Top 5 Hard Drive Data Recovery Services in 2020

Jeff Cochin
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professional data recovery services

Data recovery services are like the spare tire in the trunk of your car. You hope you never have to use it, but when you need it you really need it! Just like you would have no way of getting home without that extra tire, a data recovery service might be your only hope of saving your data if you have a damaged or corrupted hard drive. Read on to find out more about data recovery services and what they can do for you.

What is a Data Recovery Service?

A hard drive recovery service is a company that specializes in the recovery of lost, damaged or corrupted data. Many data recovery companies offer recovery software that can be used remotely, but their primary function is to physically repair and salvage the data from affected storage media. They may offer:

  • Data recovery software
  • In-lab recovery performed in a cleanroom environment
  • RAID and server recovery 

Why Use a Data Recovery Service?

There are many reasons that you may need to use a data recovery service. Data recovery software can only restore data from devices that can still be logically accessed by the operating system. A data recovery service can perform hard drive recoveries on media that is physically damaged and is not able to be repaired with software alone. Some of the issues that can result in engaging a data recovery service include:

  • Human error – As with other types of data loss, physical damage is often caused by human error. Dropping a laptop or a removable hard drive can damage the device and make it unreadable.
  • Hardware failure – Over time, disk drives experience wear and tear that may eventually lead to their total failure. You may be alerted to impending failure by strange grinding or clicking noises coming from the drive.

    Don’t ignore these warnings! Back up the data on the device and consider retiring it in favor of a newer model.

  • Firmware corruption – A corrupt firmware update can cause a hard drive to become unreadable. 
  • Environmental issues – Hard drives and storage media usually do not enjoy too much heat or humidity. Getting them wet or exposing them to excessive heat or sunlight can render the drive unusable and force you to use a data recovery service to access the information on them.
  • Power surges – A power spike can result in damage to a hard drive’s read/write heads or the device’s on-board electronics.

If you have had these kinds of issues, you may need to make use of a disk recovery service. Here are some tips to help you find a good one.

The Best Recovery Services

Here is an overview of some quality data recovery services. We hope it helps you choose the best hard drive recovery service for your situation. 

1. Ace Data Recovery

Ace Data Recovery

Ace provides a full range of data recovery services that can help customers save data from damaged or corrupted storage media.

Range of services:

  • Ace recovers data from all types of storage devices including RAID arrays, SSD drives, hard drives, and tape media
  • Tape duplication services on all types of current or obsolete technology
  • Computer forensics services geared toward protecting digital evidence
  • Emergency and onsite recovery services provided 24 hours a day

Certifications:

  • Class 100 (ISO-14644-1 Class 5) clean rooms that are very close to being Class 10 equivalent during production
  • Microsoft Registered Partner, with extensive experience performing Microsoft Exchange® and Microsoft SQL® database recoveries

Overview:
Ace provides its customers with excellent recovery results through the use of their advanced technical expertise. They have a dedicated research and development team that creates leading-edge data recovery software, hardware, and recovery tools. 

Their technology can recover data from failed SSDs with damaged metadata and access restricted system tracks on encrypted hard drives. The company has over 40 years of experience in the data recovery field.

All recovery operations are performed in-house on image copies made with proprietary Direct-Drive Access Reader (DDA Reader™) technology to prevent further damage to the media.

Locations:
Ace is headquartered in Dallas, Texas with recovery labs in Dallas, Houston, and Chicago. They have over 30 service centers spread out over the U.S. and Canada.

Pricing: 
Free estimates and no charge for failed recoveries

Support:

  • Free 24/7 phone consultation for price estimates
  • Onsite emergency recovery services
  • No data, no charge commitment if recovery fails
  • An over 98% rate of successful recoveries

2. Secure Data Recovery

Secure Data Recovery

Secure Data Recovery offers users a transparent recovery process that emphasizes the privacy and security of your data.

Range of services: 

  • Data Recovery
  • Digital Forensics
  • eDiscovery
  • Mobile Recovery

Certifications:

  • Class 10 ISO 4 Cleanroom
  • FIPS 140-2 Level 3 GDPR Compliant hard drives and USBs
  • GSA approved contractor
  • EU-U.S. privacy policy certified company
  • HIPAA Compliance

Overview:
Secure Data features a proactive research and development team that is continuously searching for new recovery methods. They will exhaust all recovery procedures before returning your media with no charge if it cannot be salvaged.

Emergency same-day service is available with technicians dedicated to the recovery process 24 hours per day. The emergency service averages 48 hours turn around time and retains the no data, no charge customer protection policy.

Secure Data also offers a line of hardware encrypted secure storage devices including flash drives and external hard drives. They can help keep confidential data safe and some of the devices can be unlocked with a smartphone.

Locations:
Secure Data operates offices in over 40 cities for customer drop-off and accepts devices shipped directly to their lab after a phone consultation.

Pricing: 
Free estimates and no charge for failed recoveries

Support:

  • Free in-lab evaluation of your storage device
  • No data, no charge consumer protection policy
  • 24/7 phone assistance and online request submission
  • 96% recovery success rate

3. SalvageData

Salvage Data Recovery

SalvageData has been providing quality data recovery services for over 15 years using technically advanced proprietary hardware and software solutions. 

Range of services: 

  • Data recovery and salvage on all types of digital storage devices
  • Tape recovery 
  • RAID and onsite recovery
  • Memory card recovery

Certifications:

  • Certified ISO 14644-1 Class 5 Cleanroom
  • ISO-9001 Quality Certified
  • SOC III Security Certified
  • GSA government contractor

Overview:
SalvageData’s confidence in their recovery capabilities led them to introduce the now industry-wide practice of not charging for failed recoveries in 2003. The company’s goal is to constantly devise better recovery methods and tools.

They strive to exceed industry standards for security and media handling protocols and engage in regular external audits to maintain compliance. Expert technicians can get back data from damaged SSDs, hard drives, and virtually any other type of storage device.

Data can be returned to users via new storage devices or through downloads based on the volume of recovered information. In cases where recovery is impossible, the device will be securely destroyed or can be returned to the client if desired. 

Locations:
The company is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio and has over 50 local receiving and reviewing centers throughout North America.

Pricing: 
Free estimates and no charge for failed recoveries

Support:

  • Free, in-depth recovery evaluation
  • 24/7 emergency recovery options
  • 96% success rate

4. Ontrack

Ontrack Data Recovery

Ontrack has been in the business of data recovery since 1985 and also provides users with recovery software for home use. 

Range of services: 

  • Data recovery
  • Email extraction
  • eDiscovery
  • Data destruction
  • Mobile phone repair

Certifications:

  • Certified ISO-5 Class 100 Cleanroom
  • Provides a digitally signed Certificate of Erasure for auditing and compliance
  • Compliant with all state, federal and international data privacy regulations and guidelines

Overview:
Ontrack is a recovery company that has a global footprint with offices in Europe, Asia, and Australia. They offer 7-day standard, 3-day priority, and 24-hour emergency services to meet the needs of their customers.

The company specializes in secure data removal and provides 100% sanitization of hard drives and SSD devices. It conforms to all international guidelines for certifying compliant data destruction and uses industrial strength degaussers to remove magnetically stored data.

Ontrack can recover data from a wide variety of damaged devices including cloud instances, virtual servers, and RAID arrays. Its software offerings allow users to securely erase data or perform recovery themselves without having to ship their media. 

Locations:
Headquartered in Washington D.C., the company has offices in over 25 other cities in the U.S. and around the world. 

Pricing:
Contact the company for a free evaluation and an estimate of recovery costs.

Support:

  • 90% success rate
  • Four-hour free evaluation
  • Online consultation scheduling
  • Free phone consultation

5. Gillware

Gillware Data Recovery

Gillware is an experienced data recovery service that can recover data from all types of damaged devices.

Range of services: 

  • Hard drive RAID, virtual server, and flash data recovery
  • Emergency data recovery
  • Mobile device data recovery

Certifications:

  • Certified ISO-5 Class 100 Cleanroom
  • GSA contract holder with SOC 2 Type II audited data recovery facilities

Overview:
Gillware was formed by two brothers in 2004 to address their data loss issues. The company has grown and now employs recovery engineers with over 200,000 combined hours of data recovery experience. 

Recovery is done with software and hardware that is created in-house to address the most difficult data recovery situations. Gillware prides itself on assisting other data recovery labs with complex recovery situations.

Data privacy and protection are hallmarks of Gillware recoveries. Your data is never exposed to the Internet and all employees are background checked and trained to respect customer privacy. Forensic copies of customer data are destroyed one week after the recovery is complete.

Locations:
Gillware is located in Madison, Wisconsin. They accept referrals from over 2,000 managed service providers located throughout the U.S. 

Pricing:
Free estimates and no charge for failed recoveries

Support:

  • Email and phone estimates during business hours
  • Free shipping to Gillware’s recovery lab
  • Online chat support

What to Look For in Professional Data Recovery Services

What to Look For in Professional Data Recovery Services

There are some characteristics of a quality data recovery company that you should consider when searching for one to resolve your data loss situation. Keep these points in mind when selecting the hard drive data recovery service you will be trusting with your valuable data. 

  • A reliable recovery company will not give you a “per GB”  price for their services. They should be willing to provide a free estimate, but data recovery is a complicated procedure and circumstances may increase the original approximation.
  • The service should have certified cleanrooms in its recovery lab that provide a controlled environment in which to open drives and perform repairs. Lack of a cleanroom exposes devices to dust that can cause further damage or make it impossible to fix.

    Don’t use a service that does not have a cleanroom.

  • Most reputable data recovery services will return your damaged media with no charge if they cannot finish the recovery. Their experience should allow them to complete the majority of recoveries for which they provide estimates and accept media from a customer. 
  • The security of your data while it is in the hands of the recovery service is another factor to consider. If clones of your media are made, what happens to the originals and any copies after your data is returned? The recovery company should be able to answer that question to your satisfaction. 
  • Look for a service with a high recovery rate. You will probably only get one shot at recovering your data, so you want to go with a company that has a proven track record of success.

How Data Recovery Centers Work

How Data Recovery Centers Work

Reputable data recovery centers share many common characteristics. Here’s how they will process a typical recovery request.

  • Initial consultation – The user defines the problem they are facing and specifies what data they want to be recovered from the device.
  • Technical evaluation – The unique fingerprint of the storage device needs to be understood and kept in mind during recovery. A technical evaluation will check the power supply and sometimes the fix can be as simple as replacing a fuse. After power is supplied to the device, the technician will listen for the clicking sounds that indicate problems with the read/write heads. 
  • Verification – Once the service settles on a recovery strategy, the device will likely be opened in its cleanroom. Firmware chips may be replaced and the technician will have the necessary access to the servo track.
  • Drive cloning – If the damaged drive can be put into a semi-operational state, the technician will try to clone the drive. This critical step determines if your data can be saved from the device.

How is the Price of Services Determined?

How is the Price of Services Determined

The cost of having data restored by a recovery service can vary widely. The main factors that affect the price are:

  • Size of the device;
  • Amount of data that needs to be recovered;
  • The extent of damage the drive has experienced;
  • The specific technical solutions that must be employed to restore the data;
  • The time spent by technicians in solving the problem.

Some of these factors cannot be known before the recovery is performed. This is the reason that services give an estimate for the recovery instead of a fixed price.

Which Data Can be Recovered?

Any data that existed on the storage device when it was damaged is in scope for restoration by a recovery service. This includes deleted files that are still physically present on the device. A quality recovery service should also be able to return data from encrypted drives. Computer forensics relies on this capability to recover data that criminals may have tried to obscure or delete from their machines.

Which Data Can’t be Recovered?

Data that has been overwritten by the operating system cannot be restored by a recovery service. Once a storage location is reused to save new information, the previous contents are no longer available for recovery.

In cases where your device is still operational, you may be able to use data recovery software to restore accidentally deleted files. Recovery software can get back deleted data as long as there is no mechanical damage to the device and the operating system can still access it. You can opt for reliable commercial solutions like Disk Drill which offer versions for Windows and Mac computers. There are also freeware alternatives such as TestDisk or Recuva that offer less functionality and reliability.

FAQ

Conclusion

When you cannot recover your lost data with recovery software like Disk Drill, you may need to engage a data recovery service. All of the services we looked at offer free estimates so you can shop around for the best deal. One point to keep in mind is that you may only have one shot at recovering your valuable data from a damaged drive. For that reason, go with a company that has a reputation for success rather than looking for the least expensive solution. 

Jeff Cochin
Jeff Cochin is a data management and recovery professional, who has been with Pandorarecovery for nine years and has always been an essential part of the team. Jeff also works as a technical writer at Macgasm, being a first hand in testing, trying and writing about big and small tech software.
N. Lankevitch for pandorarecovery
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Over 15 years strong experience in various fields and platform includes Disaster Recovery, Windows XP/7. System analysis, design, application (Inter/Intranet) development and testing. Provided technical supports on desktop and laptops on Win-XP and Macintosh for about 2000 employees.