$300 Data Recovery and My Broken Hard Drive

Today, I shipped off a hard drive to $300 Data Recovery, which after a little (well, actually a lot) of online research, seems to be the best data recovery operation for me at the right price.

What impressed me about $300 Data Recovery is the upfront, flat-fee pricing, as well as some of the comments made by employees in YouTube videos and interviews.

This blog post will document my experience using the company to recover data from my busted hard drive.

I. What happened to my hard drive?

In early June 2020, I bought a house and had to move. During the move, the wrong power supplies were placed in the box I used to store a couple of external hard drive docks.

It turns out that hard drives do not appreciate it when you put them in a dock and then connect a 24V power supply rather than a 12V one. The hard drive essentially died instantly. It refused to power on or spin up.

This may actually be good news. These days, hard drive PCB boards are equipped with transient-voltage suppression (TVS) diodes designed to protect the drive from just such power spikes. Basically, in the presence of excessive voltage, the TVS fails but, in doing so, protects the device as a whole.

There are many online tutorials and videos about fixing a device with a bad TVS diode, but electronics are not really my thing, so I’m shipping off the drive to the experts.

II. The Shippening

To start the process, I filled out an extensive form at $300 Data Recovery (it was painful to give up the password for the Veracrypt volume on the drive) and was given an order number and shipping instructions.

I may have gone overboard, but being paranoid about shipping hard drives, I took extreme precautions.

First, I put the drive in a Silicon Forensics hard drive transporter. These things add quite a bit of heft to the hard drive, but I’ve been using them for years to transport hard drives and have yet to have a drive suffer any mechanical issues.

Then I got a 16 x 16 x 16 box and a 100-foot roll of 5/16″ bubble wrap from Office Depot. I used the entire roll of bubble wrap to encase the hard drive on all sides until it fit extremely snugly into the box.

There’s a FedEx store near my office, so I shipped it via FedEx Ground.

Total cost so far: $99

Shipping: $79
Bubble wrap and box: $20

And now, I wait for the hard drive to arrive in California.

III. The Arrival

The shipping process will, hopefully, be the most stressful part of this process. It took FedEx Ground nine days to get my hard drive to California–and several of those days were spent with an ominous red “Delayed” tag accompanied by a message that no delivery time could be estimated.

The one thing I feared most in this process was a shipping company losing my hard drive before it ever reached the data recovery center. That being said, it did actually arrive on Friday, November 12.

IV. The Initial Approval

$300 Data Recovery was a bit more forthcoming. Just a couple hours after the hard drive arrived, I received an email from the company requiring a response.


Hi Brian,

We just received your device!

Before we can start working on your data recovery, we need to review our policies, just to avoid any confusion down the road. Please write back to confirm that you understand and agree to our Terms & Conditions below (you can just write “I AGREE”).


Unlike other data recovery companies, we do not diagnose your device first and then provide an estimated cost for recovery. Instead, our flat fee rates are pre-determined, and you agree to pay our rate (specified below) if we can retrieve at least 99% of the data/sectors on your device.

IF WE CAN RECOVER AT LEAST 99% OF THE DATA/SECTORS ON YOUR DEVICE, YOU AGREE TO PAY $400 (this includes our $100 fee because your device’s capacity is greater than 2TB).

*If your drive is found to be encrypted (i.e., with Bitlocker, FileVault, WD Smartware, etc), a $100 “encryption fee” will apply.

If we recover less than 99% of the sectors on your device, we will send you a file listing of the good/bad files (if not possible, then the “percentage” of the files or sectors recovered). You can then decide if the data we recovered is worth our rate. We charge a $100 LABOR FEE (per drive) if you don’t want the data we recovered.

About 25% of drives we receive have bad heads (these are most often drives that have been dropped and/or are clicking. We always try to offer our customers the option of an affordable “partial” recovery, by disabling the bad head(s) and recovering data using the remaining good heads. However, sometimes the only way to recover any data is by replacing parts inside the drive. In these cases, we will offer you the option of paying for the necessary donor part after we find the best matching donor online. You can also decline our attempt (for no charge, excluding up-front fees) if the cost of donor parts is too expensive.

If we are unable to retrieve any data from your device, there is no charge (besides shipping back, if applicable).

Once we determine that at least 99% of your data is recoverable, or after you approve a “partial recovery” because less than 99% recovered, we will start moving your data to the smallest drive we have available for purchase that can accommodate all your data.


If we are not able to successfully recover your data, we only permit sending your device(s) back to your address on file (some exceptions allowed with prior approval). We may also offer to send your hard drive to another data recovery company if we think there is still a chance for recovery with a more expensive company. We will not send your hard drive to any data recovery company we do not trust.

We charge a flat-rate for shipping any single-drive recovery (one bad drive + one transfer drive): $10 anywhere in California; $15 elsewhere in the US. Shipping to other countries and multi-drive recoveries (i.e. RAIDs or several recoveries in one shipment) will cost extra (price to be determined based on actual shipping rate).


At the end of our service, we will send you a money request for payment.

We also accept payment via Bitcoin.

You will have 14 days to pay for your recovery. After 14 days of non-payment, you will incur a $10/week storage fee. After 60 days of non-payment and non-communication, we will recycle your drive (including a transfer drive, if applicable).


By responding “I AGREE,” you agree that under no circumstances shall you be permitted to return to $300 Data Recovery (whether for a cash refund, credit, or exchange) any goods or services provided, including, but not limited to, any transfer hard drive sold to you in order to accommodate all recovered data.

Please let us know if you have any questions about our services, policies, or pricing, BEFORE agreeing to our terms.

Thank you!

$300 Data Recovery

I immediately responded “I agree” and was greeted with a follow-up email a short time later.

Hi Brian,

Your device has reached the front of our data recovery queue and we have started to work on recovering your data! 

We should have another status update soon (usually within 5-6 days for standard service and 1-2 days for Priority service), but it could be longer or shorter depending on the exact problem with your device.

Thank you,
$300 Data Recovery

And now, I wait.

V. The Recovery

It didn’t take long to get an answer back on recovering data from my drive.

November 15 at 8:39 p.m., this showed up in my inbox,

Hi Brian,

We were able to recover 100% of the sectors on your device.

We’ve started moving your recovered data to the transfer drive and we’ll touch base when it’s all finished and ready to go.

The problem(s) with your device include (at least):

DEFECTIVE/FAULTY PCB (CIRCUIT BOARD ON THE HARD DRIVE). The PCB holds information unique to your hard drive and must be fully operational for the hard drive to function properly. The PCB is similar to a computer’s motherboard/BIOS — it contains the basic instructions which enable the hard drive to function.

Based on the problem(s) with your device and the complexity of your recovery, you likely saved over $850 by choosing $300 Data Recovery to recover your data!

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Thank you!

VI. The Review/Approval Process

After receiving word that all the sectors on my hard drive were recoverable and my data was being transferred to another drive, I didn’t hear from $300 Data Recovery for a few days. On November 18 at 3:28 p.m., however, they contacted me to let me know the transfer process was complete and asked me to review a listing of the recovered files.

We have finished moving your data to your transfer drive. The last step is for you to download and examine our file listing to confirm that the files you want are present.

Please follow these steps to see your file listing:

1) Click the following link to download the .zip file containing your file listing (if the link shows “404 Error” then you are likely behind a firewall in a corporate setting; please try again from home): [REDACTED]

2) Find the .zip file in your Downloads folder

3) Double click the .zip file to “unzip” the .html file

4) Double click the .html file to open the file listing in your web browser

. . .

If everything looks good, reply to this email to let us know, and we’ll get it finished up. If not, please describe any missing files/folders, and we’ll search for them.

I was actually fairly impressed by the HTML file they sent me, which was an interactive, navigable representation of the file structure rather than just some text dump. I was able to quickly confirm that everything on the listing matched what was on the hard drive. They really did recover everything.

I replied that the file list was accurate, and received a reply that represented the only minor snag so far.

Thank you for your response. We are going to finish things up and we will contact you again as soon as your drive is ready to go.

Please also note, since the total amount of recovered data is close to or exceeds 1TB, we will NOT be keeping a backup of your data. For this reason, it’s important to backup the transfer drive as soon as you get your data back so your data is safely in two places.

We use U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail for return shipping, but before we can prepare your drive for return shipping, we need you to quickly confirm your return shipping address is correct.

I was a bit surprised that the company would not be maintaining a temporary on-site backup until I received the transfer drive and confirmed the data made it back safely. That obviously represents additional expenses in time and money, but I’m surprised they didn’t offer to do so far an additional fee.

On the other hand, the data on the drive is moderately sensitive, so I’m not sure I would have gone for making an additional backup copy of the drive. Either way, I confirmed my address and didn’t bring up the issue.

VII. Payment

This is the point at which $300 Dollar Data Recovery finally requested payment, and I paid immediately.

My final cost was significantly higher than $300, but I knew it would be based on the estimate the company gave me after filling out their online form to start the process. The only thing I didn’t factor in was the cost of the company shipping back the hard drive via USPS priority mail, which ended up making the final cost a bit higher than I anticipated.

It was, however, fully in line with what I expected and it is probably difficult for the company to give an estimate of return shipping costs before they’ve received the hard drive or device to be recovered.

I paid the fee immediately, and later that night was given a USPS priority tracking number. Because that was on a Friday afternoon, the package wasn’t actually picked up and taken to a USPS facility until Monday, November 22nd. USPS gave me an estimated delivery of November 26–delayed a bit by the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

Apple Lies to Customers about Data Recovery from Damaged iPhones

In this fascinating video, the CBC follows a couple who needed to recover thousands of pictures from an iPhone after it was dropped in water. The video shows how Jessa Jones, who specializes in iPhone repair, is able to get the dead phone working again so that the couple can get their priceless photos back.

The kicker, though, is that Apple’s official forums ban Jessa and others who point out this option to iPhone users. In fact, users are frequently told that recovering data from dead or damaged iPhones is impossible, and that those who claim they can do so are scammers. Jones herself regularly has her posts deleted and account banned for simply stating the truth–that there is a good chance that a third party repair service will be able to assist in recovering the data.

As Jones points out in a subsequent video on Louis Rossman’s YouTube channel, Apple is actively harming its users with this absurd tone deaf approach. Someone who seeks to recover their memories from a device deserves more from Apple than boilerplate “if it wasn’t backed up to iCloud it can’t be recovered” nonsense.

Shame on Apple.

Backblaze on Data Reliability/Durability with Its Cloud Storage Service

Backblaze recently published an in-depth look at how durable/reliable data that is stored with its service is–i.e., what are the odds that you’ll want to retrieve a specific set of data from the service and find out that won’t be able to?

At the end of the day, the technical answer is “11 nines.” That’s 99.999999999%. Conceptually, if you store 1 million objects in B2 for 10 million years, you would expect to lose 1 file. There’s a higher likelihood of an asteroid destroying Earth within a million years, but that is something we’ll get to at the end of the post.

. . .

When you send us a file or object, it is actually broken up into 20 pieces (“shards”). The shards overlap so that the original file can be reconstructed from any combination of any 17 of the original 20 pieces. We then store those pieces on different drives that sit in different physical places (we call those 20 drives a “tome”) to minimize the possibility of data loss. When one drive fails, we have processes in place to “rebuild” the data for that drive. So, to lose a file, we have to have four drives fail before we had a chance to rebuild the first one.

The analysis then goes on to present a lot of math related to the time it takes for Backblaze to rebuild any data lost and its overall drive failure rate, but the general thrust is that it is extremely unlikely that Backblaze would ever suffer data loss from normal technical failures.

But at some point, we all start sounding like the guitar player for Spinal Tap. Yes, our nines go to 11. Where is that point? That’s open for debate. But somewhere around the 8th nine we start moving from practical to purely academic. Why? Because at these probability levels, it’s far more likely that:

  • An armed conflict takes out data center(s).
  • Earthquakes / floods / pests / or other events known as “Acts of God” destroy multiple data centers.
  • There’s a prolonged billing problem and your account data is deleted.

There is one thing of interest in the odd way Backblaze concludes its analysis, however,

Eleven years in and counting, with over 600 petabytes of data stored from customers across 160 countries, and well over 30 billion files restored, we confidently state that our system has scaled successfully and is reliable. The numbers bear it out and the experiences of our customers prove it.

Note that this doesn’t say that they’ve never come across a file they were unable to restore due to technical, backend reasons (rather than issues related to customer credit cards, etc.)

Recuva – Excellent Deleted File Recovery Tool for Windows

So I’m a dumbass and in the process of attempting to make a 1:1 copy of every file on a full 2 TB hard drive, actually managed to delete them all before I realized what I was doing (did I mention I’m a dumbass sometime). Fortunately once I realized there were no longer any files on my drive, I did stop everything immediately so no data would overwrite the actual file data. Then I started looking for recovery options.

I finally settled on Piriform’s Recuva recovery software which had a number of things going for it.

First, it’s free. And not free as in “it’s free for the first 50 gb of files and after that you’ll need to pay us” but free as in I was able to recover every single deleted file on my hard drive without paying free. Even the Professional version is dirt cheap at just $24.95. That compares well to the $80 its nearest competitor wanted.

Second, it worked very well. When I realized my files had been deleted I did a few Google searches on reviews of data recovery software and quite a few roundups of such software rated Recuva as the best for recovering deleted files. A quick test showed why that was the case. Recuva quickly analyzed my hard drive and gave me an exhaustive list of all the deleted files on the drive, whether they were recoverable, etc.

It took me just a few minutes using some advanced filters to tell Recuva exactly what I wanted recovered, where I wanted the files to be written to, and I was on my way. Many hours later I had recovered all of the deleted files in their original directory structure, after which I made a Success Kid fist and cheered.