OT - Data Recovery

Submitted by A2MIKE on November 15th, 2017 at 3:20 PM

My hard drive crashed.  Then to make matters worse I made the mistake of taking it to Best Buy.  Long story short, I have some Excel spreadsheets that are saved to the hard drive that I need to access.  Best Buy was no help, and now my local guy says he can't find them.  Anyone have recommendations for the online data retrieval companies?  I am afraid that Best Buy deleted my user profile, which complicates things.  Any help is much appreciated.



November 15th, 2017 at 3:52 PM ^

I'm sure once they actually....you know....see one they'll be able to unravel it.

True story time.  Years ago I had a VERY hot adminstrative assistant and I was on the road and needed IT support.  I called in and asked her to get me somebody (they shockingly weren't picking up the phone) and she said I dont know who to ask for help.  Our corporate office at the time was giant open area with her desk outside of my office so I told her to stand up and look towards the back of the room.  I said go back there and pick out the guy you would NEVER go out with and get him on the phone. Trust me he'll be in IT.

Two minutes later our VP of Information Services was talking to me.   My advice worked.


November 15th, 2017 at 3:28 PM ^

If there's some kind of mechanical or storage controller issue you are best sending it to a specialist. I've used Kroll Ontrack before. I think they will diagnose it for free, give you an idea of what they can recover, and then you can decide whether to pay for recovery or not. You won't pay less than $700 or so, if I recall correctly, though.

If there is still access to the drive and Best Buy accidentally deleted stuff you can probably still recover it if you are careful with undelete programs.

If you are in the Ann Arbor area I might be able to help you out.


November 15th, 2017 at 3:58 PM ^

but that's only if the files are corrupted and the physical media hasn't been damaged. I'd pick a a place that can do both and let them see what they can do. Depending on the size of the drive, they can recover stuff over night.

If there is a physical/mechanical error, though, then be prepared to wait. 

Wolverine In Iowa 68

November 15th, 2017 at 3:36 PM ^

Not knowing all the specifics, you may still have a chance, but I'd suggest going with an expert on data recovery.  A highly recommended specialist is gillware.  They do estimates and will even show you online what they can recover from the drive before they charge you anything so you can determine if it's worth it.

I'd suggest someone like that to see if you have a chance at getting it back.


November 15th, 2017 at 3:37 PM ^

What is your computer? Laptop or desktop? Mac or PC?

Best thing to do is get an adapter to connect the hard drive as an external drive to another computer and mount it via USB and see if you can access the files. Or try to boot your computer for an external USB drive and see if you can mount and access the HD from there.

If it's a mac, you can try to boot your computer as an external hard drive and connect it to another mac via USB (target disk mode).


November 15th, 2017 at 3:56 PM ^

this is good advice. the adapter helped me a time or two. The one time it didn't work, I tried the Western Digital link someone posted and the company wanted like 750, which was not worth it to me, so I lost everything on that drive.


November 15th, 2017 at 3:39 PM ^

It won’t be cheap, but you can try one of these Western Digital partners listed Here:

I had an issue with an external drive dying on me many years back and successfully got about 1/2 of my files back using the free version of EaseUS Data Recovery software:

This was mostly low risk .mp3 albums/movies and around 10 years ago, so I make no guarantees, implied or otherwise.


November 15th, 2017 at 3:42 PM ^

but lost in the mac vs. pc debate is the amazing-ness of the time machine on mac.  I recently had a hard drive crap out and thanks to time machine I was back up and running as if nothing happened days later.  


Not sure where you live, but the specialized PC repair shops might be able to retrieve it. 


November 15th, 2017 at 4:42 PM ^

Was looking for this suggestion.  Freezer worked for me too.

Otherwise, other comments are correct -- everything I've read says your chances of recovery are related to how much you're willing to spend.

Also in the "not helpful" category -- once you're up and running, make sure you have an adequate backup plan for mission critical stuff.  I use a NAS for real-time backups.  Many other options exist.

Steve in PA

November 15th, 2017 at 4:02 PM ^

If you have any nerd friends there are many good recovery programs in linux. Testdisk is good for making a disk bootable again. I used it to recover movies of my son's basketball games.

Photorec is supposed to be good too but testdisk worked for me and I didn't need it.


November 15th, 2017 at 4:04 PM ^

I used these guys a few years ago after a fatal crash: https://www.ttrdatarecovery.com

Was expensive ($700-iish mentioned above sounds about right) but they got the job done except one file affected by a physical crash on the media.

I tend to keep anything important on multiple drives in addition to backups nowdays. Storage is now cheap but quality has gone downhill along with it IMHO.

Longballs Dong…

November 15th, 2017 at 4:18 PM ^

I've been through this, I'm assuming you have a standard 3.5" SATA drive.  First, i would buy a cheap ($15-$20) SATA to USB connector.  That will allow you to connect the hard drive to another computer eliminating any other PC issues.  If you're lucky, that will load your drive exactly as you'd like to see it.  I would think Best Buy tried this and then gave up.  If you can connect this way (even if you don't see the directories) you can begin running some data recovery programs.  If those don't work, you probably have something bad and need a professional.  You can youtube how to fix stuck heads (if the harddrive loads but only clicks or beeps) but it involves opening the hard drive which is typically a no-no without a sterile room.  I wouldn't attempt anything beyond that.  Don't go to a local PC repair, they are unlikely to have a proper sterile room and will likely be a waste of time (like best buy).  Find a data recovery specialist online and mail it to them.  Expect it to cost $600 - $1000 depending on size and issue.  Good luck.  


November 15th, 2017 at 4:33 PM ^

I'm going to add what Longball Dong stated above (excellent username btw) and need some additional questions. Feel free to email me at rs   207200 at gmail  dot com


  1. Windows or Apple Machine?
  2. Laptop or Desktop?
  3. What do you mean by 'hard drive' crashed?  So when you turn on the computer, you cannot 'login'?  You just get a blank screen?  Black screen showing an error message?


Based on these answers, removing the hard drive and plugging into another machine is likely your best option.  


November 15th, 2017 at 4:35 PM ^

Before you send the drive off to a pro... try the simple way first. Get an adapter or docking port. Connect the drive to a computer, then try this program... there are others as well.


If the drive is even working a little bit... the software will begin scanning the drive. It might take a few hours to complete. Once it's finished, it will show you what it recovered. Then select where you want the files saved, it will save them to that location. The files might be labled differently, but they'll be intact... if the software was able to access the drive.

It's possible to recover data from reformated drives, crashed drives, ect. I have used easeus and other programs with a high degree of success. As long as the drive is functional, you've got a good chance. Good Luck.


November 15th, 2017 at 5:23 PM ^

You'll lose whatever was on that physical sector and possibly access to everything else if the disks catalog is corrupted.

I too would try the target-disk-mode/connect it to another computer with a compatible OS and see what it looks like. If that doesn't work, then try one of the send us the drive places.

Also, as a PSA, this still reading can spare themselves this problem by having a robust backup strategy. Often a local disk to which you schedule regular copies is sufficient. Apple's Time Machine does this out of the box. If you want online backup with zero hassles, consider one of the services that provide such a thing; Backblaze is well-spoken-of and has Mac and PC clients.


November 15th, 2017 at 5:24 PM ^

A USB stick. You will be able to boot up your PC and likely explore your hardrive using the Linux OS. If this sounds remotely possible, reply to this and I will send more detailed instructions. I used this method to retrieve files and save them to a flash drive.


November 15th, 2017 at 5:45 PM ^

I have recovered like 5 HDs, all successfully. As you probably gathered by now, if its a mechanical failure, you'll need a specialist because they will need to literally take the plate out and install it on a new mount. 

If its a software failure, which most of the failures are IMO, then this will be pretty easy to fix. You go get a harness - basically a cable that connects to the back of your HD on one end, and goes to USB on the other. The harness is pretty easy to find at Best Buy or whatever, just make sure to bring the HD with you because there are a few different types.

Then use another computer and install HD recovery software. I forgot which one is best, since I haven't done it in a while. (there are probably good suggestions even in this thread).

Connect the HD to the computer, run the software, and you'll probably be able to get back about 80-90% of your files