There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding data recovery from hard drives and memory devices. The truth is that you do not always have to seek professional help. In fact, there are times when you can perform the data recovery yourself using readily available online tools that will save you both time and money. However, there are also situations where you may cause more harm than good with certain data recovery attempts. This article will examine both sides of the coin and explain when you can perform the recovery process yourself and when you need the help of a professional to save the backed up data.


When You Should Not Attempt A DIY Data Recovery

You’ve likely heard the expression “better safe than sorry” and when you are dealing with data recovery, this very same saying is very true. Here is a look at a couple of examples where you should seek the assistance of a professional to prevent any further damage and potential file loss.


Mechanical Failures

When a hard drive experiences a mechanical failure, it usually lets you know by making some kind of noise. Telltale signs to tip you off that a serious problem has developed include clicking sounds coming from the hard drive or a hard drive that buzzes. In order to remedy these situations, it would require removal of the hard drive to repair the mechanical failure. Unless you happen to have access to a ‘clean room’ environment, this is a job best left to a professional data recovery lab. All you need to do is accidentally remove the wrong component or otherwise mess around with the insides of your hard drive and the risk of losing all of your data increases. The general rule of thumb with this kind of scenario is that if you really do not know what you are doing once you pop open the hard drive casing, you shouldn’t be doing it.


Electronic Failures

This is another example of when damage is beyond the repair of the average computer user. Electronic failures can damage many different components on the PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) or the corruption of firmware contained on PBCs, depending on the PCB design. PCBs are produced by many companies, among which Then there’s burnt chips or actual physical damage that may occur to the interface of the hard drive (SATA, IDE, SCSI, etc.). The simple solution you may come up with is thinking that since all electronics must be the same from one disk to another that you can do a quick and simple swap of a damaged part. It sounds logical if you matched the same model drive, right? Well, in a perfect world that could be possible but in the computer world it isn’t simply because all electronics are not the same. This is a job for a professional as you will end up wasting both time and money on this one.


When You Can Perform A DIY Data Recovery

So, if mechanical or electronic failures occur, you should not attempt to recover the data yourself. But when can you? There is one basic category of failures where you can actually save time and money (and data) by doing it on your own.


Logical Failures

There are many examples of logical failures that you can safely recover data without the assistance of a professional. They include corrupted file systems and inaccessible drives. In fact, you should actually perform a data recovery in these cases before taking your hard drive to a lab for professional help. You will easily save yourself hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars as a result. But before you do anything, there is a safety measure that you should take.


Sector By Sector Copy

If you conduct a sector by sector copy of your device – a memory card, hard drive or USB drive – you will have a backed up copy for you to go back to should something happen during the data recovery process. There are many online tools you can use for this sector by sector copying process but one great freeware option is found here: It is actually a good idea to make two copies while you are at it just to be safe.

There is a disclaimer, though. Devices with integrated internal memory chips such as mobile devices (unless they contain external SD cards) will not respond to this form of data recovery.


For Additional Assistance

I have recently came across an easy-to-follow and comprehensive step-by-step tutorial on a data recovery blog that outlines DIY data recovery process. The tutorial is free and uses free tools that I will share with you so that you can perform simple recovery of data resulting from logical failures. However, for the more serious type of failures, mechanical or electronic, you have no sensible recovery techniques available as a DIY. Your best solution in these cases is to seek a professional data recovery lab.