If your computer hard disk crashes, the IT Help Center can help with trying to diagnose the problem or with reinstalling your operating system, but we may not be able to recover your data if your computer has experienced a catastrophic crash.

Data recovery requires specialized tools and equipment that we do not have. If you experience a full crash and you need to retrieve your hard disk data you may want to consider using one of the resources below.

First, check your warranty. Data recovery is expensive. Some manufacturers may be able to offer hard disk recovery under warranty. Be sure that they will actually recover your data, and not just reformat or restore your drive.

Know what you need to retrieve. Data recovery does not usually involve recovering applications (such as Word or Excel) since those are easy to reload. Instead it focuses on recovering documents that you do not have backed up anywhere. Please note that due to constraints on time and storage space, we may refuse to recover digital music and movies. If you know that you have lots of that kind of file, or if you have significant quantities of some other file type, please bring an external hard drive with you to accommodate your data. Note that even if you supply appropriate storage space, though, there is still no guarantee that we will be technically capable of recovering your data- sometimes, there really is nothing that we can do.

Remember that if you have printed copies of your documents, one other way to get them back on the computer is to scan them in using an OCR (optical character recognition) program. The ACS Help Desk has OCR software and scanners.

Contact local computer repair facilities. Several stores in the area offer hard disk recovery, including University Computers.

For a long list of sites that specialize in data recovery, please see http://besttopsites.com/hot100/datarecovery.shtml
Note that “best” here refers to most-frequently-accessed, rather than necessarily best at recovering data. It is possible that your data may be irretrievable, so it is wise to check the stated success rate and the refund policy for each company.