Monday night you shut down your computer and call it a day. Tuesday morning you attempt to start the system, but it refuses to boot up. That afternoon, the system is checked by your computer service people, who cannot get the hard drive to be recognized. Your hard drive is removed and placed in another computer, but it again is not seen by the system – the hard drive does not even appear to be spinning. They suggest that the data might be able to be rescued by a data recovery service company, and they recommend one or more companies to call.

Most established data recovery companies have extensive information about their services on their websites, as well as a toll-free phone number. The recovery process begins with a phone conversation about your problem. A data recovery service representative should be able to answer all of your questions, and you may find it helpful to have the following information at hand when you call:

  • The make, model, and capacity of the storage media to be recovered
  • The operating system and version (or release level)
  • The most important file types that you need to recover

The representative will ask about what occurred leading up to the actual data loss event. Any and all previous efforts at restoring or recovering the data should also be discussed. The representative should be able to provide an expected service time frame (usually 1 to 3 days) and the costs associated with the recovery. Instructions for shipping or delivering the media to their facility can be explained, and in some cases emailed or downloaded from their website.

When the data recovery company receives the media, an evaluation is started to determine the extent of the damage and the feasibility of recovery. Upon completion of the evaluation, the actual cost of the recovery effort can be quoted for customer approval by fax or email. The recovery process will begin upon acceptance of the quotation and receipt of an authorization to proceed.

Data recovery generally involves repairing the damaged storage device to the point where data can be extracted at the block level. This process creates an exact duplicate (or a “mirror image”) of the original media, minimizing the possibility of any further damage. This image can be analyzed to determine the original file and folder structure and to make any repairs to the structure that are needed.

The recovered data is then scanned to identify and remove any possible virus code. The scanned files and folders are transferred to a server for eventual output to the customers’ choice of media and format. Data is generally written to CD-R, DVD-R, or a new hard drive, depending on the amount of data to be transferred and the customer preference. In some cases, data files can alternately be transferred via FTP or email attachment.

Professional data recovery services can be an absolute life-saver when it comes to salvaging critical or irreplaceable files. This sequence of events above is how many data recovery companies handle recovery projects. However, no two companies will have the same capabilities or operate in the same fashion, so it always pays to ask questions and check references.

About the Author

Kevin Sullivan is Vice President of Operations for Vantage Data Recovery. Founded in 1989, Vantage has specialized exclusively in recovering data from damaged hard drives, tape, optical and digital data storage media. For more information, visit the Vantage website at