What You Need to Know About Hard Drive Recovery

Robert Agar
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hard drive recovery

Your computer’s hard drives contain a lot of valuable information. The loss of a drive can be devastating. Understanding the types of problems that can affect your drives will put you in a better position to resolve the issue and get your data back. The kind of problem your hard drive is experiencing will determine the available methods you can use to recover your lost files.

What are the main types of hard drive problems?

Hard drive problems can be broadly categorized into those caused by physical or logical issues. Logical problems affect the data that resides on the drive and can be addressed with several different recovery methods. These include native operating system features and data recovery software applications. When physical issues are responsible for a malfunctioning drive, you may need to engage expert assistance to try and recover your data.

One Very Important Point!
The most important action you can take to increase the chances that you can recover data from a hard drive that has experienced logical or physical problems is to stop using the device immediately. Until recovery is complete, using the hard drive risks overwriting data that could potentially be recovered. Failure to follow this advice will diminish the chances of a successful recovery.

Let’s take a look at the different types of problems that impact a hard drive and how they can be resolved. Our discussion will cover both internal and external hard drives.

Drive IssueLogical or PhysicalSymptomsRecovery PotentialRecovery Solution
Damaged hard drivePhysicalUnresponsive device, strange noises, unrecognized by the OSDepends on the extent of the damageData recovery service
Broken hard drivePhysicalUnresponsive device, strange noises, unrecognized by the OSDepends on the extent of the damageData recovery service
Corrupted hard driveLogical or physicalMissing files and degraded performanceGood for logical problems, fair for physical problemsData recovery software or a recovery service
Crashed hard driveLogical or physicalCannot start your computerGood for logical problems, fair for physical problemsData recovery software or a recovery service
Formatted or reformatted hard driveLogicalDrive is inaccessible to operating system or dismays no files or foldersGood if recovery is done before the device is used.Data recovery software
Failed or failing hard driveLogical or physicalSlow response time, degraded performance, missing filesGood for logical problems, fair for physical problemsData recovery software or a recovery service

Common Hard Drive Issues

Unfortunately, there are no types of computers that are immune to the problems of data loss and drive problems. PCs manufactured by companies such as Dell, HP, Asus, Acer, and Lenovo are just a few examples of Windows compatible machines that can be subjected to hard drive issues. You can also experience problems with Apple Macs and MacBooks. In general, if your computer has a hard drive, there is a chance that you will eventually have a problem with the device. 

Issues with hard drive

Here are some of the most common hard drive issues that often result in a logically or physically damaged hard drive.

  • Clicking sounds – A clicking sound when your drive is in use indicates that it may be experiencing problems with the read and write heads which may have become misaligned due to wear and tear or an impact.
  • Dead, torn, or damaged read/write heads – A damaged read/write head will make it impossible for the drive to access data or save new information. 
  • Platter damage – A scratched platter or one that has become warped will lead to a partial or full drive failure. Some data may be accessible if the scratch is not too severe.
  • Motor failure – The motor that drives the platter and read/write mechanism can fail. Until the motor is replaced, the drive will be unusable. 
  • Accidental file deletion – Accidentally deleting files is a common issue that can occur for a variety of reasons. Data recovery software should be able to recover the lost files and folders. 
  • Reformatting – Inadvertently formatting the wrong drive can wipe out a large volume of data in the blink of an eye. Care should be taken when performing a formatting operation to ensure the correct target is in scope.
  • Environmental damage – Heat, moisture, and physical impacts can cause physical damage to your drive.

Using a Data Recovery Service

If physical damage is the cause of your data loss issues, contacting a data recovery service is your best course of action. You will not be able to use data recovery software if you cannot access the device, but the experts at a recovery center will be able to clone the drive and recover your data. Your choice to contact a recovery service may be influenced by the importance of the lost data. If it is valuable to you, then a call to the recovery service is a very good move. 

Here are some reputable data recovery services that will handle your damaged hard drive and recover as much data as possible from the device. They all will try to recover your data and will not charge you if they are unsuccessful.

    • CleverFiles Data Recovery Center – CleverFiles offers standard recovery in three to seven days as well as an expedited option that gets your data back in two days. They have a 98% success rate and repairs do not invalidate the drive’s original warranty. 
    • DataTech Labs – DataTech has recovery centers in over 40 U.S. cities and specializes in recovering deleted files from crashed hard drives and failed RAID arrays. All data recoveries are performed in an ISO 5 Certified Class 100 cleanroom.
    • Gillware Data Recovery Services – GIllware has been solving data recovery issues for customers since 2003. They will give you a free in-lab examination and firm price quote. All recoveries are done in house with no outsourcing to other labs.

What to expect from a data recovery service

A reputable data recovery service will be able to handle any type of drive that needs its data restored. This includes:

  • Internal laptop hard drives;
  • Internal drives in desktop machines;
  • External hard drives;
  • Hard disk drive;
  • Solid-state drives.

Data recovery services should be able to recover data on hard disk drives from any manufacturer. Some services may have certifications that indicate more experience with certain brand names of hard drives. Drives from Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba, Samsung, LG, Sony, and other manufacturers will all be accepted by a data recovery service.

What is included in the hard drive recovery kit that professional services use?

Multiple specialized tools are part of the hard drive recovery kit used by professional data recovery services. Here is an overview of the most common tools they will be using to recover the data from a physically damaged hard drive. 

  • Head replacement tools;
  • Spindle replacement tools;
  • Tools to unstick the motor and heads;
  • Environmentally controlled workspace;
  • Replacement parts for a variety of hard drives;
  • Dedicated software tools.

What is the average hard drive recovery price?

The price of a hard drive recovery varies based on the extent of damage and the volume of data that is being recovered. You can expect to pay between $100 and $300 per hour for the expertise required to perform the recovery. If parts are needed, there may be an additional charge. A reliable recovery service will provide an estimate but will not give you a final price on recovery until they have examined the drive. Be careful of services that advertise a price per gigabyte recovered type of cost structure. It is essentially impossible to make this kind of claim without examining the damaged device.

How to Recover Data From Your Hard Drive Using Data Recovery Software

If you are having a problem with logical damage to your hard drive, you can use data recovery software to recover your data. The device must be operational and recognized by your operating system for this to be successful. Here are steps to use with a commercial data recovery tool and a freeware solution. Disk Drill will be used to illustrate a paid recovery tool and we will look at PhotoRec as our freeware application.

Using Disk Drill to recover deleted files

  1. Download and install Disk Drill.
  2. Launch the application.hard drive data recovery with disk drill
  3. Select the disk to be used for the recovery.
  4. Click the Search for lost data button to scan your disk.hard drive data recovery
  5. Preview the recoverable files.
  6. Select the files to be recovered and their new storage location.hard disk recovery
  7. Click the Recover button to perform the file recovery.harddisk recoveryDisk Drill offers users a simple and straightforward method that can be performed by individuals with only general computer knowledge.
free data recovery software Disk Drill for Windows & macOS Free Download

PhotoRec recovery procedure

  1. Download, install and start PhotoRec.Launch Photorec 
  2. Use the command-line interface to specify the disk and recovery options.Select the drive for recovery
  3. Specify any file types to include or exclude and the filesystem type.
  4. Create a partition to be used for the file recovery.
  5. Perform the recovery.Recover your files

When using this freeware solution, you need to use a command-line interface instead of the point-and-click recovery offered by Disk Drill.

Pros & Cons of HDD Recovery Software

Hard drive recovery software has its pros and cons. It is not the answer to all hard drive data loss scenarios but can help you get files back from a hard drive that has suffered logical damage.

Pros

  • Recovery can be done without sending the device out to a recovery center.
  • Paid recovery software often offers a trial version so you can see if it will help in your situation.
  • Recovery can be performed at your leisure.
  • Your data is not exposed to any other individuals.

Cons

  • Data from physically damaged drives cannot be recovered.
  • Misusing the software can make your data unrecoverable.
  • You will need additional storage media to hold the recovered data to avoid file corruption and overwriting.

Based on the type of problem you are having, data recovery software may be all that you need to get your files back. It’s worth looking into before spending money on a data recovery service.

How to Protect Files on Your Hard Drive From Accidental Deletion

There are several tactics that you can use to guard against files being accidentally deleted from your hard drive. They include:

Back up your hard drive – Creating backups of your hard drive is one of the best ways to protect your valuable data. A backup can be used to recover lost data no matter what the cause. The only prerequisite is that the backup contains the data you want to recover. For this reason, frequent and regular scheduled backups are your best defense against data loss.

Avoid heat and moisture – Excessive temperatures or too much moisture can cause physical damage to your hard drive. Avoid subjecting your computer or external storage devices to these conditions.

Steer clear of malware and viruses – Malware and viruses can be the cause of logical damage such as file corruption. To minimize your chances of this issue affecting your hard drive, always use a reliable and updated antivirus tool. 

Be careful – Accidentally formatting a drive or emptying a Recycle Bin or Trash that contains important data is in your control. Take a few seconds and verify your actions before doing anything that involves deleting data from your hard drive.

Did you know?

The largest hard disk drive you can currently obtain has a capacity of 16 terabytes of data. It can hold thousands of hours of video or hundreds of games. While it can be used in a home system, it is usually deployed as enterprise storage. It is extremely durable but does` not offer the fastest data access speeds. The cost of these storage devices comes out to about four cents per gigabyte.

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Robert Agar
Freelance Writer at Self-employed specializing in technology-related subjects. Extensive experience in IT with a focus on backup and recovery, disaster recovery, cloud computing, databases, and data management.
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Senior Data Recovery Engineer. Master's degree in Physics, Information Technology for Science Experiments