Inspired by the question Crashed Hard Drive Data Retrieval which is currently concentrating on software tools and self-help methods of data rescue, I am curious what the community's experiences are with data rescue services. These are companies that attempt to deal with drives that have survived fires, floods, or other physical damage.

My one experience with a provider was positive in that they seemed like they did make a good faith attempt to get data from the drive, but they failed to get any data. They confirmed our diagnosis of a head crash, and incidentally our fervent belief in backups. They charged a moderate fee for the attempt, and we let them simply recycle the drive on failure.

So the question is this: are there any success and/or horror stories out there to share?

4 Answers 4


I have had reasonable success with OnTrack. I have probably had to resort to them maybe 5 times in the last 20 years? They are not cheap, and not infallible, but they have managed to save the day 3 out of those 5 times...


I've been involved in the use of commercial data recovery services once, and the experience was much the same as yours -- they tried, charged a reasonable amount of money, didn't really get too far (and by the time they did their thing, the data was too stale to have been much use).

I like data recovery companies and their high prices -- it makes it easier to convince people that backups aren't all that expensive after all.


I have many success stories recovering the data in Linux systems. People using unmirrored drives without backups are also often using Windows. Windows is prone to refusing to proceeed after a single bad block. With a well-behaved controller, I copy the drive (dd conv=noerror), and proceed from there. Sometimes tools that recover the desired data without regard to filesystem structure will save the day.

I once had the dd of a 300GB drive take two weeks, and still over 95% of the desired data was recovered. Each bad block took several minutes of failures until it was skipped, and luckily little of the valuable data was in the area with bad blocks.

I don't understand how a drive recovery service could confirm a head crash yet not recover any data. When they put the platters in a different drive, why did they not recover data from the undamaged area of the platters? I see how they could fail to recover -useful- data, but they should still have returned most of the blocks to you.


I have had some success with R-Studio's products. But this has mostly been single drive recoveries. YMMV. I have not had a need to try any disk recovery services as there are usually multiple copies of the data around.


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