my hard drive crashed...Recovery procedures?

My younger brother the computer tech had a look at it, offered a few suggestions to possibly revive it long enough to transfer the files elsewhere (didn’t succeed) pronounced it dead. I asked him about disk recovery services, and he told me that they require such expensive high technology that it would be cheaper to simply buy an entire new computer.

So it looks like I’ll be shelling out for a new disk + operating system installation/configuration next month to somebody ( I don’t have access to the operating system disks).

But to satisfy my curiosity, exactly what processes have to be gone through to recover the files on a crashed hard drive, what special equipment is used, and how much exactly does it cost?

Thanks for the edjumacation!

P.S. Also, what can cause a hard drive to crash?

Hard drives can fail in many weird and wonderful ways.
If your drive still spins, and the heads move, you many be able to recover much of your data. I use OS X, and my disk recover toolbox consists of Disk Warrior, CopyCat X, and Data Rescue. I’ve been able to recover two hard drives in the last month using these tools. In both cases, it took several days to finish the recover. Also, as is typical, neither person had any backups.

Drives crash when the heads impact the drive platters. This will wipe out data at the impact site, and can damage the head itself. Drives and also fail due to motor or controller failures. I’ve also seen a drive that had the wires to the head come unsoldered.

Hard drives are the one “wearing” part in a computer. One should always assume they are going to fail at any time.

Well if it’s “dead”, as in not reformat-able, then it’s probably an actual “hardware” problem. Hard drives have moving parts (electric motors, spinning discs, moving actuator arms) and sometimes things just wear out and break.

Data recovery can involve dis-assembly of the drive in a “clean” environment, bypassing the on-board controllers to get it spinning again, re-mounting the platters and/or actuator arm. All are manpower-intensive tasks.

As for buying a new drive, doesn’t your brother have a spare laying around? I do some PC/laptop repair and almost always have a couple of them around. In any event, a quick Google shows some advertised data recovery fees around $100-150. A new hard drive will cost maybe $50-100 depending.
As far as buying a new copy of your OS, have you considered Linux? Most versions are free, extremely stable and support most hardware. You didn’t mention if you use Mac or PC, but if cost is a factor, I’m assuming PC. A new copy of OS X is only $30 for the digital download. If it’s Windows, that can be steep.

My brother is staying with my dad for a few months. Dad does have a couple of out-of-service (but usable) hard drives laying around, but he reports that they don’t use the same connector type (IDE) that my computer uses.

All the computers in the house (and now we’re down to 2 desktops and 2 netbooks) use Windows XP.

I was quoted a price of $500-1400 for up to 300GB of data recovery, with a non-refundable $95 “see what we can do” fee in 2009.

My response? “I’m sure they’ll re-run those episodes of Warehouse 13 again sometime.” :slight_smile:

As for Linux, I have the idea in my head that I would need to actually know what every single line of code in my Operating System says. And means.

Also it’s my understanding that it doesn’t support JAWS.

Well, this is a 200GB HD, and it’s less than 1/2 full, so I might hope for something toward the lower end of that range.

Still, scary. I’ve got work needs doing on my car that should take priority over that.

I had other things that took priority as well.

Like eating and continuing to live indoors.

See if your brother will do this…

Put the drive in one of your other XP boxes as a slave/secondary drive. I’m gonna guess they have IDE connectors.

Use the free app TestDisk to see if he can recover any data and copy it to the host computer’s drive temporarily. Partition Recovery and File Undelete

Might not work but that is a free way to try to get data back.

ZipperJJ’s suggestion is great. I’d amend it to include making sure the boot order in the BIOS does not try to boot from the IDE drive. Many, many BIOSes will assume that if an IDE (a.k.a. PATA) drive is connected that it should be the boot drive. I’ve made this mistake myself recently, which is why it’s on my mind.

What do you mean by “crashed?”
If the drive is not turning, you are toast. If it’s not responding, many software errors can say the drive is not readable or “the drive cannot be mounted.”
I go through a series of moves to recover such data. I use a Linux CD to try to read files. I go through all the recovery disk options. Windows will try to repair the start-up and so forth. On this last one I worked on, Microsoft went through five attempts before giving me a screen that the program could not be repaired. I used an “Ultimate Boot Disk” to run a drive test using Western Digital’s Life Guard. That program scanned the disk and made repairs supposedly. I booted the computer and it did load as desired. Then my friend tried to defrag the thing and we were back where we started. This laptop had Windows 7 Home Premium as an OEM build. Most sellers place a recovery partition on the drive that will get you back to “as purchased” condition. From the Win7 recovery disk, the image recovery option allows you to save all user info from the damaged partition and that info plus the rebuilt partition are saved to the new partition. It worked great. Maybe you would be in a position to try this if the problem is not a severe hardware failure. Again, a software problem can mimic a hardware failure.