- What Does Data Recovery Cost? A Breakdown of the rates and fees.
- Type of device failure
- Mechanical failure
- Logical failure
- The cost of parts, experience, expertise, and tools in the data recovery quote
- Additional items that contribute to Data Recovery Costs
- Is there a safe alternative to expensive professional Data Recovery?
- Ready to start the recovery process with your damaged drive?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Data Recovery Cost? A Breakdown of the rates and fees.
Hard drive recovery prices can vary between $199 and $749 here at Yellow Brick Data Recovery. With most data recovery companies being in the $300-4000 range, we offer an affordable alternative to expensive data recovery. We get drives in that were quoted at $2000+ that we are able to get back under our standard recovery price ($349), so a second opinion might be a good idea if you are getting quoted a lot.
How is our price so much lower than the big data recovery companies? We utilize the same tools as the big guys, but don’t have the same overhead! There is a lot that goes into how much a data recovery company charges for data recovery services and this article will help you understand the pricing structures that are common in the industry.
Why Does the Cost of Data Recovery Seem Complicated?
Some industries are prone to overly complicated pricing structures due in part to the complicated nature of the industry, and also due in part to the inability of the customer to understand what they are being charged for. There are many data recovery companies that leave pricing very open because they know they will be able to convince someone who is worried about losing their data forever to pay an exorbitant amount of money to cover the data recovery specialist cost.
Understanding the different types of hard drive issues and how much it will cost to recover data from each hard drive will help you not fall prey to predatory data recovery pricing practices. The basic questions that go into how much a data recovery will cost are as follows: What will it take for us to get your drive operational enough so that we can recover data from it?
The goal with data recovery is to get the drive to work well enough to access the data. It doesn’t matter if the drive is slow or not running at 100%; as long as we can get the data off the drive, we are set! But what is needed to get the data off can vary a decent amount depending on the type of device failure we are dealing with.
Type of device failure
Basically, all device failures can be put into one of these basic tiers:
A mechanical failure is when the drive has a physical issue. This could be a bad printed circuit board (PCB), bad blocks on the platters, a bad motor, or bad heads. Many times a mechanical failure will require a part to be replaced, but sometimes the part that is going bad can be repaired instead of replaced.
Does your hard drive have a few bad sectors in the wrong part of the disk? It can be surprising how little trouble bad blocks cause in some cases (your drive likely has a few and you won’t ever even know about it!), and then on other drives just a couple bad blocks can cause the whole drive to stop functioning properly. We have seen drives that other recovery shops have said were not recoverable and it was just due to a few bad sectors in just the wrong place.
In most cases, in order to recover a drive with bad sectors, you just have to image the drive using various settings on your data recovery imaging rig. Someone who is very familiar with their imaging equipment and has a lot of experience imaging drives with bad sectors can have a much better outcome than someone who just knows the basics about imaging, so it is important to send your drive to a recovery shop that has a good track record for recovering drives.
Sometimes the bad blocks will be in the firmware area of your drive. This will be covered a little later under firmware issues.
The PCB is the printed circuit board on the bottom of your drive. It is in control of various jobs, but its main jobs are to take the power and distribute it properly to the motor and heads, as well as allow the data to pass from the heads to the computer.
Normally when a PCB goes bad, it is more cost effective to replace it rather than attempt to repair it. Most PCBs are not very expensive and are fairly easy to source. There are times when a PCB is extremely difficult to find, but these cases are few and far between.
The heads inside a drive read the data off the platters. The most common analogy is that the head is like the laser that reads a DVD or CD. The heads inside a drive “float” just above the surface of the platter when they are working properly. If the heads stop reading data properly or come into contact with the platter surface, a head swap will likely be necessary.
Bad heads are a fairly common issue when the hard drive that is needing data recovery has been dropped or physically bumped. It is more rare for hard drive heads to just go bad on their own (but it does happen!). We have found that a lot of recovery shops will quote for head replacement before they even look at the drive because it is an easy sell to the client and will give them extra margin on the recovery.
Firmware issues can be caused by both mechanical failure as well as logical failure. When they are caused by mechanical failure it is usually due to bad blocks in the service area of the hard drive. It can also be caused by a weak head that is not reading the firmware modules properly during the startup sequence.
While a lot of firmware issues can be gotten past without replacing any parts on the hard drive, there are times where parts may need to be replaced to get the data from the drive.
Scratched hard disk drive platters
This is one of the most frustrating issues you can face with a hard drive data recovery. At this time there aren’t any good methods for recovering from badly scratched hard disk platters. Scratches are almost always caused by a damaged head from a drop of other physical bumps.
Another common cause of scratching is when the drive has a heads issue, but is still working enough for data recovery software to access some of the data. Then the software is run non-stop for days while the bad head begins to scratch the platters. It is very important to not use software-based recovery methods on a drive that has been dropped or bumped or is running very slowly. Seek professional help rather than turning the drive on and possibly losing the data for good due to scratches on the platter.
A logical failure is when the drive has issues due to the data on the drive rather than the physical parts that make the drive work. Usually these logical data recoveries are on the lower end of the difficulty scale, and therefor are usually quoted at a lower rate than drives with a mechanical failure. The following types of logical failures are fairly common:
A drive that has been formatted with important data on it can usually be successfully recovered if the drive has not been used since it was accidentally formatted. This type of recovery is basically the same as an erased data recovery.
When you accidentally erase data on a drive, it may still be recoverable. There are a lot of variables that determine if the data is recoverable, but the most important is the amount of use the drive has gotten since the files were erased. The more use the drive receives after the data was deleted, the less likely the data is to be recoverable. So if you accidentally erase a file, shut down the drive and do not start it back up until a recovery attempt has been completed.
Sometimes the portion of the drive that stores information like what the drive is named and what folders are on the drive can get corrupted, causing the volume to not mount or the folders to be missing. Partition corruption is most commonly caused by mechanical failure. But sometimes it is caused by something as simple as disconnecting a drive before ejecting it, or while it is in use by the computer.
Malware or ransomware
Unfortunately, issues with malware and ransomware are on the rise. Most malware-based drive issues can be easily recovered, but with ransomware, it is a lot more difficult. Depending on the type of ransomware, it may not be possible to recover the data without paying the fee the bad actor wants.
Possible firmware issues
Firmware issues can be mechanical or logical in nature. When they are logical failures, they are usually caused by some kind of corruption in a firmware module. This corruption causes the drive to not be able to read the module properly, so it will either not function at all, or function extremely slowly. Advanced firmware issues are some of the hardest to recover from. We have recovered multiple drives that were deemed unrecoverable by the big guys, so if you have been told your drive is not recoverable, it is likely worth getting a second opinion.
The cost of parts, experience, expertise, and tools in the data recovery quote
The most common parts that need to be replaced on a hard drive are the PCB and the head stack. PCB’s can generally be ordered separately from the hard drive by companies that purchase and disassemble drives to sell the components to data recovery shops. Most recovery shops have a large library of donor PCBs, but sometimes you will get a drive that uses an odd or very difficult to find PCB, and the price for the donor can be quite steep.
Head stacks are something that usually can not be purchased separately from an entire hard drive. Most hard drive donors are inexpensive (in the $30-100 range), and most data recovery companies keep a good stock of donor drives on their premises. However, some hard drives are rare and the price for the donor drive can be very expensive. We have had to order donor drives that were over $300 in the past. Also, it is important to note that sometimes you have to order multiple donor drives to find one with a compatible head stack.
Data Recovery best practice dictates that you always image the customer’s drive to a known good drive during the recovery process. A good data recovery shop will never pull data directly from the customer’s drive to their transfer drive, but will always use an imaging rig to first image the entire drive. A busy recovery shop needs 100’s of these temporary storage drives on hand, sometimes in quite large capacities. These known good drives will eventually wear out or start failing and will have to be replaced. This cost is something that data recovery shops must factor into their pricing.
Some recovery shops provide the transfer drive to the customer as part of their cost. We have the customer either purchase the drive from us or provide their own drive. But for the data recovery companies that provide the media as part of their service, this cost can very depending on the amount of data that is recovered.
One of the most important aspects of a data recovery shop is the level of experience the technicians have. A shop that does not pay its technicians enough will have a high turnover rate and inexperienced technicians. This can cause the pricing of a recovery shop with very experienced technicians to be quite high.
It is also important to note that some recoveries take a lot of “tech time”. That is, some recoveries will only take about an hour for the technician to complete the work that is needed before somebody less experienced can take over, while other recoveries can require hours and hours of an experienced technician’s time in order to get the data safely from the drive.
Keeping up with research and development
It is imperative that when a new problem arises, the recovery technician knows where to find the tools and information necessary to recover the data safely and effectively. Keeping up with new procedures, design changes on drives, common firmware issues on different model drives, and symptom meanings can take a lot of technician time.
During the recovery process, there are times when a technician will need to reach out to the client. Sometimes there will be questions that need to be answered before the drive is mailed in that a technician will need to be available to answer. Other times there will be questions the recovery technician has for the customer. This customer service time needs to be considered when evaluating the cost of a recovery.
The equipment that a recovery lab requires can be quite costly. The needed equipment can also change as the technology driving hard drives changes. Basic equipment including a clean room environment, a PC-3000, PCB rework station, head stack removal tools, security screwdrivers, and recovery software will cost over $15,000. And that is just the extremely basic equipment needed to safely recover drives. Most recovery shops are spending 6 figures on their equipment.
Additional items that contribute to Data Recovery Costs
There are additional items that contribute to the cost of data recovery. Below are some of these items, but it is not an exhaustive list.
Turnaround time for recovery
If you need your data back as quickly as possible, it might require overtime or other costs. Most recovery shops have a priority service fee.
When encryption is present on a drive, it can take extra steps to get the data back. Most recovery shops have an extra fee for recovering data that is encrypted. Note that the password must be known to recover the data.
Large hard drive recovery
Drives are being made with more and more capacity nowadays. The time it takes to image a working 8TB drive is about 8 times longer than imaging a working 1TB drive… so it makes sense that most recovery shops have an extra fee for larger capacity drives.
Special donor parts
Some drives require expensive parts for recovery. As mentioned under head replacement above, sometimes the donor parts required to complete a recovery can cost $100’s of dollars. Most recovery labs will let you know if there is an especially expensive part needed for your recovery and quote you for that part that is needed.
This is something that can add a lot to a data recovery quote. Many recovery shops are spending thousands of dollars a month on advertising costs. A lot of big recovery shops will send kickbacks to whoever recommended them to the tune of $200-300. These dollars have to come from somewhere, so the cost is usually spread out over recoveries that are successful.
Is there a safe alternative to expensive professional Data Recovery?
Absolutely! There are a couple of shops that have sprung up in the last 10 years that provide incredible value in the data recovery industry. Almost all those shops were founded by recovery technicians that worked for a large company and left to start their own endeavors.
We are proud to be one of those affordable data recovery companies that have the same level of expertise (and use the same tools) as the big guys. Our home-based business keeps overhead low, while our advertising strategy is focused on word of mouth and keeps our costs way down.
Ready to start the recovery process with your damaged drive?
If you have a damaged hard drive that you need to be recovered, we are here to help! We offer affordable data recovery nationwide from our home-based recovery lab in Kansas. If you have any questions at all about the process or you would like a quote on your particular drive, just contact us and we will walk you through everything. If you are ready to start the recovery process, you can fill out our quick recovery form to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to estimate data recovery costs?
A good rule of thumb is that if your drive was dropped and stopped working, you will likely need a more expensive data recovery. But to get a better idea of the cost to recover your data, please just fill out our quote form and we will get back to you with an estimate for data recovery.
Why is data recovery so expensive?
The amount of knowledge needed, coupled with the high price of many of the data recovery tools makes data recovery an expensive service.
What is the average cost of data recovery?
Our data recovery prices vary between $199 and $749 depending on the drive and what is wrong with it. With most data recovery companies being in the $300-4000 range, we offer an affordable alternative to expensive data recovery.
Does a data recovery company charge a per-gigabyte fee?
Some data recovery companies charge on a per-gigabyte basis after a certain level. Because large drives sometimes take longer to recover this method is not without merit, but we do not charge on a per-gigabyte basis.
Is there a flat-rate data recovery service?
Yes! Most shops that offer a flat-rate data recovery service actually have a few rates for recovery. We offer flat rate data recovery at three levels depending on what is needed in order to recover your data.
Can I recover the data on my own?
Sometimes you can! Just be sure to be careful and to carefully consider the value of the data you are trying to recover. If the data is very valuable, it might be better to pay a professional to recover the data safely.
Does a Per-Gigabyte Data Recovery Cost Make Sense?
Generally speaking, no. But, if the price is flat up to say 2TB, then for each additional 100GB you have to pay extra, this can make sense. Sometimes drives that are large can take quite a bit longer to recover than a smaller drive, so the extra fee can make sense.
Does a Flat-Rate Data Recovery Cost Make Sense?
We think so! Flat rate recovery with a few tiers to cover the majority of drives makes sense. A single rate for all drives does not make as much sense since some recoveries are much easier than others.
External hard drive data recovery cost
A 300 dollar data recovery is normal for a standard external hard drive with costs varying between $199 and $749. With most data recovery companies being in the $300-1500 range, we offer an affordable alternative to expensive data recovery.