It is not unusual to spend over $1,000 or more on hard drive data recovery at a service that uses expensive ‘clean-room’ technology.
But usually an expensive ‘clean room’ is not necessary.
If you ask a big box store to recover data, you will probably find a minimum charge of $200 if you do not need a clean room recovery effort. Click here to check the Geek Squad pricing and compare. Call me and you may pay less for recovery services. I can also recover data from camera memory cards.
Sometimes you can even resolve the problem using the tips in our Fix Boot-Up Problems topic.
When your computer won’t boot up, that is sometimes referred to as a hard drive ‘crash’, although according to Seagate Technology, in at least 80% of cases, the hard drive is perfectly functional mechanically and electrically. In that 80% of cases where nothing is ‘wrong’, it is usually the magnetic recording media that is at fault.
Other problems, including accidentally deleted system files, a system board failure, a power outage at just the wrong time or a computer virus can also interfere with the startup process and your tech support professional should address whatever is preventing your computer from starting up.
One common problem is that over time, the magnetic recording surfaces in a hard drive lose some of their magnetic properties. Eventually, this means data can become corrupted if the magnetic media cannot reliably store data. When this happens to any of the required system files needed for your computer to boot up, the computer may not boot up properly. Then it is time to either restore the drive from a recent backup or enlist professional technical support if a backup does not exist.
The good news is that if your hard drive is in the 80% category of drives that have nothing electrically or mechanically wrong, I can usually recover your critical files, photos, etc. It is also often possible to fix the boot-up problem without requiring a complete reinstall of Windows.
The optimal approach is to restore your computer to the condition it was in before the ‘crash’ so that it boots up normally and so you don’t have to reinstall all of your programs. In many cases, that outcome is achieved. Unfortunately, it may be unavoidable at times that some data is lost.
According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the annual replacement rate of hard drives is 2-4 per cent and up to 15% on some systems. So it is fair to say that your risk of a hard drive problem is at least 2-10% per year. Therefore, it is an excellent idea to be prepared in advance and make regular image backups of your hard drive.