Look for a hardware data recovery service in your local area
Hardware data recovery is a case where you can go global, but it’s usually better to stay local. There are a couple of key reasons for this. First of all, even if you package your hard drive as well as physically possible (which is highly recommended), the further it has to travel, the more vulnerable it is to (further) damage or interception.
Secondly, the further away a hardware data recovery service is located, the harder it may be for you to benefit from meaningful legal protection. Basically, when you sign a contract for services, it’s standard for that contract to state that any disputes will be handled under the vendor’s local laws and in their local courts.
Look for a hardware data recovery service which is clear about what it can and can’t handle
If you’re sending a hard drive to a hardware data recovery service then there’s probably a decent chance that the damage is beyond anything which can be repaired just through using software. In other words, your hard drive is probably going to need to be physically repaired in some way before the software can do its job. Hard drives may all look fairly similar on the outside, but inside they can have all kinds of differences and these differences need to be recognized and managed during the repair process.
As a general rule, most hardware data recovery services are likely to be able to handle common hard disks, but if you have an SSD disk and/or a Mac disk, then it’s a good idea to check specifically whether or not a hardware data recovery service can actually handle it.
Pro-tip, if you need a hardware data recovery service to treat a Mac disk, you need to be very specific about what you have as Macs can contain both traditional HDDs and modern SSDs.
Look for a hardware data recovery service which bills on results
It’s important to understand that with data recovery, your first shot is almost always your best shot. In fact, it may well be your only feasible shot. It’s therefore vital that you use it wisely. This means that you need to avoid any agreement which bills for effort rather than results. A reliable hardware data recovery service will be perfectly happy to give you a free diagnosis together with an estimate of the minimum level of data they can recover and how much they will charge to do so if they are successful – and only if they are successful.
They will also be clear on how they will return the data to you, for example, if they will do so electronically or on an alternative hard drive (or both) and ideally they’ll keep a copy of your data until you have confirmed that all is well. For the sake of completeness, it’s worth noting that for legal and practical reasons there will generally be a limit as to how long they can hold this data. Currently a month is standard. This does, however, give you plenty of time to check and test your data and you should make good use of it.
Look for a hardware data recovery service which charges a reasonable price
Be very suspicious of any hardware data recovery service which seems noticeably more affordable than its competition. As the old saying goes, “if something seems too good to be true, the chances are it probably is”.
Hardware data recovery labs are extremely expensive to set up and run. Not only do they need to have the highest levels of physical and digital security, but they also need to have extremely high levels of hygiene. Literally, just one speck of dust can ruin a hard drive (both HDDs and SSDs). They also need highly-skilled (and very much in-demand) staff to work in them. While some of these costs might vary by geographic area (e.g. the availability of building land), there’s really a limit as to how much you can cut back on them before your results start to suffer.
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