was updated September 2022 by Jenna Phipps.