Hard drive recovery services rarely offer flat-rate pricing – in fact, we recommend avoiding ones that do. With the many different types and models of data storage devices, different amounts and types of data stored, and the variety of issues that could be affecting them, no two data recovery cases are alike. This is why most services must perform an evaluation on your drive before quoting a price for the job. The evaluation not only determines how much work they'll need to do to recover the data, but also the probability of successfully recovering all data. It's at this point you can decide whether or not to go with the service to handle the case.
While many services don't post or even estimate what your cost would be without evaluating your device, the most common pricing estimates we found when inquiring about a single hard drive with an unknown issue were between $200 and $700 for the standard services. Recovery costs on larger, more complicated devices such as a RAID server were likely to range in the thousands.
It's risky to go with a service that offers a flat rate on recovery. Sometimes recovery jobs can be resolved with a simple fix. You're likely to overpay if this is the case and you use a flat-rate service. Services that quote you a price often give you a full breakdown of their evaluation, what the problem is, and what it will take to fix and recover. This transparency is critical when you're handing over your valuable data to another company.
The best services we reviewed offer a "no data, no cost" guarantee, which assures clients that they will not pay if the service is unsuccessful at pulling data from the drive. Some services don't offer this guarantee but do offer a free evaluation of your drive. Other services still charge a flat evaluation fee for looking over the drive to see if data can be salvaged. In our reviews, we point out whether a company carries this guarantee, just has a free evaluation or charges an evaluation fee.
Nearly every service on our list offers expedited service for when you need your data quickly and emergency service for when it's critical that you get your data back as soon as possible. These emergency services are typically available 24/7 and will immediately work to get your drive in their hands for recovery when time is critical. Depending on how many drives you're submitting and the extent of the damage, you can get your recovered data within just a few days. Just be aware that these services cost much more than the standard service.
A few more things to keep in mind when preparing to go with a recovery service is that many times you'll need to provide a working storage device to transfer the recovered data onto. If not that, you'll have to purchase a storage device from the service, which will ship it back to you with your data. Depending on the amount of data recovered, some services can do an FTP transfer of your data over the internet, but this is either for special cases or small amounts of data.
When discussing your case, another thing to ask the recovery company is if it's authorized by the manufacturer of your device to perform a recovery without violating a warranty. The best services are approved by most major brands to invasively work on their hardware without voiding your warranty. After all, depending on the problem, you may be entitled to a replacement from the manufacturer.