Dell Hard Drive Recoveryby James Ballou
Hard drive recovery from a Dell computer or from any other computer involves taking steps to retrieve data when the computer is no longer functioning correctly. When a user needs to recover data from a Dell computer there are a number of resources and some specific steps that should be followed. Dell users should take advantage of those opportunities to help them limit the costs incurred by hard drive failure. In addition to official support, owners of Dell products can contact a number of professional services that specialize in recovering data from Dell hard drives.
Recovering vs. Restoring
Restoring a computer is the process of returning the hard disk drive (HDD) to the factory settings usually by inserting a number of restoration CDs or DVDs. Restoring completely erases the existing information from the HDD. Recovery involves accessing a computer disk as part of an effort to salvage data. Recovery is used when a disk fails to perform properly and there are no backups of the data. Dell owners that have a problem with their HDD must be clear about the need to recover data vs. their need to restore settings. If you no longer have access to your data due to a malfunction in the power up sequence then recovery may be in order. If your data is secure on another disk and you are having problems getting your Dell computer to boot up properly you may choose to restore the drive using the appropriate CDs or DVDs. In either case, you can get help determining your needs from the Dell support website at http://support.dell.com/.
Like any company that sells computer systems, Dell is aware that a certain number of problems will occur and has implemented processes to assist and protect consumers. Some of this assistance is covered under a warranty. Dell's limited warranty offers some coverage against lost data. According to the Dell website, recovery services are available for consumers for 30 days following the purchase date "for hard drives in non-RAID configurations on Dell OptiPlex™, Dell Precision™, Dell Latitude™ and Dell Vostro™." (See Reference 1) Drives not of the type previously mentioned and drives past the 30-day warranty can still be recovered but the consumer will need to pay for the service that Dell provides. Consumers that need to pay for recovery services should be aware that there are many companies that specialize in servicing Dell hard disks such as ECO Data Recovery (http://www.ecodatarecovery.com) and RESCUECOM (http://www.rescuecom.com). The cost can vary depending on the company so it is in the consumer's interest to compare pricing before paying Dell or any other company to perform the data recovery. Some recovery companies offer a money-back guarantee for their Dell hard drive recovery services. These companies don't charge a customer if they can't recover any of the data. This is a valuable option since data recovery can cost hundreds of dollars depending on the amount and condition of the drive.
Consumers should know that a hard disk failure does not necessarily mean that all of the data has been lost. In some cases, the damage is confined to a set of files that reside in a damaged sector of the hard drive. If the damage to the HDD is the result of proper use, the likelihood of restoring the data improves. However, if the damage is caused by dropping, hitting, excessive heat or other external factors then the likelihood decreases. Hard drives can fail to function properly for a number of reasons including "write head" damage, "head arm" malfunctions or platter corruption. Dell computers don't seem to face any more hard drive problems than any other companies but a small percentage of hard drives are destined to have problems.
If you suspect you have a hard drive problem you should take steps to minimize the damage. Avoid trying to boot up the computer because you may do additional damage by mistake. Move the drive as little as possible and speak to a recovery expert right away. Once the recovery company has the computer they can begin attempting to retrieve the data. Standard Dell computers are not configured to pull data from damaged hard disk drives. The reason for this is quite simple. Most Dell computers run the operating system on the same disk that holds the consumer's data. When the hard drive is damaged, the operating system may lose critical files preventing the system from booting up. Recovery service providers connect to a consumer drive as an external data source. Since they don't need to run the consumer's operating system, they have more flexibility to get at the data on the disk assuming that the disk is still readable.
The nature and extent of the damage determine the amount of data that is recoverable. For example, data that is on a corrupted sector of a disk may not be retrievable at all but the data on the rest of the disk may be salvageable. Another important issue to keep in mind is the status of the restore disks for the computer. Many companies including Dell are no longer sending restore disks along with new computers. Instead, a partition is made on the HDD with the necessary data that allows consumers to make their own restore disks. The recovery process may obliterate that partition or the disk malfunction may cause you to lose that entire disk. If the restore disks were not created prior to the HDD failure, the restore data may be gone for good. However, Dell may work with you even if you are past the 30-day warranty but it is not a sure thing. If you have lost the disk and the recovery partition you can ask Dell to send you the operating system and the drivers but each situation is different. One final point to remember before paying for any service, or taking any action. As soon as you know that you have a problem, you should always check with Dell to determine the status and extent of your warranty coverage by calling 1-800-WWW-DELL. Expenses that are incurred as a result of a HDD failure can often be limited with a simple call. Even if you are past the warranty period, there could always be a known problem with a drive that a manufacturer is willing to fix. Do yourself a favor and check with them first.