questionscan you recommend an affordable data recovery…


@gatzby: I am sorry to give you this bad news. Data recovery services are expensive, and may even approach the price of a used car. Services that are the price you are hoping for may be successful, or they may damage the drive beyond the current problem, and make it impossible for professionals to retrieve your data.

The name of the company is OnTrack ( They're very good, and reputable, and will be able to provide you a quote via their phone number before you surrender your data to them.

I have no professional association with these people. I have used them in a former life. Give it a try. At most, you've used your time, and decided the drive isn't worth it. For now, leave the drive off, until you find someone.

[Edit] I should add that I have not the slightest idea of what they charge, since I would have been insulated from knowing. It may turn out to be quite reasonable.


@shrdlu: Waiting on a quote from them, but I can't say I'm hopeful. The one or two I've seen so far are nearly $800 or more! Eep. Thanks for looking.

I'm pretty sure I could knock it out myself if I had the right parts, but I'm not sure it's worth ruining lots of other things in pursuit of MP3s, heh.



Would you be interested in doing yourself?

Step 1. get this or something similar.
2. Take drive out and plug it in that thing. Let the drive install drivers and listen to it hold it. Is it spinning?
3. If it is spinning you lightly tap the longest 1" side of the drive (not top or bottom.
4. If it stops clicking remove the USB and put it back in.
5. If it works to get the data off fast!
6. You could try freezing it. Before you tap.

I have had success with the above. (sorry to hear about your data loss).


Forensics is a skill, like any other. At some point you have to determine whether your data is worth $X, or if it gets chalked up to a learning experience. I've flat mastered the latter. There are all sorts of intermediate tricks you can try. Please note that each and every trick is NOT to be used if the value of your data is such that it cannot be lost without substantial monetary punishment.

1. Everybody's favorite. Put it in the freezer overnight, and then hook it up. It may take a few moments or so to become unfrozen. I've had this work sometimes.

2. My own favorite. Turn it upside down (this assumes that you've acquired a way to have an external connection. Gently tap it a few times (or if you're me, pre-caffeine, slam it on the table, using appropriate profanity. Sometimes this frees up the arm, and you can retrieve data. For sport, I left one drive upside down to see how long it would take until failure. Nearly three months. Dang.



3. Find another drive, EXACTLY the same model as the one you have. Sometimes knockoff drives may have the same label, and then be made by different generic companies, so be sure. Disassemble the first drive, and then the second, and remove the platters, inserting them in the known good drive. You just might get lucky.

In all cases, get off the data. Next, draw up a backup routine, and stick with it (this is advice I never seem to take, so you probably won't either).

Or, give OnTrack money. Personally, I usually would just recommend that one, but you say it's just music. You can replace that.


@gatzby: I do want to point out that I know of MANY recovery firms. I only recommend the one I named. It's a mixed bag, and there's no apology that can replace lost data.


I've been through most of the tricks now. Tapping, whacking, and freezing have come up empty. I even tried a small drop. Still no go. It's good stress therapy, though.

The bright side is I can probably get my music back off my Zune. (Yay Zune!) The downside is, I'm likely out about 15 years worth of miscellaneous documents, gaming PDFs, videos, etc. It's a lot of great stuff, but $800-1600? I think I can move on without it.

As far as swapping platters, I don't feel like my environment is clean enough to risk it. I'm not sure how fault/dust tolerant a new drive would be. Any insight in to that?

I appreciate all the recommendations.


Before you swap platters, swap controllers (the circuit board on the drive.) As previously mentioned be careful that you use the same drive/revision/firmware.

The more you use the drive after failure the lesser the chance of recovery. Typically the drive recovery process involves evaluation and, if possible, a bit by bit image is made of the drive prior to any recovery.

For fun I've swapped out platters (had a lot of the same drive in an IT environment) on working drives. One drive lasted a month with just some plastic taped over it. However most sort of worked or failed relatively soon. Tip: Get some really clean gloves. These things draw fingerprints like nothing else you've seen.

Good luck.


@gatzby: No offense but the fact that you had ~15 years worth of data without redundant backups shocks me. HDD's are like a computing version of russian roulette, it is only a matter of time before something dies. I'd recommend once you decide what to do about recovering your data or chalking it up as a loss that you invest in a cheap external or configure a raid setup.


@jagg3d3d93: Heh, I usually had another drive backing it up, sort of faux-RAID. The last build, move to Seattle, and the drive being about a year old, if not less, had be feeling relatively comfortable.

I've gotten to the point where I feel like nothing is mission critical -- we're not talking financial records, living wills, etc -- that I can live on being lazy, but it would really be nice to have that data back, if it were affordable.


Thanks for reminding me - I've been hitting the snooze button on my backup reminder for about 24 hours.
a 1TB wireless backup drive is a whole lot cheaper that data recovery unless you are too lazy to plug it in once a week an click on a button.


@marbaulo: SyncToy, set it, forget it.
@gatzby to feel too bad we all forget how hard it is to get good data back. Right now I use RAID1 (not a true back up plan). You reminded me I need to get my backups started again.


@gatzby: Do NOT open up a hard drive outside of a clean room. And I don't mean a room that you just cleaned, I mean like a laboratory clean room i.e. absolutely NO dust or particulates, have to wear a plastic suit and gloves, etc. Read/write heads hover at such a tiny height above platters that any speck of dust can cause a head crash and then your data on that portion of the platter really does become permanently irrecoverable. You can try swapping out drive controllers from a model with the exact same revision and firmware though. Otherwise you're sort of out of luck. Data recovery service isn't worth it for consumers, for the most part.


My company used OnTrack to recover my laptop drive in 2006. I don't recall for sure but it was a 40 or 60GB drive.

What I got back was couple DVDs of "files" - a slew of unnamed GIFs/JPGs/DOCs/PDFs/XLSs/PPTs/HTMLs - with no data relating to their original filename or location on my drive.

Many of the files were corrupted (1/2 a JPG, an MP3 that showed as 5 minutes long when the actual song was 3 minutes, etc)

What I ended up with was a smattering of stuff from my documents directory - and a ton of recovered browser cache.

I'm not saying this will be case for every drive they recover - but you may end up paying A LOT for what ends up being worthless - prepare yourself for the worst.

Good luck.


I used a site called Gillware to recover some data off a client's hard drive. It cost $200 for the recovery if it didn't have to go to a clean room, and somewhere around $500-$600 if it did have to go to a clean room. My client's HD did have to go to a clean room, but he was happy to get his 28+ gigs back for only $600.

Not sure if the pricing has changed since we did that a few years ago.

looks like they give you a quote now. Good luck.

p.s. I've had success doing the other self-forensics stuff here (freezer, swapping controllers, OnTrack Easy Recovery software) ... it just takes time and patience.


There are a lot of data recovery options, and some may be specific to the type of processing system used by the computer, but the following site is worth checking out. It's and could be the perfect fit for the system in question.


Next time you need data recovery, definitely try $300 Data Recovery first. These guys use the same gear as the clean rooms, without the clean room prices (or the clean room, since it's not necessary in 80% of all cases). No charge if they can't get back data you want; 80% success rate for all drives.


If you are looking for a professional hard drive clean room company that is affordable (about half the price of the large companies) check out Tri-State Data Recovery @
They did a great job for me on a dropped clicking hard drive and saved me about $800. Lots of good information on the site as well.


I'll admit that I was a little surprised when I called around looking to get my hard drive recovered. I originally thought that flat rate data recovery would be my best bet, but then once I talked to a few shops, I realized the "flat rate" minimum was pretty huge.

I ended up going with because they were the cheapest. They aren't flat rate, but they ended up charging me less than $150 because my issue wasn't as serious as I thought.

It was a good thing: a lot of these guys were going to charge me $300 just to look at the drive. Flat rate isn't as good as you might think!


I went through a site The first time I didn't have to pay because the drive was too far gone so they stuck by their guarantee that they wouldn't even charge me for looking at it if they couldn't recover it. Then I sent two more and they got it all. So I'm pretty happy with em. Peace


Try one of these companies: - Canada - Northeast USA - Southeast USA

All are competitively priced full service data recovery companies.


You can find affordable data recovery service by Crucial Data Recovery:

This website provides very cheap data recovery services, see cost here:


Check out
Good success rates, no up front or evaluation fees, and "no data-no fee" guarantee.