Data Recovery

Here at MacUpgrades we have been dealing with Mac data recovery from hard drives since 2005. Over the years we have rescued data from more drives than we care to count. These have been in all states of repair. Over this time we have come to know the Mac HFS+ and APFS file systems inside out, and are extremely experienced with the structure of macOS drives and the hardware and software tools which work well with them. We are experienced with Apple FileVault systems of encryption and the special procedures which are necessary to recover data from these drives (we will need your password) as well as all the usual Apple consumer (Photos/iPhoto databases, iMovie Projects etc.) and Pro Apps.

We know how important your data is to you and we will treat your failed drive with the utmost respect. We have a process that we work though with each failed drive, starting with the least invasive possible. This involves getting as much data as we can at each stage. We use sophisticated RAID systems to protect your data whilst we have it and prevent your privacy being compromised. Unless otherwise directed, we keep your data for 14 days after a recovery is completed to protect against accidental loss, and then securely erase it.

We take in bare hard drives, or when used in conjunction with our drive installation services, we can replace your existing drive, get your machine back up and running - then follow up with a data recovery quote after.

What we don't do

Almost all of our more sophisticated techniques are specific to hard drives (rather than SSDs). If you have a problem with an SSD you are welcome to discuss it with us, and we might be able to help, but our main focus is on hard drive data recovery.

We do not do head replacements or other component swaps in hard drives with serious physical damage internally - if your failed hard drive is making a knocking or grinding noise then you should seek a company that does offer these services.

How to know if you need data recovery

This is not always straightforward and depends on your knowledge of the Mac Operating system.

A failing drive can exhibit in a number of ways, strange noises,  very slow access, regular instances of the spinning wheel (sometime known as "the beach ball"!). But most of the time we get calls when an external hard drive is not seen by the Mac, or a Mac with an internal hard drive starts up giving a flashing question mark (which means that the Mac cannot find a bootable system - commonly a sign of some kind of drive failure).

If you get a flashing question mark the first thing to do is to boot from another device - whether that be internet recovery (hold the Command+R on boot), or via an external hard drive / USB stick with a bootable system on it (hold the "Alt/Option" key at startup to select a bootable volume to run from). Once booted up you need to open Disk Utility and see if the computer can recognise the hard drive. If the drive is greyed out, or is named incorrectly, it is a sign of corruption - which may be caused by a physical problem with the drive.

If you are thinking about data recovery you need to think about what your data is worth to you, and to think about what is or what is not backed up. Remember that you may have automatic services like Dropbox or iCloud with some of your data already safe. Providing a list of the files you need can sometimes save time and expense. Below we hope to give you an idea of what may be involved in recovering your data as well as a guide to the usual cost brackets.

Work out if you have backups of your important files, and what you don't. The more information you can give us the better.

Important things to know about data recovery

Things to let us know

Data recovery takes time, a 500GB drive has near a billion individual sectors of data - some of which contain your important data and some which don't. The more specific information you can provide as to the directory structure of your drive and the location of your desired data the easier, faster and potentially cheaper the process will be - the more information we have the better the result and potentially the lower the cost.

Let us know what you have tried, or what has happened to the drive.  In circumstances of physical damage such as fire or liquid, having prior knowledge of these facts can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful repair.

If you have opened the drive or tried replacing any boards / screws or firmware.

Expected costs

Each data recovery job is unique, and pricing depends on the complexity of the work, and the in most cases the volume of data or drive.

Here at MacUpgrades we start by doing an evaluation of your drive. Our evaluation service is £39 + vat. This pays for inspection of the drive by our trained data recovery experts to ascertain the level of damage and gauge the complexity of the repair.

  1. Software recovery - this occurs when there are no physical problems with the mechanism, but the data has become corrupted. Most usually on HFS file systems it is corruption to the Catalog B tree - this is tree like file structure which stores the name and the physical sectors over which a file exists. Without this information the file system does not know that files exist. In these circumstances we would use software tools to piece together the files from the raw data. Cost around £50 - £100 + vat.
  2. Hardware recovery - non invasive. This is the most common type of recovery we do - where there is some physical damage to parts of the hard drive but not all, resulting in very slow reads to the drive (may exhibit as the spinning wheel in OS X when trying to browse a file / directory structure). In these cases we use low level system tools to recover data sector by sector to a new drive. By altering the specific parameters of each individual read cycle it is possible to recover data that in OS systems cannot do. Cost around £150 - £250 + vat.

Things you can do if you don't want to pay or cannot afford data recovery

In some instances your data may not be worth the cost it would take to recover it. In these instances there are some things that you can try at home which may result in some data being recovered - all these software solutions have a high risk of damaging your drive further but they might help you. You will need another hard drive to move data to (hopefully) and to boot from.

  1. Reduce strain on the drive.  Boot your computer from another hard drive via USB or Thunderbolt.
  2. Check "Disk Utility" and see what information is displayed for the internal drive (look out for a grey icon, or no sign of the drive at all).

    If the drive greyed out but correctly named it may be worth running the repair disk option.

    If the drive is labeled incorrectly such as Disk1s2 then don't run the disk repair.

  3. If your drive is mounted (appears in the macOS Finder application), prioritise which data you want to recover and go after it in order, and in small pieces - it puts less strain on the drive and you will be more successful then just trying to copy the whole drive.
  4. If your drive does not mount you can try software data recovery tools such as Disk Drill. But note that if there is a hardware failure then using software tools might work, or it might kill your drive.
  5. How to Proceed

    Contact us to discuss your specific situation - you can send us an email using the form below, or call us on 01223 833 412.

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