Giving You An Inside Look at the Data Recovery Process

Friday, March 18, 2016 by David Logue

I've been working in data recovery for several years, but there are still cases that surprise me.  There are many run-of-the-mill days, but there are the days I will always remember. Before I started working in this field, data was simply data for me.  Over time my view drastically changed. Eventually, I came to the realization that the value of data is not in the information itself, but in the value the user applies to it. More often than not, it's a monetary value, millions of dollars even, for recovering data due to a system crash.  However, there are still cases where the value cannot be exchanged into money.  This may include memories, sentimental value, the fruits of one's labor, which is not easily recoverable.

It always begins the same...

Each of these stories begins in the same way. The customer lost data.  Sometimes it's a file, an accidentally deleted item, a hard drive failure or the computer suddenly stops "seeing" your thumb drive. In many cases, people just accept it. Sometimes the data you lost was not that important.


The next step is frantic search for help. You're desperate to find a forum full of advice and goodwill. If you're lucky, you may be able to recover your data. When you're out of luck, not only will you be unsuccessful, but you can potentially damage your data beyond recovery; even experts will not be able to perform recovery. You turn to Ontrack only if you have no other options.

Unfortunately, I've seen too many cases like this.  During these run-of-the-mill days, I get heaps of media which have been overwritten beyond repair or hard drive subjected to unorthodox “repairs” which made them unusable (unless we're talking recycling). It turns out that the owner can be the data's worst enemy.

Trust me, I'm an expert

Alright. So what should you do if you have just lost data? The best option is to consult an expert immediately. Ontrack offers a free consultation that can determine the likelihood of data recovery.

You can send your media by a delivery company or bring it in yourself. It's very important to secure the package properly, i.e. to protect against possible transport damage. Moreover, if you spilled water over your hard drive, you should protect it against drying. We suggest wrapping the hard drive in a wet towel but we've had more ingenious customers bring a hard drive in a fishbowl or in a sauerkraut bucket. Once, we even received a drive wrapped in a diaper.

After receiving the drive in our lab, we perform an expert analysis to find out the chances for data recovery. At this stage, we're able to tell whether the data can be recovered and provide the cost to you. A detailed diagnostic report is provided and it includes a full list of recoverable files complete with their condition. You can use the information in the report to make your decision. You relax, we do the magic

If you give us a green light, we will start the recovery magic.  I won't go into details of what happens in the laboratory right now since each data loss event differs on a case-by-case basis. It can range from as little as a few hours or several weeks, depending on the situation. I'll go more into detail on this subject in a future blog.

What happens next when the data is recovered? The recovered data is stored in the format of your choice on an encrypted hard drive and sent to the address you provided. At this stage we help interpret the recovered data because the structure of the data after recovery may differ from the original data structure (it may apply to file names, metadata, folder structure, etc.).  Our help ends only when you are sure you got back what you wanted.