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Kraak

Data recovery: am I getting scammed?

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Hi all,

Long time lurker in need of your advice. My wife's hard drive died over a month ago and she had crucial information on it that wasn't backed-up properly (I know I know...) As the lost of the data is not an option I looked into specialized data recovery services to recover the data. After much deliberation, I decided to go with a local company (I'm in Canada) as I prefered to drop off the drive rather then ship it.

I feel I've been given the run-around and you can see below the latest email I've received from them after I expressed my concerns. They have already changed the heads but still haven't seemed to fix the problem. I'm thinking of taking the drive back (in parts) and seeking help from a more established data recovery experts but I'm afraid the drive will be damaged beyond repair once I get it back and I'm sure another recovery company will charge me a fortune if they can even recover the data. Appreciate any advice you can provide Thanks!

Kraak

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Hello *****,

It's very difficult for us to explain anything to clients, as people who are not in this business do not always know what may happen to the hard drive and how difficult the process is. I will take my time now and will try to explain and hopefully that will make things clear for you.

I have no intention to mislead or misinform my clients. What we do is critical not just for our clients, but for us as well. It's our reputation and so far I had no single negative feedback from a single client since the company was founded. When we get customer's data and people tell us that they've got several years of pictures of their kids - we take that personal and put ourselves in client's shoes. Data recovery is a very complicated field and sometimes we go through a nightmare to get the data even if it costs us more than we quote the clients.

I have initially quoted you $1,2K including taxes. I however did not mention about possible charge for parts. It was my honest mistake and I bought parts at no additional cost to you. For the same work I would charge clients a fee of way over $2500.

Anyways, here is the history (email extracts) of my updates:

1) Aug 18th

I kept my word and purchased parts for your drive without charging you a week ago; however this drive needs more parts in order to do any further recovery.

--- Parts were purchased. Right before shipping the drive to us, I was told that some of the numbers were not matching, so I had to cancel the order. I never buy parts that are approximate match as that can kill the drive. I take my time and source the exact 100% match. Yes, it takes longer, but that way I am more confident that what I do is correct.

2) Aug 23rd

Just an update. I finally managed to find a donor drive. I'm buying two of them just in case one wouldn't be fully compatible.

--- Yes, at this point I finally found the donor drive. Requested two, just in case.

3) Aug 30th

We finally got the drive today. Took so long...

I'll be able to start working on it only on Friday, so I will let you know the status as soon as I have any news.

--- Both drives arrived. One is a 100% match, the other one wasn't. So, it was sent back. I ended up with one donor drive only.

4) Sept 1st

Everything looks fine; however the drive is still very slow. I have a feeling that there is a thermal issue (cause of overheating) and the disk platters are slowly loosing their magnetic properties.

--- Did a head replacement. Drive started to read well. After about 2-2.5 million sectors it started to slow down and started clicking sometimes. That could be a thermal issue. As you can see from my email, I said - "I have a feeling", meaning that I wasn't 100% sure. Serge, no matter how experienced a person is, nobody lives inside of the hard drive and nobody knows what exactly is happening there. All we can do is _guess_ using our knowledge and experience. Thermal issue is a number one cause of any hard drive failure, so by me stating that is quite normal.

5) Sep 12th

No update yet. Got a donor drive, managed to read just a couple of sectors and drive started to click again. We're trying to source another parts drive. Will keep you updated.

---- I was still referring to the donor drive I mentioned on Sept 1st. And as I said, the drive started clicking. I turned it off. Today turned it on again and it started clicking on me, so I turned it off and started looking for another donor drive. At that point, I sent you an update email.

------------------------------------------

*****, as you can see, lots of things were going on and that is hidden to clients. I can’t afford to provide each client with such a detailed feedback. I guess, there is not need either. It will make people confused and angry, and we’ll have to spend more time explaining “why†and “who†than doing the actual work. I hope you agree with me on that one.

Hard drive is a combination of electronics and mechanics. It fails. You get the drive running, and the second later it start clicking just by itself. Could be a firmware damage, electronics failed or mechanical – heads crash. When you bring us drives, we check them out visually, to make sure we don't turn them on if there is a head crash (to prevent further damage). If all looks good, we proceed. If the drive is reading, we start the process. While the process anything could happen. The drive could actually die and be unrecoverable. It's not us who did this. It's a hard drive. When you bring a drive to us (or to any other place) you are bringing the drive that already has a problem, so you can't really be surprised about my statement about your drive started to click. The drive that comes to data recovery company has already failed, so when do the recovery – we work with failed drives. These drives are not stable and as I said, could die anytime. Once the drive is accessible, we start making the image (#1 rule in data recovery). After the image is done, we work with that image, so if we damage something – we damage the image, not the client’s drive.

*****, I don't want you to be suspicious. If you are not happy with us, please come and collect your hard drive.

I don't always have to write such emails to my clients and prove my work. Nobody knows how difficult the process it and what we go through to get the data off the drive. If you are losing your confidence, please let me know and I will have your hard drive ready for pick up. I went through quite some difficulties locating donor drives for this case while providing you with a low fee for this job.

Yes, it took so long to work with your drive, but it's not me who delays the process. When you brought the drive to me, it was dead. I spent quite some time and finally made it read, however it was reading very slow. So, I dedicated a complete recovery system for you without raising the cost. It's all hidden for you and no single client knows all the hard work behind "data recovery". I could've told you that we can't fix this drive, and at the same time I'd use that recovery system for other clients and would make money. That's not my life style. When I promise something - I do it. If I can't recover, at least I know I did my best and I apologize.

I guess I explained enough. I will be out of town till Friday morning. If you'd like to come and pick up the hard drive, please let me know. Until then, I will postpone sourcing parts for your hard drive.

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I honestly don't think that you're getting scammed. Once upon a time, my wife had a similar issue, and the prices she was quoted were in that range (and the hard drive was still operational! the issue was a virus that wiped the data). She opted not to do it, because she couldn't afford it (in the meanwhile I set up a "zero-intervention" daily backup system for her, but that's another story).

Data recovery is a nasty business. Because they only get money if they do retrieve the data, the price has to cover for failed attempts as well.

My advice - let the guy do his job. If he can't figure it out, there's little chance somebody else can do it.

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Thanks for your insight vlad, much appreciated.

I want to believe he is sincere but the real issue is that there is no way for me to really know what is going on either way as this is such a niche technical area (and I consider myself far from being a neophyte).

Any other opinions out there? Perhaps from data recovery experts?

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My observation:

"I have initially quoted you $1,2K including taxes. I however did not mention about possible charge for parts. It was my honest mistake"

Not sure if you’re being scammed but at the minimum this is an unprofessional statement, I would question their experience or training. Someone who makes a living at a certain task could write those estimates in their sleep and would not 'forget' to add things.

Other then that he seems to be giving you TMI (to much information) and or useless information, this appears as an attempt to put you off, buy time, or explain away his tardiness in completing your work order.

Good luck, I hope he knows what he is doing and just converses like he does because he is a squint. :)

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"Other then that he seems to be giving you TMI (to much information) and or useless information, this appears as an attempt to put you off, buy time, or explain away his tardiness in completing your work order."

Yeah, that's probably the most suspicious part of it. If you don't want to get caught from cheating, don't buy flowers, that'd make you look really guilty. So does giving TMI: true or not, giving too much explanations make all explanations look merely excuses.

The contact at your data recovery company also appear to not just give TMI but also protect himself of possible accusations to come. I ain't a a data recovery specialist, so I really can't tell if there's a lot of rude/stupid/unreasonable customers who expect a 100% success rate. Maybe he was protecting himself of unreasonable accusations... before they appear. (There are ambulance chasing lawyers, remember.) Or possibly you appeared shocked/offensive to him so he has a reason to suspect accusations later on.

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This sounds bogus, never heard of their methods. Normally you send in the drive to their lab, they analyse it for you and gives you a report with how much and what data they can recover together with a price depending on recovery method. If you accept they send you the data they managed to recover on a medium of choice.

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Ah yes forgot cost of recovery (what we pay in Sweden) for private persons (not companies):

Analysis $130

Datarecovery normal $400 - $700

Datarecovery advanced $1400 (clean room recovery)

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"Serge, no matter how experienced a person is, nobody lives inside of the hard drive and nobody knows what exactly is happening there. All we can do is _guess_ using our knowledge and experience."

This not true. There are many employed in the drive industry who are very good at failure analysis and could tell you exactly what is wrong with the drive.

Prior to replacing the heads, he should have measured the amplitude and quality of the signal from the preamp using an oscilloscope... there's no indication he did anything other than "feel" there was a "thermal issue".

Replacing the heads is risky and costly, and stupid if it's not going to fix the problem. Different heads are very likely to cause problems, because the drive is not optimized to use heads other than the ones installed at the factory. Hence the "clicking" after the heads were installed, which means the drive can't read the servo patterns any more.

This sounds like someone who does not have the necessary equipment or training to perform hardware recovery. I wouldn't pay this guy a dime. Good intuition, Kraak, to question his legitimacy.

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What kind of drive is it? Make and model exactly.

I know quite a bit about DR and my company even has an office in TO.

" have a feeling that there is a thermal issue (cause of overheating) and the disk platters are slowly loosing their magnetic properties"

That is completely false.....

The only time I've seen that is with drives that have been in a terrible fire.

Edited by DataRecoveryGuy

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Get your drive. The reply is shady in the inconsistencies and excuses. It seems pretty unprofessional to me. Sounds like he is a one man team and has a makeshift clean room or something in his closet.

A reputible company simply returns you a hard drive with your data on it from the dead one. What kind of reputible company messes up an estimate? That's like being in the car business and selling cars for less than they're worth.

Use drivesavers if you want your data back.

Drive Savers

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Thanks everybody for your input. I believe these guys are not trying to scam me but are rather small and unprofessional and might have chewed-off more than then they can handle. Some people asked more information on the drive

Drive:

- Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 120GB (6Y120P0032211)

- Was a data only drive, NTFS

Problem:

- Under XP the drive disappeared from "My Computer" and could not be seen under "Manage" -> "Disk Management"

- Drive was still seen by BIOS

My own recovery attempts:

- Various cloning attemps under Dos and Linux did not work.

- Ran Maxtor diagnostic tool, diagnostic code returned was: de946475 and said to contact Maxtor for RMA

- Ran Spinrite 6.0 but SMART repored "Imminent drive failure expected" and therefore did not attempt to fix drive witn Spinrite.

Still not sure what I'll do as I'm afraid it might be returned in a unrecoverable state. I haven't paid these guys anything yet and won't unless they succeed in recovering the data. Guess I'm hoping for the best but don't know how long I should wait.

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