My mac quit the other day and when I took it into the tech, they said it was the hard drive and that all was probably lost, but I could send it to a center and that the data recovery would cost $2500. So I'm wondering if any of the data recovery programs that are available work and if so is it something I could do myself? And dumb part, but if the computer is having trouble starting up, does the recovery program take over to start repairing.
Real data recovery is very expensive so your quote doesn't surprise me at all. There are programs that can do it as well...or at least try and they will need to be run on a working computer with the bad drive attached to it in a USB shell etc.
Recovering through software depends on what part of the drive is malfunctioning. If the drive controllers are shot, then you can't get at the platters to recover data. If it's damage/corruption on some section of the platters then you can possibly recover some of the undamaged sectors (remember that data isn't stored in a single strip along the drive, it's all over the place and pieced back together as needed).
The expensive part of recovery comes when they actually take the drive apart and build a new one using your platters. Has to be done a "clean" room in "clean" suits etc. and takes some serious skills.
This is my recollection of drive recovery from years ago and, while, drive tech has advanced, it hasn't really changed much.
“Maybe some day somebody will call me "Sir" without adding "You're making a scene"!!”
1. Do not try to use the computer/hard drive as you might over-write files.
2. Buy FileSalvage using another computer. Hook up that computer via FireWire, USB or put its hard drive in an external enclosure and hook that up.
3. Find your files and back them up.
Costs far less than $2500 and it's what the recovery shop tries in the first instance. It might even be less than getting another tech's opinion on what is wrong, but as suggested above I'd also try that after if this doesn't work.
It makes a huge difference whether the drive is spinning and the heads are accessing. If the drive is physically damaged (won't spin, won't access at all, damaged heads) then there is nothing you can do at home. It has to go to a lab where they will disassemble the drive and put it back together with new parts to read the data. That's where your $2K estimate comes from.
If the drive is spinning and it is appearing as a drive to a computer (even a drive that says 'I am lost, please format me') then there is a chance that software recovery tools like DataRescue (Mac) or Recuva or Spinrite (other platforms) could fish the lost data out of the drive.
Bottom line: if the drive is physically or electrically broken, it needs the pros. If it is running but logically broken, it may be recoverable yourself.
Exceptions (there are always exceptions):
1) IF it is the controller card on the drive that has fried, you can sometimes resurrect data by getting a drive of the exact same model and version, and swapping controller cards.
2) if the contacts between the controller card and the drive are corroded, it may make the drive appear to be broken. Carefully remove the controller card and use a pencil eraser (preferably the white vinyl kind, not the pink crumbly kind) to clean off the contacts, and reassemble.
CanadaRAM supplies RAM memory, drives and upgrades to Mac owners all over Canada http://www.canadaram.com
I know this is closing the barn door after the horse has left, but it does bear mentioning. Please, once (if) you recover your data, back it up on a regular basis using something like SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner - or even Time Machine. Drives fail...all the time. Nobody should be running without regular, up-to-date backups, unless (a)you don't care about the data you have and (b)you don't mind reinstalling everything on your computer from scratch.
Backup? Where have I heard that before? What a strange notion, computers never fail... do they?
All kidding aside, if you don't want to lose 10-20 years of memories (all your digital photos etc) then you need to put a backup strategy in place.
I use two separate external drives to back up my iMac internal drive. On with Time Machine and the other using CarbonCopy Cloner. I am also in the process of purchasing a largish NAS RAID array to manage my external bulk data, such as photos, etc.
Last edited by ImageStealer; Apr 8th, 2012 at 04:22 PM.