À la recherche du hard drives perdu: my data recovery experience

So as I reported earlier, a hard drive containing valuable personal files died on me recently. I thought I hadn’t backed up in a few months, which would have been hard enough, but it turns out that I hadn’t backed it up for over two years.

“Time passes, and little by little everything that we have spoken in falsehood becomes true.”

Realizing that not only did I want my data back, I also wanted to experience the teaching point. And I figured that the money would serve to instill the teaching point more powerfully than any other method. Much in the way that police hand out fines for speeding because they know that the avoidance of such fines is a deterrent, I was, in effect, paying a “backup ticket”.

“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full.”

And so, I went in search of a data recovery service. Here’s what happened next.

A lack of urgency

Luckily, I didn’t actually have much urgency around this. While there was data that I wanted eventually, I didn’t need it immediately. And that was a saving grace, as far as purchasing power is concerned. I got to shop around.

I solicited multiple offers, ranging from the cheap-but-questionable to places that advertised Men-In-Black-style futuristic technology. Customer service was crucial to me, but not sufficient; one person was really communicative over email, but it eventually became clear that he would be doing this work on his office desk.

No thanks. Hard drives require clean rooms, dust-free environments where nothing can infiltrate their sensitive electronics. That kind of environment drives up the cost too.

I ended up going with a local company, which had the advantage of allowing me to hand-deliver the drive rather than post it to an unknown address. While I wasn’t able to tour the clean room, the people who worked there seemed utterly competent, in a kind of hackers-in-basements kind of way. I felt comfortable with that over a slick sales experience.

The process

I got regular updates over email. They disassembled the hard drive, mated it with another one that I had provided for them (eBay is great for this), and only needed a single $20 part to match up the drive platters to a working reader. Within a few weeks, the job was done, and I was able to retrieve all but a handful of files (none of which were important).

The cost of this extravagance was a little under $600.

“We are able to find everything in our memory, which is like a dispensary or chemical laboratory in which chance steers our hand sometimes to a soothing drug and sometimes to a dangerous poison.”

The result

Now, I didn’t need to do this. Data recovery services are a luxury product, priced high because the service is almost always urgent and always important for the customer. And any purchase that has urgency attached to it (home buying, car buying, flight buying, so on) will be expensive. There’s just no getting around it.

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But in this case, I have the money for things like this. Because it wasn’t urgent, it didn’t count as an emergency, so I didn’t use my emergency fund, but I did have some savings. I’m grateful I didn’t need to spend thousands of dollars like I had originally feared. And now I have my files back, and a very strong and expensive lesson learned.

And in this case, it turns out that “remembrance of things past”, when done digitally, is precisely “the remembrance of things as they were”.

Apologies to Proust and fans of his work. Source

Quotes by Marcel Proust. Sources: (1) (2) (3)

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