Computer Data Recovery: Why So Expensive?

Here’s why computer data recovery is so expensive:

Computer data recovery is expensive because it is difficult, involves expensive tools, often requires professional expertise, and is in high demand.

The actual cost of any service will depend on what is required to salvage the data.

That’s why the service can range from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.

So if you want to learn all about computer data recovery and why it’s quite pricey, then you’re in the right place.

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Computer Data Recovery: Why So Expensive? (All the Info)

What Is Computer Data Recovery?

Let’s clarify a few things.

If you Google data recovery, you’re going to get a number of different results, and today, we’re talking about something specific. 

In this case, data recovery is the method of getting back lost data from a single device.

There are definitely other ways this phrase can be used, but we’re going to laser focus on this specific application.

So, if your personal computer’s hard drive crashes, and you want to try to save some of the data that was on it, you will need a data recovery service.

That’s the nature of today’s conversation.

What Goes Into Data Recovery? (2 Categories)

In order to explain why data recovery is so expensive, I need to break down a little bit of what goes into the process.

You see, not all data recovery jobs are equal, and because of that, the price of the work can vary by leaps and bounds.

So, when you have an idea of what might be involved in your own data recovery, then you can better estimate how much it will cost, and what options you have moving forward.

Ultimately, a lot of different techniques and tools can be used for data recovery, but for the most part, we can boil all of it into two categories.

#1 Fixing the Drive

If the storage drive is physically damaged, you’re going to lose some data.

But, data recovery services can actually rebuild drives, and when they do, a lot of data can be recovered.

This is how law enforcement can lift data from hard drives that were smashed with a hammer.

It’s also how professional data recovery services can help people even when the task seems insurmountable.

But, there are a few things to know about fixing drives.

First, it’s not a universal process. 

Not every drive can be fixed, and pretty much no two drives can be fixed to the same extent.

If your hard drive has a little bit of age and drops some data as a result, fixing it is a whole lot easier than if you demagnetized it, smashed it with a hammer, scrubbed it with powerful acids, and then set the whole thing on fire (these are not recommended tips for erasing a hard drive).

Here’s a safe rule of thumb.

No storage drive can be completely restored, but any drive can probably be restored a little bit.

The extent of damage and difficulty of repair will often impact the price of your data recovery service.

The second thing you need to know is that there are a lot of different storage drives out there. 

Hard drives, solid-state drives, NVMe drives, RAID drive systems, and many other options exist.

Fixing each one of these types of storage is a completely different process.

So, the type of drive you have will also impact the cost of recovery, and it’s not a flat rate kind of thing.

On average, recovering RAID systems and NVMe drives will be more expensive than the others, but there are plenty of scenarios where this generalization won’t hold true.

It’s probably better to think of it this way.

In order to know how much your data recovery is going to cost, an expert is going to have to assess the drive itself.

#2 Unscrambling Data

The other aspect of data recovery is making sense of restored information.

Imagine an extreme example.

Your hard drive was literally smashed into pieces.

To recover this drive, experts reassembled the hard drive piece by piece.

Once they completed that task, they tried to pull what data they could.

But, because of the damage, some bits of data were permanently lost.

So, when they extract data from the rebuilt drive, they’re left with a bit of a mess.

From that point, the challenge of data recovery is organizing the lifted data in a way that makes sense.

Now, this is a problem that exists for even the easiest data recovery jobs, and it becomes exponentially more difficult as obstacles appear.

In order to unscramble recovered data, powerful software is often deployed.

The software runs through as many possible data arrangements as it can, and then it compares those arrangements to known quantities to try to figure out which configurations make the most sense.

Think of it this way.

Imagine that a stained glass window shattered.

You collect all of the pieces and then scan them into a computer.

The computer then tries to figure out how they should be arranged to rebuild the original image.

To do this, the computer will try tons and tons of configurations, and then it will favor the ones that actually look like known pictures.

Data recovery software is essentially doing this same thing, but it’s a whole lot more complicated than a single stained glass picture.

On top of all of this, sometimes data recovery specialists are trying to rebuild files with tons of the raw information missing.

Software alone usually can’t do it, so the experts have to look through the mess of data and try to use their experience, training, and intuition to add to what the programs can provide.

If it sounds hard, that’s because it is. Data recovery can be one of the most difficult tasks in all of IT.

Why Is Computer Data Recovery Expensive? (4 Reasons)


I probably just gave you more than you bargained for in terms of how data recovery works, but you can probably already make some educated guesses as to why the task is so expensive.

It ranges from difficult to just shy of impossible.

Do you think that might impact the price?

Well, if you Google data recovery services, you’re going to find some options.

And almost without exception, you’re going to see some variation of “contact us for price.”

As we all know, that’s the price tag for the most expensive stuff.

Sarcasm aside, most data recovery experts won’t give you a flat rate price for their services.

Instead, they’ll inspect the drive to see how hard it’s going to be, and then they’ll quote you a price.

It’s often expensive, and if you want a better idea of why, we can get into this from a business-model perspective.

#1 Tools

Data recovery tools are not cheap.

In the very simplest cases, you’re going to run powerful software to try to retrieve and organize data from corrupted files or a damaged drive.

That’s the simplest scenario, and the software involved can be super pricey. 

There are cheap options if you want to try for yourself, but professional data recovery licenses often cost hundreds of dollars per year each.

That pushes the grand total for software tools in the neighborhood of tens of thousands of dollars per year.

But, software is the cheap part of this game.

If you need to physically repair a drive, it’s going to require specialized tools.

Again, these tools often hit $10,000+, and you need a lot of different tools if you’re going to service all of the drives in use these days.

It’s pretty simple business. If the tools cost a lot, the service has to justify that expense.

#2 Expertise

There are cases where labor costs considerably more than tools for data recovery.

Now, there are simple jobs where your local IT can successfully recover data.

Those jobs charge a lot less.

For the complicated cases, you’re going to have someone working on your drive who at least has a master’s degree (or equivalent) and some serious industry experience.

This type of expertise doesn’t come cheap, so you might be paying over $100 an hour just for the labor going into your data recovery service.

#3 Time

If you’re paying by the hour for service, then time is not on your side, and data recoveries can take a lot of it.

The easiest tasks can still often take over 10 hours.

Advanced data recovery can take months.

That’s multiple months with experts individually working on repairing your drive, extracting data from it, and then organizing that data into something that makes sense.

On average, your recovery service will probably fall somewhere between a few hours and a few months, but since there are so many variables at play, it’s impossible to predict how long a service will take until an expert can evaluate the drive.

And, in case it isn’t clear, longer data recovery services are going to cost a lot more.

#4 Pricing Models

At the risk of sounding like every economist ever, some of this is simple supply and demand.

There are a lot more people in the world who have lost data than know how to recover it.

So, the supply for these services can’t keep up with the demand.

Data recovery specialists raise their prices because they can.

It’s a classic aspect of economics, and it definitely applies here.

If you can ever find a place that has too many data recovery specialists, you might be able to get a good deal on the service.

Until then, you can expect data recovery to remain expensive.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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