How Does Data Recovery Work? A Basic Guide to File Recovery

As a society, we rely on our electronic devices to carry out many personal and professional functions. And this means that large quantities of important data are stored on these devices. If that data goes missing or is inaccessible, it can cause significant problems.

Fortunately, the process of data recovery can set things right again. But how does data recovery work? And will it work for you?

We’ve put together this guide to file recovery to answer your questions. 

What Is Data Recovery?

Data recovery is obtaining information and data on a storage device that cannot be accessed through ordinary means. Typically, the data is unavailable because it was deleted or there has been some damage to the device. 

There are two primary ways to recover data: through software and repair or replacement of damaged components in a lab setting. In the vast majority of cases, the software method is used. 

There are instances where storage devices have been damaged to the point that data recovery is impossible, but most often, most of your data can be recovered.

internal hard drive

Different Types of Data Loss

There are a few different ways that data can be lost. Here is a quick look at the most common types of data loss: 

Physical Damage

Physical damage to the storage device often results in data loss. Flood and fire are two common causes of physical damage. 

In the case of physical damage, professional services will be required to either repair the damage or pull the data from the damaged device. 

Operating System Failure

When your operating system crashes, you cannot properly boot the computer and access your data. 

Luckily, there is nothing likely wrong with the hard drive, so the data is still in there, so a full recovery is almost always the case. The data will be removed from that hard drive and placed onto another. But if you are not familiar with this type of work, it is better to rely on professionals to ensure you get everything you need. 

Human Error

One of the biggest causes of data loss is human error. People often erase or overwrite data assuming that it is saved already or saved in a different location. Sometimes this type of activity is a means to coving up illegal activity, but it is most of the time entirely unintentional. 

Fortunately, it may be possible to recover some of this data. Sometimes it depends on the storage device. Data is stored differently between device types. With a solid state drive (SSD), for example, it is easier to recover overwritten data than it is to recover overwritten data on a hard drive. 

Viruses & Malware

Viruses and malware are constantly being created and adapted to get ahead of your antivirus software or to find ways to do more significant amounts of damage. 

Viruses and malware can operate on your computer or network for some time before you even notice something is wrong or take steps toward virus removal

Many of these damaging programs can not only steal your data but can corrupt it or lock you out of it entirely as is the case with ransomware. 

fixing computer virus

Logical Damage

All hard drives eventually fail. Over time the components of the hard drive wear down, causing the hard drive to crash. And when this happens, it can cause significant data loss. 

Computer Theft

The unfortunate reality is that sometimes computers and laptops get stolen. And if important data is stored on that computer, it is gone. 

A few things can be done in advance to mitigate the damage should a computer (and the data on it!) get stolen. For example, anti-theft software can enable you to remotely wipe the data from the computer. Or regularly backing up your data to a secure location will help you hold on to your data. 

How Data File Recovery Works

The methods used for data file recovery depend on the type of device, the type of loss or damage, and even the type of operating system in use. 

While there are software tools you can try, in most cases, it is best to leave data recovery to professional data recovery service providers. If the data is important to you, professionals give you the greatest opportunity for a successful recovery. 

In general, you can expect data recovery to follow four general steps: consultation, evaluation, data recovery, and support. 

These steps, or phases, may vary a little depending on the service provider, but you roughly expect the process to progress as follows: 


First, recovery professionals need to know what is going on. They will gather information from you to identify availability, the best staff for the project, and the required equipment. 


At this stage, the recovery professional will have the device and can assess what is needed. If all you need is to recover a deleted file or two, the work will be much simpler than having to attempt data recovery from a fire-damaged hard drive, for example. 

Data Recovery

Once an equipment release form had been issued, the IT professionals or data recovery specialists will use a variety of software tools and strategies to read the memory on your storage device to examine and extract the lost or deleted data on your device. 

However, it is worth noting that if the data has been overwritten, it cannot be recovered. 

Pro tip: At the first sign of trouble recovering data from your device, turn it off. If you stop using the device, data will not be overwritten and you stand a better chance of successfully recovering everything you are missing. 


At this stage, the data has been recovered and returned to the client on another storage media (i.e., USB, external hard drive, etc). The recovery service will provide a list of instructions for properly extracting the recovered data and re-installing it on a properly working device. 

group of co-workers talking

How Much Does Data Recovery Cost?

The cost of data recovery can vary widely and depends on the type of device failure, the labor that goes into the recovery, operational costs, any required parts, and the desired turnaround time. 

Often when the price of data recovery is compared to the value of the data itself, the price is rather affordable. Think about it, professional databases can be worth tens of thousands of dollars, and replicating that data could be thousands more on top of that. 

Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. This pricing will depend on the difficulty of the recovery. 

It is good to always look for a recovery service like EezIT that guarantees their work. If EezIT can’t recover your lost data, you will not pay a thing. 

On top of this guarantee, you want to find recovery services that can work on PCs and Macs, any operating system, and a range of device types including hard drives, SSDs, external drives, thumb drives, and SD cards. 

Years of experience, expert training, and the ability to work on a variety of media make for a service provider you can trust. And this trust is important because not only do you want your data, but the first attempt at recovery is often the most successful, so you want to get it right. 

How Long Does Data Recovery Take?

Typically, it will take about 2-5 days to recover data. But, the exact timeline will depend on a few factors. Once your recovery service provider looks at the problem, they can give you a more accurate timeline estimate. 

Data recovery timelines can be impacted by:

  • The size of the hard drive or storage device. The bigger it is, the longer data recovery may take. 
  • The type and size of files. Large files are often more spread out, increasing the time it takes to recover them. 
  • The condition of the device. If the device is physically damaged or the internal components have been worn down or damaged in some way, it can increase the timeline for recovery.

Trust EezIT With Your Data Recovery

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “how does data recovery work?” this guide will have filled-in some of the blanks.

The exact process, costs, and timeline depend largely on the condition of the storage device, and the number of files being recovered. 

And while you may think that you can handle recovery yourself, it is best to trust the data recovery process to the professionals. 

Whether you are attempting to recover family photos and personal files or business files and professional databases, the team at EezIT has been delivering expert data recovery services to clients in the Calgary area for more than 10 years. 

With EezIT, you have nothing to lose. If we cannot recover your data, you do not pay. It’s as simple as that. 

If you have lost or deleted data, experienced accidental deletion, or a device failure, contact us to learn more about what we can do to help and support you in the recovery process.