We're pleased to welcome the data-recovery firm The Data Rescue Center as our latest TidBITS sponsor. Although you may not be familiar with The Data Rescue Center name, you'll likely recognize their parent company, Prosoft Engineering, makers of the Data Rescue and Drive Genius software packages. Prosoft has been around since 1985, writing drivers and disk-related code that was licensed to Apple for Drive Setup and the disc burning features in iTunes.
When founding The Data Rescue Center in 2009, Prosoft's goal was to provide affordable data recovery services from both hard drives with logical problems and drives that had suffered physical damage. Although there are many highly reputable data recovery firms out there, they'd heard stories of other companies charging hundreds or even thousands of dollars for recovery jobs that required only running their $99 Data Rescue software.
When I talked with Gordon Bell, president of The Data Rescue Center, he told me that they first encourage people whose drives aren't making unusual noises (or evincing some other sign of physical damage) to try the demo version of Data Rescue, which can show files available for recovery and can recover a single file. If it works, it's easy to register it online and use it. (Keep in mind that Data Rescue recovers files to another disk; it does not attempt to repair disk structures, so you'd want to recover, reformat, and restore the data. And keep better backups!)
If you're at all unsure, you can talk with a technician and get advice about the best plan of action for free. If you end up sending in a drive with logical problems for diagnosis and recovery with Data Rescue via their Red Box program (they send you a prepaid shipping box designed to hold a hard drive securely) it will probably cost about $150, and they include a copy of Data Rescue when they return your data or give you a $100 discount if you already own the software.
For drives with physical problems, the costs are of course higher and variable, so within a day or two of receipt, a technician sends you a full diagnosis in email along with calling to answer any questions. The minimum price for a physical recovery is $300, and Gordon Bell said most recoveries end up costing between $600 and $1,000 due to the extra labor, the need for a clean room environment, and any necessary donor parts. All that said, they won't charge anything for a physically damaged drive if they can't recover any data, with the exception of recoveries involving damaged drive heads, since it's not uncommon for replacement heads to be damaged as well in the process of attempting to recover data.
Although The Data Rescue Center's drive recovery services sound great, it's always worth remembering that they won't be necessary at all if you keep good backups. However, The Data Rescue Center offers other services that fall under the data recovery rubric. For instance, they do a lot of photo archiving - scanning of physical photos to digital formats so you aren't vulnerable to losing the originals (and so you can use them like your modern digital photographs). For that, they use fancy Kodak scanners, and whether or not you could do the scanning yourself on your own scanner, many of us haven't. When I asked about the pricing ($0.29 per photo for 300 dpi images, $0.39 for 600 dpi, and $0.49 for 1200 dpi), Gordon Bell said that for all but significant enlargements, only 300 dpi is necessary and that the scanning is done at their offices in Silicon Valley, so photos aren't shipped to India for the actual work, as some services do.
Similarly, if you have data that's essentially stranded on an old hard drive, tape drive, Zip or Jaz cartridge, or floppy disk, The Data Rescue Center will "rescue" it by migrating it to a hard drive or DVDs for you. They'll even digitize audio from old cassette tapes or video from old videotapes, in a wide variety of formats. Data migration costs vary, of course, and don't include the cost of a destination drive or DVDs, which they can provide.
Honestly, I've never needed to use a data recovery service, since I keep good backups. But I do have a bunch of old photos that I'd love to have in digital form, along with some videotapes that I've planned to digitize for years without actually accomplishing anything. So I'll be testing out some of The Data Rescue Center's services as soon as I can find the time to sort through all the archives and figure out what I want to protect from the ravages of being analog.
Thanks to The Data Rescue Center for their support of TidBITS and the Mac community!